The trial of Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), a former National Security Adviser, and five others before Justice Hussein Baba-Yusuf of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, sitting in Maitama, Abuja, could not continue on Wednesday, March 23, 2016 due to the absence of the first defendant, Dasuki.
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, 570,000, 000.00( Thirteen Billion, Five Hundred and Seventy Million Naira).
At the resumed hearing today, prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, told the court that Dasuki refused to appear in court on the grounds that his counsels, J.B. Dawodu, SAN, and Ahmed Raji, SAN, won’t be in court. Jacobs further stated that all efforts to persuade Dasuki to appear before the court today were unsuccessful.
‘‘I persuaded him to come to court today, 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 on Monday, March 21, 2016, 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. ‘‘My Lord, when I asked the Department of State Security (DSS) officers if the counsel to the first defendant has made any attempt to see him (Dasuki) in their custody, they said he( Dawodu) has not.’’
However, Wale Balogun, who stood in for the lead counsel to the first defendant, told the court that he was not aware of the allegations made against Dasuki. According to him, the lead counsel was absent in court due to some reasons, which he did not specify. 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.’’
Though counsels to the other defendants told the court that they were prepared for the trial, they all submitted that the proceedings could not go on due to the absence of the first defendant. In his submission, Solomon Umoh, SAN, 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.''
Consequently, Justice Baba-Yusuf adjourned to April 6, 2016 for commencement of trial.
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