The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Thursday, gave the Federal Government of Nigeria the nod to produce and display weapons that were allegedly recovered from the residence of the detained former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, retd.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed fixed May 22 for the Federal Government to tender the weapons, which are said to in the custody of the Department of State Services, DSS, as exhibits in the ongoing trial of the embattled ex-NSA.
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.
The alleged illegal arms included five Tavor Assault Rifles, 1 Macro Uzi with serial No 60244(Rifle), 20 magazines (Ammunition), 1 packet of MOD (Ministry of Defence) APG calibre gun, Luger No 033375 ( gun), small magazine containing 16 rounds of ammunition, and bigger magazine containing live rounds of ammunition.
Additionally, Dasuki 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.
But, at the resumed hearing on the matter, Dasuki, through his lawyer, Mr. Adeola Adedipe, opposed any public display of the said arms and ammunition that were allegedly recovered from his house.
Dasuki said his stance was based on the fact that the court allowed his trial to be conducted in semi-secrecy, with all the witnesses testifying behind a screen.
Relying on sections 190 of the Evidence Act, 232 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, and section 36 of the 1999 constitution, as amended, Dasuki, contended that going by the nature of his trial, the weapons ought to be displayed inside the Judge’s chamber rather than in an open court.
However, the prosecution counsel, Mr. Okpeseyi Oladipupo, SAN, urged the court to dismiss Dasuki’s objection, maintaining that the only thing not permitted to be displayed in the open court in such trial, are official records of the state and not items recovered in the house of a suspect during investigation.
In his ruling, Justice Mohammed said it was in the interest of justice and fair play to both the prosecution and the defense that the alleged weapons be displayed before the court.
He held that Dasuki, being the defendant in the case, would not suffer any prejudice if the alleged weapons are displayed and tendered as exhibit by those who investigated the allegations against him.
Besides, Justice Mohammed said the weapons were listed in the proof of evidence already made available to the ex-NSA by the prosecution.
Earlier, a prosecution witness, Mr Williams Obiara, who is a DSS operative, told the court that he was a member of the team that was directed by the Director General of DSS in 2015 to carry out a search operation at Dasuki’s house.
He said the search followed an intelligence report that weapons injurious to national security were kept in the former NSA’s house.
The witness, who testified behind a veil, said his team, led by one Ali Burara, after they had secured a search warrant, stormed Dasuki’s residence at Asokoro in Abuja where he said they met a retinue of armed soldiers.
He said the soldiers initially prevented them from conducting the search.
The witness told the court that after about three hours, a military truck arrived the house and moved the soldiers out of the house to pave way for the search operation.
According to him, all the weapons that were recovered during the operation, were recorded on the search warrant.
The Federal Government had shortly after Dasuki pleaded not guilty to the charge, applied through a motion dated June 3, 2016, for the witnesses to be allowed to testify behind a screen that will be provided by the court.
It told the court that Dasuki is a crowned prince of the Sokoto caliphate who has large followers both within and outside the country that may be aggrieved.
The Federal Government decried that most of the witnesses, being security operatives, were scared that they could be hunted by people that are sympathetic to the defendant.
It futher alleged that Dasuki imported sophisticated firearms while he held sway as the NSA, saying most of the firearms have not been accounted for and could be in the possession of those sympathetic to the defendant.