Government loses secret trial bid as Dasuki gets access to lawyers
• Witness contradicts self in Badeh’s trial
The Federal Government yesterday lost its bid to conduct a secret trial of former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki, at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The court also ordered that Tuesdays and Thursdays be set aside for Dasuki to have free access to his lawyers and family members for at least, two hours on each of the days.
Dasuki is standing trial for alleged unlawful possession of firearms and money laundering brought against him in September 2015 by agencies of the Federal Government.
The court, however, ruled yesterday that there was no point for the witnesses who shall be called to testify in the matter to wear masks and bear pseudo names and addresses so as to ensure their protection.
Meanwhile, the trial of former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, continued yesterday with the prosecution witness, Air Commodore Salisu Abdullahi Yushau at the cross-examination of the defence counsel, Chief Akin Olujimi (SAN), admitting that most of the statements he made as evidence in court were not contained in his earlier statement with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Delivering a ruling in an application for the secret trial of the former NSA, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, held that the Federal Government had in the charge against Dasuki, listed names and addresses of 11 witnesses to be called to testify against him and made the same available to the general public.
As such, the judge said, there was no basis for any hide-and-seek game in Dasuki’s trial. Justice Ademola also rejected the plea by government that the court during Dasuki’s trial be excluded from the general public except lawyers involved in the trial and accredited journalists.
In a ruling that lasted over an hour, Justice Ademola noted that there was no need for a secret trial as the charges against Dasuki were not terrorism charges and that there was no report that the life of any of the witnesses billed to testify was being threatened by anybody or group.
In the instant case, Justice Ademola said that government had failed to establish any fact that lives of its witnesses were being threatened and as such, no court of law would accede to such requests without an established reason.
The judge had earlier ordered the Federal Government and its agent, the Department of State Services (DSS) to henceforth allow the detained Dasuki have access to his lawyers and family members in the interest of justice and the rule of law.
Justice Ademola issued the order following complaints by the counsel to Dasuki, Mr. Ahmed Raji (SAN) that his client had been held incommunicado since December 2015.
The court ordered that the meeting of Dasuki with four of his lawyers and two family members should take place at the Interview Room of DSS Headquarters and the Federal High Court premises in Abuja unhindered.
Raji had complained that his team could not prepare adequate defence for Dasuki in the charges of unlawful possession of firearms as the DSS had refused every effort to see the client.
The counsel told the judge that the uncooperative attitude of the DSS got to the peak recently when 95-year-old father of Dasuki and former Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki, along with other family members were denied access to their son in custody.
Justice Ademola, after issuing the order, which he said must be complied with by the Federal Government, adjourned the trial till May 18 and 19 at the instance of lawyers in the matter.
But the judge refused to discharge Dasuki and prohibit the Federal Government from prosecuting him on the ground of the refusal to allow him enjoy the bail granted him.
Justice Ademola said in his ruling that Dasuki ought to have filed contempt charge against the Federal Government for the disobedience to lawful court orders made last year admitting him to bail and permitting him to go abroad for his medical checkup.
The court said that since due process was not followed by a way of contempt charge, there was no way the court would have discharged the defendant and prohibited his trial by the Federal Government.
Yushau had made only five distinct statements with the EFCC and when asked by the defence counsel the reason he left out substantial part of the evidence when he made the statement, he said that his answers were only based on the questions he was asked at the EFCC.
“You made substantive addition in your evidence in chief compared to your statement with the EFCC”, Olujimi said, to which the witness responded that what he said in evidence was within his knowledge when he made his statement with EFCC. “In addition, all I said in the EFCC was to address specific questions.”
From further cross- examination, it was disclosed by the defence counsel that the witness had earlier told EFCC in his February 4 statement that the money for the development of the shopping complex was paid in dollars at once. But the witness admitted it was an error.
“I cannot remember saying ‘once’ but if I said so, it was an error”, the witness said.
Also, when taken on what transpired between him and one Architect Saka, he said that based on the directive of his boss, he had engaged Saka who drew a plan for the shopping complex.
And when asked if he was the one that paid Saka for the drawing, he said the man was not paid but when cross-examined further, he disclosed that since the job was given to Mustapha Yerima, the Managing Director, Ryte Builders, the construction company that handled the shopping complex, he made him “to give something to Saka”.
“After the construction job was given to Engineer Yerima on the instruction of my boss, I called him to give Saka something since the job was not given to him, and I was told he gave him N10 million”, the witness said.
On the balance payment for the land acquired for the shopping complex, the witness admitted instructing the Command Finance Officer (CFO) to pay the balance. He, however, insisted that he never instructed that the money be transferred in naira to Ryte Builders Limited account.
“I was aware that N558 million was in NAF account when I instructed the CFO to pay after he was supposed to change it to dollars. Instead, he transferred the money in naira into the account of Ryte Builders. I did not ask him to transfer the balance in naira”, the witness said.
“Will it surprise you that the evidence you gave was different? What you told the court with regard to the payment for the construction was different from the evidence you gave.
“From your evidence, you instructed Group Captain Sinni, the then Command’s Finance Officer to pay the balance of the payment for the land to Yerima from the money you took to your boss every month but later when you visited EFCC, you said Captain Sinni paid in dollars”, Olujimi stated.
In his response, the witness admitted that he did tell EFCC that Sinni paid the money in dollars but that he had already made his statement before realising that it was transferred from NAF account.
“That statement was given before I knew that my CFO transferred the money in naira instead of paying him in dollars.”
The defense counsel asked : “You expected Sinni to pay the balance in dollars?’’
And the witness answered: “Yes my lord. I did not ask him to transfer the balance of N558 million from Nigerian Air Force account to that of Ryte Builders Limited.”
On the property at No. 6, Ogun River Street, Maitama, Abuja, which was purchased in the name of Iyalikam Property Limite, the witness admitted knowing one Bar. Hussein Umar, who on the instruction of his boss, Badeh, was used to buy the property.
He disclosed further that when the property was found, he went to inspect it in the company of the said Hussain and his boss, Badeh, before it was purchased. But when asked if he included such in his statement with the EFCC, he said ‘no’.
“In your statement with EFCC, did you say you went with Badeh?
“ I did not say so”, the witness answered.
The defence counsel also put it to the witness that all he said in evidence in the court was not stated in his statement with EFCC, to which he affirmed.
“After we inspected the property and after being satisfied, he Badeh gave me a name, in which the property should be purchased and I forwarded the name to Umar following the instruction of my boss.
“I did not say all this in my statement because I was answering the questions as they were put through to me by the EFCC.”
The case was adjourned till 11:30 a.m. today at the instant of the court to enable it to attend to other matters.
The cross-examination of the prosecution witness continues.