Detained immediate-past National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), on Tuesday asked the Federal High Court in Abuja to suspend and adjourn indefinitely his trial on charges of illegal possession of firearms and money laundering.
Arguing the application before Justice Ahmed Mohammed, Dasuki’s counsel, Mr. Ahmed Raji (SAN), asked the court to adjourn the trial indefinitely pending the hearing and determination of the ex-NSA’s motion for stay of proceedings filed before the Court of Appeal, Abuja.
Raji contended that his client’s motion was not seeking an order of stay of proceedings which had been barred by section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, but said that the application was brought under section 305 of the ACJA which he argued allowed the court to adjourn a trial after a constitutional issue arising from the trial had been referred to a higher court for determination.
Raji was referring to the appeal filed by his client against the ruling delivered by Justice Mohammed on June 15, 2017, granting the prosecution’s application to permit its witnesses to testify behind screen.
Raji said, “In the cause of the proceedings, a very major constitutional issue arose on witness protection and fair trial, under the constitution and the defendant here has referred the constitutional matter to the Court of Appeal.
“The notice of appeal, Exhibit C which is the vehicle through which the referral was made, particularly in grounds 3, states that section 232(3)(b) of the ACJA has been submitted for test against the provision of section36(4) of the 1999 Constitution.
“On the basis of this referral the court should adjourn the matter.”
He noted that his client had filed before the Court of Appeal, a motion for stay of proceedings of the trial, adding that once such motion was pending before a higher court, “the lower court is to tarry awhile to await the decisions of the higher court on the pending motion.”
He said, “It is to avoid a situation of foisting a fait accompli on the Court of Appeal. My lord, in this case, we have not only referred a constitutional issue, we have also filed a motion for stay of proceedings.
“I therefore urge my lord that based on these two legs, your lordship is enjoined to adjourn this matter, not necessarily sine die, but to enable the Court of Appeal to exercise its discretion one way or the other.”
Opposing the application, the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Dipo Okpeseyi (SAN), described the application as “an abuse of court process.”
“It is vexatious and it is calculated to undermine the gains of statute law and case law in criminal justice administration in Nigeria,” he said.
Okpeseyi told the court that the application was seeking stay of proceedings, although Raji attempted to cover it up by the use of flowery words.
He said, “There are authorities that have urged your lordship to see beyond flowery words and to see the there is no difference between six and half a dozen.
“To adjourn ad infinitum pending the happening of an event, that is the definition of stay of proceedings. So the case is an application for stay of proceedings.”
He said the application was intended to defeat the purpose of the ACJA enshrined in Section (1)(i) of the ACJA which provided for speedy dispensation of justice
He said section 1(ii) of ACJA placed obligation on the court and other stakeholders in the criminal justice system to ensure compliance with the provisions of the law for the realisation of the purpose of the law.
He said, “This motion runs counter to the spirit, intendment and purpose of the ACJA. Section 306 of the Act provides the courts hall not countenance motion for stay of proceedings.
“The Supreme Court has stated that since the High Court cannot grant stay of proceedings it can also not grant it.
“It is our position that this application is a smokescreen to delay and frustrate trial. It is aimed to clog and defeat the wheel and the end of justice.”