From: Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Federal Government, on Tuesday, applied to the Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, for protection of witnesses that will testify against the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki in the charges of unlawful possession of fire-arms and money laundering brought against him.
This is the second time government has brought such an application.
The fresh application was brought to court by the prosecution counsel, Oladipo Okpeseyi (SAN).
The motion which was dated January 23 and filed January 24 is insisting that the witnesses must be given protection by the court by not allowing their names and addresses to be made public in the course of the trial.
However, Dasuki, in opposing the fresh request, asked the court to dismiss the application on the ground that it lacks merit and constituted a gross abuse of court process.
The Ex-NSA in a counter affidavit filed by his lead counsel, Mr. Ahmed Raji SAN, argued that there was no justification for the Federal Government to have brought the motion for secret trial for the second time having lost in the first motion.
The defendant insisted that FG had on its own volition placed the charges against him in the internet where the names, addresses and positions of the witnesses were conspicuously put at the disposal of the general public.
Besides, Dasuki maintained that when the first application argued by the then Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation (DPPF), Mr. Mohamed Diri, Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the same court in a landmark ruling dismissed the request on the ground that the witnesses are already known by the public having given their names through the internet.
He further said that bringing the same motion to the same court constituted a gross abuse of court process and that what the prosecution ought to do if not satisfied with the decision of Justice Ademola, was to have gone to court of Appeal to ventilate its anger.
Dasuki who attached a copy of the earlier court ruling on the application urged the trial judge, Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed, not to allow the fresh motion for secret trial to be entertained because it would violate his right to fair trial and will run contrary to the principle of the rule of law and natural justice.
When the motion came up yesterday, Opeseyi could not move the motion on the ground that the defence had just served him a voluminous counter affidavit objecting to the motion.
The prosecution counsel told justice Mohammed that so many fundamental issues were raised in the counter affidavit and that plethora of authorities were also cited in the counter affidavit.
He therefore applied for an adjournment to enable him study the counter affidavit and respond to it appropriately.
The defence did not object to the request for the adjournment but clarified that the fresh motion for secret trial was served on the defendant last Thursday, hence their counter affidavit prepared over the weekend was served yesterday within the time allowed by law.
Justice Mohammed has therefore fixed hearing of the motion for March 1.