By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
An Abuja High Court at Maitama, on Tuesday, slated February 27 to rule on a motion seeking to stop the ongoing trial of the detained former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, retd.
Dasuki, who has been in detention since 2015, is facing two separate criminal charges before the court.
He 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.
Meantime, Dasuki, 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 directed his release on bail.
Specifically, Dasuki, through his lawyer Mr. Ahmed Raji, SAN, urged the court to halt further proceeding in the case 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), included two past Presidents of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Chief Wole Olanipekun and Chief Olisa Agbakoba.
Others are 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 told the court that all the lawyers Dasuki selected would not be dispassionate and detached in whatever submission that would make with respect to the trial.
In his short ruling, trial Justice Hussein Baba-Yusuf, turned down Dasuki’s application on the premise that the ex-NSA failed to meet conditions that would have necessitated the initiation of amicus curiae into the matter
Justice Baba-Yusuf held that Dasuki was unable to prove that his application for the trial to be suspended, could not be effectively determined without the input of the six senior lawyers.
He held that the applicant did not demonstrate before the court that the issue of stay of criminal proceeding is recondite or that it has not been settled.
Justice Baba-Yusuf further held that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, made adequate provisions on how the court would deal with application for stay of proceeding.
“The Amicus Curiae, if invited, will not come to drive any fresh point of law. The leave sought by the 2nd defendant is hereby refused”, the court held.
Nevertheless, the court said it would on the next adjourned date, decide whether or not the trial should be suspended until FG complied with the judgment that okayed Dasuki’s release on bail.
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.