A drama played out in court yesterday as one of the arrested justices of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, refused to hear the case of unlawful possession of firearms brought against former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd) by the Department of State Services (DSS).
The judge washed his hands off the case and said he was remitting the case file to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, for re-assignment.
Dasuki was on September 1, 2015 arraigned before Justice Ademola over charges of unlawful possession of firearms and money laundering.
The trial has, however, suffered some delays occasioned by series of interlocutory applications from both the prosecution and defence counsel.
When trial resumed yesterday, Justice Ademola announced in the open court that he was constrained from proceeding with the case in view of the recent clampdown on some judges by the DSS.
Addressing the prosecution counsel, Dipo Okpeseyi and Dasuki’s lawyer, Adebayo Adedeji, Justice Ademola said: “I’m sure the prosecution and defence counsel are conversant with what had been going on in the last seven days in this country. One of the allegations being made against me by the Department of State Services is that I received certain sums of unspecified money from the defendant.
“Of course, I have responded to that allegation of receiving unspecified sums of money from the defendant, but it will be wise for him to answer some questions,” he said.
At this stage, the judge engaged Dasuki in a question and answer as session:
Judge: “Do you know me at all or have you come in contact with me?
Dasuki: “I don’t know you, my Lord”
Judge: “Did you at any time give me money in respect of the ongoing trial?
Dasuki: “No, my Lord, I didn’t give you any money”.
Judge: “Did you send any money to me; to any member of my family; or through any counsel?
Dasuki: “No, my Lord, except the DSS agents who are reporting the allegation did”.
Judge: “I am happy that you have answered these questions. In the interest of fair hearing, I am minded to return the case file to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for further action.”
Reacting, the prosecution counsel said, “we are guided by your Lordship’s decision even though we had come for a ruling and continuation of trial. Adedeji acknowledged the recent happenings and said the judge was right to take that step.
Okpeseyi requested for an adjournment so that the counsel and the Chief Judge would ruminate over the issue and take the next step rather than boxing the court into a tight corner.
After hearing from all the lawyers, Justice Ademola said, “this court is minded to transfer this case to the Chief Judge. The defendant has vehemently denied in open court today, the allegation made by the DSS.
“Therefore, this case file has been returned to the Chief Judge in line with the principle of fair hearing. This criminal matter has been adjourned to another date as may be fixed by the new judge” Justice Ademola declared.