Did you send any money to me; to any member of my family or through any counsel? – Judge
No, my Lord, except if the DSS agents, who are reporting the allegation did – Defendant
One of the judges arrested last week by the Department of State Services (DSS), Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal Hiigh Court, Abuja withdrew yesterday from the trial of former National Security Adviser (NSA) Sambo Dasuki.
Dasuki was arraigned before the court on September 1, 2015, accused of unlawful possession of firearms and money laundering.
After some delay caused mainly by the defence, the trial opened on May 18, with the prosecution calling its first witness, Samuel Ogbu, a senior DSS operative.
Ogbu told the court how the investigating team he worked with interviewed Dasuki and obtained statement from him in the comfort of his home on July 17, 2015. He gave details of how the team searched the ex-NSA’s private home in Asokoro, Abuja, recovered five Tavor rifles, one Lugar rifle, one micro Uzi rifle, various categories of ammunition and cash in both local and foreign currencies.
The trial was later stalled when the prosecution applied to have its other witnesses shielded from public glare to protect them from possible harm, an application the defence rejected, following which Justice Ademola scheduled ruling on the application for October 18.
Parties had expected the judge to deliver the ruling when proceedings opened yesterday, only for Justice Ademola to announce his withdrawal from the case, citing his trouble in the handa of men of the DSS.
Before withdrawing from the case, Justice Ademola said: “I’m sure the prosecution and defence counsel are conversant with what is going on in the last seven days in this country. One of the allegations being made against me by the Department of State Security is that I received certain sums of unspecified money from the defendant.
“Of course, I have responded to that allegation of receiving an unspecified sums of money from the defendant. But, it will be wise for him to answer some questions.” Justice Ademola engaged Dasuki in a conversation:
Judge: “Do you know me at all or have come in contact with me?”
Defendant: “I don’t know you, my Lord.”
Judge: “Did you, at any time, give me money in respect of the ongoing trial?”
Defendant: “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?”
Defendant: “No, my Lord, except if 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.”
Lead prosecution lawyer Oladipo Okpeseyi (SAN) said: “We are guided by your Lordship’s decision, even though we had come for a ruling and continuation of trial.”
Adedayo Adedeji, who led Dasuki’s legal team, said he was aware of the recent arrest of some judges, including Justice Ademola. He praised the judge for withdrawing from the case.
After listening to 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 CJ 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,” the judge said.