The Federal Government witness in the in the trial of a former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki, has been granted witness protection by a Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday gave an order permitting the witness to testify behind a screen.
Dasuki is being prosecuted before the court on seven counts of stealing Federal Government’s sophisticated weapons, illegal possession of firearms and money laundering.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed, in a ruling on the prosecution’s application for witness protection, ordered that the witnesses would be allowed to testify behind a screen to be provided by the court.
The judge ordered that the screen would be used in such a way that it would not shield the witnesses from being seen by him (the judge), the defendant, as well as the members of the prosecution and defence teams.
Members of the public will not to be allowed to see the witnesses.
In dismissing the objection of the defence to the application on Thursday, Justice Mohammed ruled that the application was in order since section 232(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 allowed the use of a screen to be used by prosecution witnesses in cases pertaining to economic and financial crimes.
The judge ruled, “Section 232(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act permits the use of a screen in a charge of economic and financial crimes and money laundering.
“Therefore, the request is in order especially when it has not been shown that it will prejudice the defendant.”
The judge dismissed the grounds of objection by Dasuki’s lead counsel, Mr. Ahmed Raji (SAN), who argued that the application constituted an abuse of court process because a similar one filed by the prosecution in the same case had been dismissed by the former trial judge, Justice Adeniyi Ademola.
Justice Mohammed agreed with the lead prosecution counsel, Mr. Dipo Okpeseyi (SAN), who maintained that none of the prayers sought in the old application dismissed by Justice Ademola was asked for in the fresh application.
The judge noted that apart from asking for permission to allow its witnesses to testify behind a screen, the prosecution never sought any other prayer.
Justice Mohammed reiterated that none of the said prayers sought in the old application before Justice Ademola was sought in the fresh application.
He, therefore, ruled that the fresh application did not constitute an abuse of court process as alleged by Raji.
The judge fixed September 20 and 21 for trial.
Okpeseyi had during the hearing of the application on May 11, 2017 argued that there was a possible threat to the witnesses’ lives by the virtue of Dasuki’s current and previous positions.
Okpeseyi argued that there was the need to shield the identities of the prosecution from the public.
He said this was because the witnesses were operatives of the Department of State Services ‘carrying out covert operations on behalf of the Federal Government in various parts of the country and even beyond’.
Okpeseyi also noted that Dasuki’s status as a former senior military officer, an ex-aide-de-camp to a sitting President, a former NSA and a crown prince (of the Sokoto Emirate), collectively conferred a large followership on him (Dasuki).
He went further to argue that considering the defendant’s former and current positions, the witnesses, whom the prosecutor said had previously served under Dasuki, stood the risk of being harmed.
Dasuki’s lawyer, Raji, however, urged the court to view the alleged threat as mere ‘speculation’ without any evidence supporting it.
But the prosecutor insisted that the threat was real even as he alluded to an alleged inexplicable accident which he said had virtually incapacitated the principal prosecution witness in the case.
Source: (Punch Newspaper )