From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
FORMER National Security Adviser (NSA), Col Sambo Mohammed Dasuki yesterday dared Federal Government as he failed to attend his trial in court. His absence forced the court to adjourn to April 7, 2016.
Prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) informed the court that the former NSA had said he would only appear in court unless he was bundled or abducted.
However, Wale Balogun, who stood in for the lead counsel to Dasuki told the court that he was not aware of the allegations made against the former NSA. He dismissed it a mere allegation.
Dasuki, alongside Shuaibu Salisu, a former Director of Finance and Administration, Office of the National Security Adviser; Aminu Babakusa, a former General Manager, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation; Acacia Holdings Limited and Reliance Referral Hospital Limited are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on a 19-count charge bordering on money laundering and criminal breach of trust to the tune of N13.5 million
The prosecution counsel who disclosed Dasuki’s decision to shun court at the resumed hearing of the matter before Justice Baba You of a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) insisted that the trial should go on in the absence of the accused as Section 257(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act allows the continuation of trial, even when an accused person is in detention.
Jacobs told the court that Dasuki refused to appear in court on the grounds that his counsels, J.B. Dawodu, SAN, and Ahmed Raji, SAN, would not be in court.
Jacobs further stated that all efforts to persuade Dasuki to appear before the court were unsuccessful.
‘‘I persuaded him to come to court, but he refused. He said he can’t be abducted and nobody can abduct him,’’ Jacobs added.
He also told the court that Dawodu, who is the lead counsel to the first defendant, had filed an application before the Court of Appeal last Monday, a move which made him come to the conclusion that the absence of both the first defendant and his counsels was planned.
Jacobs, who supported his argument with Section 267 Sub-section 2 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, said: ‘‘I knew immediately I became aware of the application that it was filed to stop today’s proceedings. However, it is not in the law that if a defendant is not in court, his trial can’t go on.
But Wale Balogun (SAN), in his submission said he was not aware if Dasuki made this statement, noting that it was a mere allegation.
While insisting that the trial cannot go on in the absence of Dasuki, Balogun said, “We are not in custody of the defendant. He has not been produced in court. It is the requirement that he should be here and the prosecution did not apply for him (Dasuki) to be produced in court. DSS should have deposed to an affidavit that Dasuki made that statement,” he said.
Balogun, who urged the court to stand down the case, said: ‘‘I know that it is an elementary requirement of the law that the defendant has to be here in court all through his trial. But My Lord, the first defendant has not been produced by the prosecution this morning. If the defendants were here, it would have been a different case entirely.
‘‘These are very serious allegations against the first defendant and his counsel. My Lord, I think the officers of the DSS should have deposed to an affidavit before your Lordship that the defendant said he won’t come to court, so it could be in your record.’’
In his submission, counsel to both the third and fifth defendants, said: ‘‘I am ready, but I won’t close my eyes to the fact that I have a duty to point out some things when they occur in the course of this trial. The absence of the first defendant is clearly fatal to today’s proceedings. My Lord, we may not be able to proceed today.’’
In response, Jacobs, who urged the court to allow him present his witnesses, described as absurd the argument by the counsel to the first defendant that the DSS should have deposed to an affidavit before the court.
According to him: ‘‘The requirement for affidavit evidence is absurd to me and has no legal basis. May the day never come when the court will not be able to take information provided by counsel in court.’’
Having listened to submissions by all the counsel, Justice Baba-Yusuf said: ‘‘once you are in court, you are not free to do things in your own way. If a defendant elects not to be in court and there is a facility for him to be in court, then, we will make him realise that we are not here in court to joke. But I am not so clear about the reason for the absence of the first defendant.’’