By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Monday, gave the Federal Government the nod to try the detained former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, rtd, who is facing money laundering charges, in absentia.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed okayed Dasuki to be tried in his absence, following an application that FG filed through the Federal Ministry of Justice.
FG had in an affidavit it filed before the court, alleged that Dasuki blatantly declined to further subject himself for trial.
It told the court that the ex-NSA said he would no longer make himself available for any proceeding in respect of the criminal charge against him.
Consequently, the prosecution counsel, Mr. Oladipupo Okpeseyi, SAN, applied for FG to be allowed to try the Defendant in absentia, in line with section 352(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
Alternatively, the prosecution urged the court to stand down the matter and order that Dasuki should be compelled to appear.
Though Dasuki’s lawyer, Mr. Victor Okwudiri, vehemently opposed the application, he was overruled by the trial Judge.
Okwudiri had insisted that the affidavit FG filed to support the request was legally defective as it was not accompanied with the seal of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, as prescribed in Rule 10 (1) and (3) of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners.
He equally contended that FG lacked the right to seek favourable judicial dispositions from the court, having failed to obey several court orders that granted bail to the ex-NSA.
Besides, Dasuki’s lawyer begged the court to give his client the chance to respond to allegations FG levelled against him in the said affidavit that was deposed to by one Abimbola Akintola, in the interest of fair hearing.
However, while dismissing the objection by Dasuki’s lawyer, Justice Mohammed noted that the court had on April 10 and November 13, directed FG to file an affidavit for the trial to be conducted in absentia, any day the Defendant refused to appear for continuation of his case.
The Judge held that the deponent of the affidavit, being a legal practitioner, was not under legal obligation to affix NBA seal to the document since he could be regarded as a witness that merely gave information that was within his personal knowledge.
He noted that the letter Dasuki earlier wrote to the court was a clear indication that he has resolved not to appear for his trial again.
Justice Mohammed said it was unnecessary to compel Dasuki to appear since the law made provision for his trial to go on in his absence.
“The reason for the Defendant’s refusal to appear in court have nothing to do with the case at hand. This court has not denied the Defendant any of his right”, the Judge noted.
He said the Defence lawyer did not deny that it was Dasuki that wrote the letter dated November 12, adding that the Affidavit did not concern any matter that was outside issues that were raised in the letter.
“The affidavit was filed in compliance with order of the court. The Defendant did not say that he wants to come to court and was denied to do so.
“It is very clear that the Defendant is not willing to be attending to court for his trial. I hereby invoke section 352(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, to continue this trial in the absence of the Defendant.
“This case is hereby adjourned till December 11 for continuation of trial”, Justice Mohammed held.
It will be recalled that Dasuki had on November 13, refused to appear for his trial, though he transmitted a letter to the court, accusing President Muhammadu of high-handedness.
Dasuki, in the letter he personally wrote to the court, said it has gotten to a point when there must be an end to what he decribed as “hypocrisy and lopsided/partisan rule of law” by the Federal Government.
He chronicled how FG repeatedly spurned various court orders, including the the judgment of the ECOWAS Court of Justice, which okayed his release on bail pending the determination of different charges against him.
The ex-NSA who has been in detention since 2015, said he bacame apprehensive after President Buhari, in his maiden Presidential Media Chat, maintained that the weight of crimes he allegedly committed against the Nigerian State, were such that if allowed to enjoy any form of freedom, he would likely jump bail.
He decried that he has suffered unabated persecution in the hands of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
According to him, “Prevailing circumstances have prompted me to write this Letter to the Court, the hope of every Nigerian citizen. Unfortunately, it seems to me that the current administration has so much interfered with the judicial system, such that it has become practically impossible for the Court to maintain her independence, the administration of justice.
“The resolve to continue detaining me against the several orders of court and in brazen violation of the Constitution, is wrongful and arbitrary.
“It has inflicted physical, emotional and psychological torture on my family and me. The decision of the Federal Government of Nigeria is not only high-handed, it is also arbitrary and in violation of both domestic and international laws on human rights.
“At this juncture, it will seem that the Nigerian Government is not inclined to yield or obey the Orders of any Court of law, whether domestic or international.
“Ironically, the Federal Government still wants to ride on judicial wings to prosecute me, when it does not comply with the Orders that proceed from the Court, especially in relations to me.
“At this point, I strongly believe that there must be an end to this hypocrisy and lopsided/partisan rule of law. Since the Federal Government has resolved not to comply with judicial Orders directing my release, it is better for the Court to also absolve me of the need to submit my self for further prosecution.
“Justice should be evenly dispensed as opposed to same being in favour of the Federal Government of Nigeria. Kindly bring this information to the attention of his lordship”.
FG had in the charge before the court, alleged that Dasuki was on July 17, 2015, at his house situated at No. 13, John Khadiya Street, Asokoro, Abuja, found to be in possession of various range of firearms without requisite license, an offence punishable under section 27 (1)(a) of the Firearms Act Cap F28 LFN 2004.
He was accused of retaining the sums of $40,000, N5millon and another $20,000 in the same house and same date, contrary to section 15 (2)(d) of Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011.
FG further alleged that the ex-NSA had on July 16, 2015, at his residence at Sultan Abubakar Road and Sabon Birni Road, Sokoto State, retained another $150,000 and N37.6m being part of proceedings of unlawful act, contrary to Section 15 (3) of the Money Laundering Act 2011.
It listed the alleged illegal arms it found at Dasuki’s residence in Abuja as five Tavor Assault Rifles, 1 Macro Uzi with serial No 60244(Rifle), 20 magazines (Ammunition), 1 packet of MOD (Ministry of Defence) APG calibre gun, Luger No 033375 ( gun), small magazine containing 16 rounds of ammunition, and bigger magazine containing live rounds of ammunition.