By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – Trial Justice Hussein Baba-Yusuf of an Abuja High Court sitting at Maitama, on Tuesday, issued a warrant to compel the Department of State Service, DSS, to produce the detained former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, retd, in court on May 24.
$2.1bn Arms Deal: Court issues warrant for DSS to produce Dasuki
The order followed repeated absence of the ex-NSA in court for continuation of his trial on two separate criminal charges that were preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
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.
EFCC had 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.
Meanwhile, the ex-NSA who is equally facing another money laundering 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.
The development had stalled the trial, even as all defence lawyer, Victor Okwudiri (for Dasuki), Solomon Umoh (SAN), R.A Rilwan and A.O Ayodele, on Tuesday, blamed the prosecution for the ex-NSA’s absence in court.
On its part, the EFCC, through its lawyer, Mr. Leke Atolagbe, insisted that the agency had no hand in the repeated absence of the former NSA in court for his trial since he is currently in DSS custody.
“All the defendants are saying that the 1st defendant (Dasuki) is in the custody of the state, but this honourable court has held that he is in the custody of the DSS and not the EFCC that is prosecuting this case, a position both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court have upheld.
“The EFCC cannot produce the 1st defendant because he is not in their custody”, he contended.
Consequently, the court ordered the service of the production warrant on the DSS for the defendant to be produced on the next adjourned date
It will be recalled that the ex-NSA was on December 29, 2015, re-arrested by operatives of the DSS, immediately he was released from Kuje Prison upon perfecting all conditions that three different courts stipulated for his bail.
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.
His prayers were however refused by the court which gave FG the nod to produce witnesses against him.