The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Thursday granted the request by the Federal Government to shield the identities of 14 witnesses billed to testify against detained former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki.
Dasuki, who served as the NSA under ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, is being prosecuted on a seven-count charge bordering on theft of Federal Government’s sophisticated weapons, illegal possession of firearms and money laundering.
In a ruling that was delivered by trial Justice Ahmed Mohammed, the court granted leave for all the prosecution witnesses to give their evidence behind screen.
Justice Mohammed anchored the ruling on section 232 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, which he said permits the use of screen in the prosecution of cases involving economic crime.
“Section 232 (4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act permits the use of a screen in a charge of economic and financial crimes; and money laundering is part of the charges instituted against the defendant.
“Therefore, the request is in order, especially when it has not been shown that it will prejudice against the defendant.” Mohammed declared.
The judge however ordered that the witnesses will not be shielded from the defendant or defence lawyers.
Justice Mohammed therefore dismissed the objection by Dasuki’s lead counsel, Mr Ahmed Raji (SAN), who had argued that the application constituted an abuse of court process.
Raji based his argument on the grounds that a similar application filed by the prosecution in the same case had been dismissed by the former trial judge, Justice Adeniyi Ademola.
The Nigerian government had in the charge before the court, alleged that Dasuki was on July 17, 2015, at his house situated at No. 13, John Khadiya Street, Asokoro, Abuja, found to be in possession of various range of firearms without requisite license, an offence punishable under section 27 (1)(a) of the Firearms Act Cap F28 LFN 2004.
He was accused of retaining the sums of $40,000, N5millon and another $20,000 in the same house and same date, contrary to section 15 (2)(d) of Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011.
The federal government further alleged that the ex-NSA had on July 16, 2015, at his residence at Sultan Abubakar Road and Sabon Birni Road, Sokoto State, retained another $150,000 and N37.6m being part of proceedings of unlawful act, contrary to Section 15 (3) of the Money Laundering Act 2011.
Meanwhile, the judge then fixed September 20 and 21 for the commencement of trial.