It was gathered that the federation government has again requested the protection of witnesses in the trial of former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
Mr. Dasuki is facing trial by the State Security Service for alleged illegal possession of firearms among other offenses.
The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, venue of the trial, had in February 2016 dismissed a similar application for lacking in merit while the case was presided by Justice Adeniyi Ademola.
During the opening of session, prosecution counsel, Oladipo Opeseyi, said his client would like to reiterate his previous appeal for the protection of witnesses in Mr. Dasuki’s trial.
Mr. Opeseyi said his application for the protection of witnesses is based on Section 232 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
He said Section 232, sub-section 3 (b) allows for a witness to be protected with the use of a screen or a mask.
He added that the witnesses intended to be produced in court are security operatives who are still in active service, where they worked under the supervision of the defendant not long ago.
Mr. Opeseyi further argued that Mr. Dasuki has earned a reputation in the society capable of making him have such strong followership. Therefore, according to the prosecution counsel, “Even without his knowing something could come the way of the witnesses.”
Reacting to the submissions made by the prosecution, the defence counsel, Ahmed Raji, said the sub-section (4) of the Section 232 cited by the prosecution indicated the circumstances that could result in the screening of witnesses.
He said according to Section 232 (4) of the ACJA, a witness would only be required to be masked, if the allegations revolve around provisions of Section 231 of the same Act; where the alleged offense deals with economic and financial crimes, trafficking in persons, as well as offenses relating to terrorism.
He added that the application had previously been treated by the same court presided over by another judge.
“A well-deserved ruling was given, so the current application is an abuse of court process. What my learned silk is asking the court to do is to sit on appeal on the decision of this court, when the court of appeal is just a few meters away,” said Mr. Raji.
The defence counsel added that the application made by the prosecution is predicated upon a previous application that had been withdrawn, thus the fresh application should be regarded as a dead one.
He stated further that after the ruling in February 2016 where the application for protection of witnesses was quashed, the prosecution returned to court with a similar application, which has not been withdrawn. Mr. Raji, therefore, contended that the presentation of another application, when a similar application has not been withdrawn by the party approaching the court with the current application, is a gross abuse of court process.
Mr. Raji further argued that his client does not in any way constitute a threat to witnesses.
“The witness has been in detention for such a long time nothing has happened to anyone. These are mare speculations.
Responding however, Mr. Opeseyi said the fresh application seeking protection of witnesses is different from the previous application which was dismissed last year.
Mr. Opeseyi said the current application is seeking the court to issue an order for the witnesses to be protected by giving their evidences behind protective screens. He argued that the law favours granting his request.
“My Lord subsection 3 (b) is key in this application. The section deals with alleged offences, relating to economic and financial crimes. One of the charge deals with that my Lord,” said Mr. Opeseyi.
He then informed the court of his client’s resolve to withdraw the previous application still pending on the protection of witnesses.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed adjourned the ruling till June 15 for ruling.