A Federal Capital Territory High Court on Tuesday issued a warrant on the Department of State Security (DSS) to produce before the court a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
The so-called production warrant is a warrant issued when a trial judge needs an accused, who is already in custody of the government. The trial judge issues it on the authority with whom the accused person is under the custody of, to produce him or her before the court.
Mr Dasuki, who is being tried alongside Aminu Kusa, Acacia Holdings Limited and Reliance Referral Hospital, has been in detention of the State Security Service (SSS) since December 2015, despite about six court orders that granted him bails.
They were arraigned on 32 counts bordering on criminal breach of trust, misappropriation and dishonest release and receiving of various sums of money to the tune of N33.3 billion.
At the resumed trial on Tuesday, counsel to the federal government, Oluwaleke Atolagbe, informed the court that the matter was for the continuation of trial and that he was ready to proceed with a witness in court.
He, however, said that the first defendant (Mr Dasuki) was not present in court.
Responding, the counsel to Mr Dasuki, Victor Okwudili, said, “I am not surprised that the prosecution is seeking an explanation for my client who is absent when he knows he is in the prosecution custody.
“And, it would be in a better place for the prosecution to explain to the court why they have not brought the first defendant to court.
Solomon Umoh, a counsel to the second defendant, Aminu Baba-Kusa, on his part said, “Without playing a hide and seek, your Lordship may agree that it is now common knowledge that the defendant is in custody of the state.
“Your Lordship’s dilemma, which I sympathise with in this trial, is that in as much the Administrative Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) allows trial in absentia, this is one occasion that the law never contemplated. Thus, it cannot fall within the provision act.”
He said he wanted the court to bring the defendant to court and that it was within the power of the judge to give an order for that to happen.
“Your lord can use it in two ways, one is the issuance of production warrant but that is only done when the man is in wilful custody. It is not available now, because nobody signed him in.
“The other one is the issuance of a bench warrant and that is where the man is on the run to escape justice.
“Again, it is not available now because the man is not on the run, he is with the state.
Buttressing his point, the prosecution said, “On January 25, we made a submission before the court, requesting your Lordship to consider section 352(4) of ACJA 2015, which permits your Lordship to continue with the trial where the defendant is absent for minimum of two times when the case is adjourned for trial on that day.
“My lord would recall that this court ruled that the defendant is in custody of the DSS, not the Economic Crimes and Financial Commission (EFCC). This position was upheld by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court,” Mr Atolagbe added.
The prosecution further said a production warrant was issued in the sister case and that the issue of a bench warrant is academic.
“In this instance, I urge your Lordship to issue a production warrant,” he said.