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$2.1bn Arms Deal: Court declines to stop Dasuki’s trial

…Okays accelerated hearing of charges

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

An Abuja High Court at Maitama, on Wednesday, declined to stop the ongoing trial of the detained former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, even as it okayed accelerated hearing of two separate money laundering charges against him.

Former national security adviser of ex-president Goodluck Jonathan, Sambo Dasuki (R), speaks with his lawyer Ahmed Raji, during his trial at the federal high court in Abuja, on September 1, 2015. Nigerian prosecutors on September 1, 2015 slapped a charge of unlawful possession of arms against Dasuki. Dasuki was arraigned on a “one-count charge of being in possession of firearms without licence,” Prosecutor Mohammed Diri told the federal high court in Abuja. AFP PHOTO

The high court held that an application the former NSA filed for an order halting further proceedings in the case against him, lacked merit and constituted an abuse of the judicial process.

Dasuki, who has been in detention since 2015, had on January 9, filed a motion asking the court to adjourn his trial sine-die (indefinitely), pending when the Federal Government, complied with various court orders that gave him bail.

The ex-NSA, through his lawyer, Mr. Ahmed Raji, SAN, urged the court to suspend proceedings in the two cases to compel FG to obey a judgment the Federal High Court in Abuja delivered on July 2, 2018, which ordered his unconditional release.

He noted that trial Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu had in the said judgement, directed the immediate enforcement of his fundamental rights to freedom and liberty, as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

The detained ex-NSA equally prayed the court to order EFCC’s lead counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, to produce an advisory the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, issued with respect to the high court’s verdict.

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Besides, he applied for leave of the court to invite six Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs, to appear and give legal opinion on whether or not his trial could proceed when the government had yet to comply with subsisting orders contained in Justice Ojukwu’s judgment.

The six senior lawyers he prayed the court to invite to the proceeding as Amicus Curiae (friends of the court), were two past Presidents of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Chief Wole Olanipekun and Chief Olisa Agbakoba.

Others were Chief Konyinsola Ajayi, Chief Onyechi Ikpeazu, Mr. Femi Falana, and the incumbent President of the NBA, Mr. Paul Usoro.

The request was vehemently opposed by EFCC’s lawyer, Mr. Jacobs, SAN, who queried the rationale behind Dasuki’s selection of lawyers he said were not favourably disposed to the government in power.

Jacobs also prayed the court to dismiss Dasuki’s application for the trial to be adjourned indefinitely.

Meanwhile, though the court, at the last sitting, refused to allow the requested SANs to be invited to make submissions on the issue, it adjourned to rule on the motion seeking to stop the trial.

At the resumed sitting on Wednesday, a special panel of the court led by Justice Hussein Baba-Yusuf, dismissed Dasuki’s application.

Justice Valentine Ashi who read the first ruling, held that the it was wrong for Dasuki to rely on the Federal High Court judgment to move for termination of hearing on the two charges against him, when parties in the cases are different.

The court held that Justice Ojukwu was empowered by law to enforce her judgement, saying there was nothing before it to show that the defendant initiated such enforcement process.

More so, the court noted that Dasuki had earlier filed a similar application to stop his trial and it was refused, a ruling it said was subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court.

“This application is nothing but gross abuse of process and cannot be allowed to stand, it is hereby dismissed,” Justice Ashi held.

Dasuki is answering to a 22-count charge involving his alleged complicity in the illegal diversion of N19.4billion, as well as, another 32-count charge bordering on alleged diversion of N32billion from an account the Office of the NSA, operated with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, which is prosecuting both cases, maintained that the alleged stolen funds were part of about $2.1billion that was meant for the purchase of arms to combat terrorism in the North-East.

Those equally on trial before the court over the alleged fraud were a former General Manager, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Aminu Baba-Kusa, former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa, his son, Sagir, Director of Finance and Administration in the Office of the NSA, Shuaibu Salisu, and the former Minister of State for Finance, Bashir Yuguda.

Two firms – Acacia Holdings Limited and Reliance Referral Hospital Limited – were also charged as defendants in the matter.

However, before hearing could commence on the case, EFCC, amended the charge and delisted the ex-NNPC Director, Salisu, as a defendant in the trial.

The detained former NSA who is equally facing another criminal charge before the Federal High Court in Abuja, had since refused to personally appear in court, saying he would only do so when he is released from detention.

It will be recalled that the ex-NSA was on December 29, 2015, re-arrested by operatives of the Department of State Service, DSS, immediately he was released from Kuje Prison upon perfecting all conditions that three different courts stipulated for his bail.

Meantime, while the court fixed April 2 for definite hearing of the first charge against him, it adjourned hearing on the second charge till April 16.

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