BY AMOS DUNIA, ABUJA – Justice Ahmed Rahmat Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja on Thursday granted the request of the Federal Government to allow its witnesses to testify behind the screen.
In his ruling upon a motion on notice argued by Barrister Dipo Okpeseyi (SAN) Justice Mohammed said that the request for the witnesses to testify behind the screen was granted because part of the charges against Dasuki has to do with money-laundering.
Accordingly, the witness of the Federal Government would be expected to testify against Dasuki (rtd), behind screens to be provided by the Federal High Court in Abuja during the trial of Dasuki on charges of illegal possession of arms and money laundering.
However, the witnesses would not be shielded from lawyers expected to be in the court throughout the trial.
Justice Mohammed said although a similar request had been presented before the court in 2015 and rejected by the court, he said the approval and decision to allow the use of screen was granted because of the nature of the case, adding that the fresh motion, argued by Okpeseyi didn’t constitute abuse of court process because the prayers in the old and the fresh one were not the same.
Justice Mohammed further said that Section 232 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 permitted the use of screen when charges have to do with the Economic Crimes as in the instant case.
The Federal Government through Okpeseyi insisted that Dasuki, being a former military officer, former Aide de Camp (ADC) to a former President, former NSA and a crown prince of Sokoto caliphate was a potential threat to its witnesses lined up to justify the charges against him.
Okpeseyi had pleaded with the court to allow the screening of the witnesses in order to guarantee their safety after their evidence in court, adding that the witnesses who are operatives of the Department of State Service (DSS) carry out their works across the country and could be attacked by sympathisers and well-wishers of Dasuki unless their identifiers are protected.
The counsel to the Federal Government submitted that Dasuki was once the boss of the witnesses and the witnesses could be jeopardised unless their names are not placed at the public domain adding that the ex-NSA will not be prejudiced in any way if the request for the witness protection is granted.
Okpeseyi further said; “This application for witness protection will not in any way take away the right of the defendant (Dasuki) to see the witness and cross-examining them in their evidence as required by law. A witness who once testified in the matter was involved in a mysterious ghastly accident.”
But counsel to Dasuki, Barrister Ahmed Raji SAN described the government’s bid as a cheap blackmail against his client and urged the court to dismiss the request for being speculative, baseless and unmeritorious.
Raji said that Dasuki was not charged with terrorism offence to warrant protection for any witness, adding that several operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have testified against Dasuki in two other courts without any complaint of a threat to their lives.
The court adjourned the trial to September 20-21, 2017.