By Wandoo Sombo
The Federal Government on Thursday notified the Federal High Court Abuja of an application pending before it seeking protection for witnesses billed to testify in the trial of former National Security Adviser, retired Col. Sambo Dasuki.
Counsel to the Federal Government, Mr Oladipo Okpeseyi brought this to the notice of the court when Dasuki was re-arraigned before Justice Ahmed Mohammed on a seven-count amended charge.
In the amended charge, Dasuki was accused of being in possession of prohibited firearms without requisite licence in July 2015, contrary to Section 28 of the Firearms Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
He was specifically alleged to have been in possession of five tervor rifles at his residence in Asokoro, Abuja.
Besides the firearms, Dasuki was also accused of money laundering and was specifically said to have been in possession of $40,000, N5million and €20,000, allegedly found in his house in July.
According to the charge, the money was said to be proceeds of an unlawful act contrary to Section 15 (3) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act.
The amended charge also indicated that $150,000 and another N37 million, being proceeds of an unlawful act was also found in his Sokoto residence in July 2015.
Dasuki pleaded not guilty to all the seven counts.
Okpeseyi informed the court of his readiness for trial and that he had a motion pending before the court to seek protection for witnesses billed to testify against Dasuki.
He also told the court that since the amended charge bore the same number with the previous charge, the court should exercise its order on the bail earlier granted the defendant by allowing him to continue to enjoy bail.
Earlier, Dasuki’s counsel, Mr Ahmed Raji (SAN) urged the court to allow the defendant enjoy the bail conditions earlier granted him.
Raji, however, opposed the motion for witness protection which he said was filed since June 3, 2016 on the grounds that the motion was predicated on the old charge.
He informed the court that the prosecution had on Jan. 23 filed an application on the same issue and wondered why the prosecution chose to “dance backward” to the motion of 2016 instead of going ahead with that of 2017.
He, however, urged the court to give him time to peruse the counter-affidavit filed by his client against the 2016 motion to enable him respond appropriately as required by law.
Justice Mohammed affirmed the bail conditions granted Dasuki in the amended charges of unlawful possession of firearms and money laundering.
The judge said that since the prosecuting counsel did not oppose the application, Dasuki should continue to enjoy bail on the conditions granted him in 2015 when he was first arraigned for the same offence.
He adjourned the matter until May 11 to hear the application for secret trial.
Dasuki was in 2015 admitted to bail by Justice Adeniyi Ademola, but the bail order was not obeyed by the Federal Government.
Dasuki has since then been kept in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS).
Justice Ademola had also in 2015 dismissed the application for secret trial.
He dismissed it on the grounds that the prosecution had already filed the names and addresses of all the witnesses in the trial and had made same available to the general public.