Court adjourns hearing on Dasuki's application to stop trial

By The Citizen
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Justice Baba Yusuf of the Federal Capital Territory High Court in Maitama, Abuja, again on Friday adjourned the trial of the immediate past National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd), till February 4 for the hearing of the ex-NSA's application for stay of proceedings.

Dasuki is being prosecuted before the court on 19 counts of diversion of N32bn arms fund, along with a former Director of Finance and Administration in the Office of the NSA, Shuaibu Salisu, and a former Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Aminu Baba-Kusa.

Baba-Kausa's two firms -Acacia Holdings Limited and Reliance Referral Hospital Limited - are also part of the accused.

The PUNCH had reported on Friday that Dasuki filed an application for stay of proceedings on the grounds that the prosecution was in contempt of court by disobeying an order granting him bail.

Dasuki was re-arrested by operatives of the DSS on December 29, 2015 shortly after he was released from prison upon fulfilling the bail conditions granted him by Justice Yusuf on December 18.

This, in the view of Dasuki's legal team, amounted to disobedience of the order granting bail to their client.

Dasuki's lawyer, Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN), on Friday reiterated the essence of the application which he said bordered on the integrity of the court and the ability of the former NSA to prepare adequately for his defence in the trial.

Daudu said, 'It is true that we filed an application in which we are contending that the complainant, shortly after the first defendant (Dasuki) was released on bail took him back to custody.

'As far we are concerned, they (the prosecution) are in brazen breach of the court order.'

He claimed that he and other defence lawyers never knew where their client was kept after he was re-arrested, adding that this had affected the ex-NSA's preparation for his defence.

He said, 'We don't know where he is kept. Apart from the fact that he looks leaner and thinner than when I last saw him, we have not been able to discuss with him in respect of his preparation for his defence. It is like tying our hands and engaging us in a boxing match.'

But shortly after the case was called on Friday, the lead prosecuting counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), said his witnesses were already in court, urging the court to direct that the trial should begin.

He opposed the hearing of Dasuki's application, citing provisions of Section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, the law guiding criminal proceedings, which prohibits the court from entertaining any application for stay of proceedings.

He also cited Section 396 (1) to (3) of the ACJ Act which stipulates that any application challenging the competence of criminal charges could only be considered along with the substantive issues in the case and ruling on it delivered along with the judgement on the entire case.

But Justice Baba said he was inclined to hearing the application and reserved ruling on it.

Other defence lawyers, Mr. Solomon Umoh (SAN), Chief Akin Olujinmi (SAN) and Olawale Akoni (SAN), had also complained that they were not served with either Dasuki's application or the prosecution's counter-affidavit to it.

Some of them also maintained that the trial could not commence as suggested by the prosecution as they were, just moments before the proceedings, served with an additional proof of evidence.

Olujinmi, a former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, who represents the second accused person (Salisu), said the fact that the prosecution only served the additional proof of evidence on him on Friday showed that the case was not set to proceed to trial.

He said the request by Jacobs for trial to commence in the light of the additional proof of evidence he only served on Friday amounted to setting 'a booby-trap' for the defence.

But Jacobs responded and said the additional proof of evidence was only served on the defence lawyers upon a request made for it less than a week ago by one of the defence lawyers, Akoni. PUNCH.