A judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja, and one of those arrested by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) over allegation of corruption, Justice Adeniyi Ademola has withdrawn from presiding over the trial of the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col Sambo Mohammed Dasuki (rtd).
The former NSA was arraigned on September 1, 2015, before Ademola over charges that bordered on unlawful possession of firearms, breach of trust and money laundering.
But due to intermittent interlocutory applications from both the prosecution and defence counsel, commencement of full blown trial of the former NSA is yet to commence.
The Judge, was among the Judges, whose residences were ransacked by DSS operatives on October 7, 2016, before their arrest on the allegation of corruption.
The Judges have been granted bail on self recognition by the DSS, which claimed that huge sums of money, in local and foreign currencies were found in the homes of some out of the two Justices of the Supreme Court and five other Judges during the raid.
Justice Ademola had written to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed saying that the DSS are after him because of the bail he granted former NSA, which the DSS refused to obey as well as his previous decisions in a case involving a leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu.
When Dasuki’s matter came up on Tuesday before Justice Ademola, who had resumed sitting since Monday, he told the court that he was constrained to go ahead with the hearing of the criminal case in view of the recent clampdown on some judges in the country by the DSS.
Dipo Okpeseyi appeared for the prosecution, while the defence counsel was Adedayo Adedeji, when the matter was called on Tuesday.
Addressing the court, 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 (Dasuki) to answer some questions.
“Do you know me at all or have come in contact with me?, Justice Ademola asked Dasuki, who answered in the negative.
Ademola asked the former NSA in the open court whether he (Dasuki) had, at any time given him money in respect of the on going trial, Dasuki replied, “No, my Lord, I didn’t give you any money.”
Again, Justice Ademola queried, “Did you send any money to me; to any member of my family; or through any counsel?, Dasuki answered: “No, my Lord, except the DSS agents who are reporting the allegation did.”
These are the questions Justice Ademola asked Dasuki:
Ademola: Do you know me at all?
Dasuki: Before I came to this court, not at all.
Ademola: Did you at any time give me money?
Dasuki: None that I am aware of.
Ademola: Did you send your lawyers to give me money?
Dasuki: Not at all.
Ademola: Did you give money to any of my relatives?
Dasuki: Not at all, maybe the DSS is alleging that I did.”
The Judge said, “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.
Consequently, 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 the both counsel, 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 principle of fair hearing. This criminal matter has been adjourned to another date as may be fixed by the new judge” Justice Ademola declared.