The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday fixed June 15 to rule on a fresh application by the Federal Government seeking to protect witnesses in the ongoing trial of former National Security Adviser, retired Col. Sambo Dasuki.
Similar application for witness protection was brought before Justice Adeniyi Ademola, who was to rule on it but following his arrest by the DSS, he said he would no longer handle any matter involving the service.
The trial was the transferred to Justice Ahmed Mohammed for Dasuki’s re-arraignment ment.
At the hearing of the application, the prosecuting counsel, Oladipo Okpeseyi, informed the court the application for the witness protection was dated June 3, 2016.
According to Okpeseyi, on June 20, 2016 the application was argued before Justice Ademola but before the matter was ruled, it was taken to another court.
He said the witnesses are security operatives who carry out convert operations with the defendant as their boss urging the court to allow the witnesses give evidence behind the box.
The prosecution stressed that sec 232 sub1 permits the witness to be screened or masked adding that his application was predicated on the screening of the witnesses and not masking.
“Screening the witnesses will not negate the defence the right to cross examine or the defendant to see their faces.
“I urge the court to grant this application to screen witness in the interest of justice,” Okpeseyi said.
Opposing the application, counsel to Dasuki, Ahmed Raji (SAN), said the prosecution have filed similarly application and ruling delivered by Justice Ademola.
He said the prosecution bringing the same motion to the same court constituted a gross abuse of court process.
“What the prosecution ought to have done if it was not satisfied with the decision of Justice Ademola, was to have gone to the Court of Appeal.
“The application now is predicated on the old charge which was withdrawn on April 6, ” he added.
Raji further said the application of the prosecution was mere speculations as there was no concrete evidence of threat to the witnesses, stressing that the prosecution has listed the names of the witnesses disclosing their identity.
He urged the court to dismiss the application.
Responding to Raji, Okpeseyi said screening and masking were two different things, If the court has defined screening and masking that mean the court is not sitting as appeal court over its judgment.
He added that the right of the defendant and his counsel to see the witness were not taken away, however providing witness protection was at the discretion of the court.
Justice Mohammed adjourned the matter until June 15 for ruling.
The Federal Government, through the Department of the State Service (DSS), had in 2015 slammed a two-count charge of unlawful possession of firearms and money laundering against Dasuki.
But the trial suffered a setback in 2016 when Justice Ademola withdrew from the trial, following his arrest by the DSS on allegations of corruption.
The withdrawal of Justice Ademola from the trial prompted the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court Justice Ibrahim Auta to transfer the case to the present judge.
The former NSA, who pleaded not guilty to the charges, was admitted to bail by Justice Ademola in 2015, but has not been released by the DSS.