Ade Adesomoju, Abuja
Justice Adeniyi Ademola of a Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday withdrew from further presiding over the trial of a former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.).
Justice Ademola returned the case file to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for re-assignment to another judge.
The Federal Government had on September 1, 2015 arraigned Dasuki before the judge on charges of money laundering and illegal possession of firearms.
But Justice Ademola, who was one of the seven judges recently arrested by the operatives of the Department of State Services, had written to the National Judicial Council, saying that granting bail to the ex-NSA was part of the allegations the DSS levelled against him.
The judge granted bail to Dasuki shortly after the accused person was arraigned on September 1, 2015.
At the resumed hearing of Dasuki’s trial on Tuesday, Justice Ademola said he was not willing to go on with the case in view of the recent development.
The prosecuting counsel, Mr. Dipo Okpeseyi (SAN), said he had not been briefed by his client (the Federal Government) on what position to take on the issue.
But the defence counsel, Mr. Adedayo Adedeji, said he had originally wanted to seek the judge’s guidance on what position to take but that since the judge had on his own raised the issue he should go ahead to determine it as he pleased.
The judge 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 Services is that I received certain sums of unspecified money from the defendant.
“Of course, I have responded to that allegation of receiving an unspecified sum of money from the defendant but it will be wise for him to answer some questions.”
The judge then proceeded to direct his questions to Dasuki who was in the dock.
The conversation went thus:
Judge: Do you know me at all or have 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, maybe the DSS agents who are making 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 have come for a ruling and continuation of trial.”
Okpeseyi sought an adjournment of the case to enable counsel for both sides to meet with the Chief Judge over the issue to determine the next line of action.
But the judge went ahead to deliver a bench ruling returning the case file to the Chief Judge.
He ruled, “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.”