By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja.
Former National Security Adviser (NSA) Col. Mohammed Sambo Dasuki (rtd) has pleaded with the Federal High Court in Abuja to adjourn indefinitely his trial in the charges of unlawful possession of firearms and money laundering brought against him since 2015 by the Federal government
The Federal government lawyer, Mr. Dipo Okpeseyi (SAN), flayed the request, because, according to him, the motion seeking the indefinite adjournment is an abuse of court process, vexatious and a calculated attempt to undermine the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) for speedy trial in a criminal matter.
But Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed wii make his decision on this request known on November 15, 2017.
Dasuki,:in a motion on notice argued by his counsel, Mr. Ahmed Raji SAN, in Abuja Tuesday said that the adjournment has become imperative because he has referred constitutional issues that arose in the course of his trial to the Court of Appeal for determination.
In the motion brought pursuant to section 305(1a) and 492 (3) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and section 36 of the 1999 constitution, the ex – NSA prayed for an order of the court to adjourn trial or further trial in the charges against him pending determination of his appeal at the Court of Appeal.
Moving the motion dated and filed on September 14, 2017, the applicant pleaded for adjournment of trial on five grounds of law.
Essentially, he claimed that his appeal with number CA/A/523C/2017 borders on constitutional issues and has to be determined one way or the order by the Court of Appeal before a meaningful trial can proceed.
Dasuki recalled before the court the ruling of June 15, 2017, in which the court granted protection by way of screening to witnesses that will testify for the federal government and against him in the charges of unlawful possession of firearms and money laundering.
The applicant claimed that the protection granted the witnesses violated section 36 of the 1999 constitution that entitles him to fair trial.
Specifically, the former NSA wants the appellate court to set aside the protection of the witnesses and to allow all the witnesses to be seen by him and his legal team in the interest of fairness.
He claimed that since his grounds of appeal raised a very serious constitutional issue which necessitated his filing of Notice of Appeal at the Court of Appeal to stay proceedings in his trial, it is incumbent for the High Court to allow the Appeal Court determine the issue.
He urged the court to look at section 305 of the ACJA 2015, which he said enjoined the lower court to tarry a while when a constitutional matter has been referred to the Appeal Court.
“We are not asking for stay of trial, we just want this court to take note that major constitutional issues arose on fair trial and witness protection and since these constitutional issues have been referred to the Appeal Court it is the normal practice for the lower court to await outcome of such issues before proceeding in the main issue.
The government counsel, Okpeseyi, argued that Dasuki’s motion emanated from the referral of a matter to the Appeal Court, adding that by law, referrals can only be made by Court.
He contended that since the High Court did not refer any matter to the Court of Appeal, there is no reason to grant an adjournment in respect of a referral that was done without the permission of the court.
He argued that Dasuki’s motion was for stay of trial and not for adjournment and that the motion runs counter to the intendment and purposes of the ACJA to the effect that Criminal matters be taken day to day by trial court.
Besides, the counsel argued that no material was placed before the court to grant the motion and to suggest that there would be miscarriage of justice if the trial proceeds.
“This motion is a smokescreen to delay the trial and to put a clog in the wheel of provisions of the ACJA on speedy dispensation of criminal matters and should be dismissed”, Okpeseyi said.