The Federal Government yesterday clarified its position in the ongoing trial of former National Security Adviser (NSA) Mohammed Sambo Dasuki before the High court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
It said the ex-NSA was being tried because he was involved in various activities that bordered on economic sabotage, compromise of the nation’s security and endangering the lives of Nigerian soldiers involved in the anti-terrorism fight with members of the Boko Haram sect.
The government said investigation by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) operatives revealed that Dasuki allegedly diverted huge funds meant for the nation’s security, with which he allegedly procured properties in foreign cities, such as Dubai and London.
It warned against granting bail to Dasuki on the grounds that he could be attacked by relatives of ill-equipped soldiers, who died in the anti-terror war as a result of Dasuki’s alleged diversion of funds meant for the purchase of arms and ammunition for the military.
It said investigation had been intensified to trace his assets in other foreign countries and ascertain where the yet to be located stolen funds are being hidden outside the country.
The government’s position is contained in a counter affidavit filed by the EFCC against Dasuki’s bail application. The affidavit was deposed to by an operative with the EFCC, Hassan Saidu, who said he was part of the team investigating Dasuki.
“The offences being alleged against the defendant/applicant border on economic sabotage that strikes at the very foundation of Nigeria’s wellbeing and existence.
“The security of the Nigerian nation was compromised and the lives of innocent Nigerian soldiers in the battlefront against terrorists were endangered on account of diversion of funds meant for the security of the nation by the applicant herein.
“It is in the interest of justice to put the applicant in protective custody so as to protect him from a possible attack by the relatives of the innocent soldiers who lost their lives due to lack of adequate equipment and facilities caused by the diversion of the funds meant for that purpose.
“Apart from the cases that are pending against the applicant, he is also being investigated in respect of other criminal allegations. The applicant acquired a large volume of assets with the proceeds of crimes and my team is currently tracing the assets and, if released on bail, the applicant will interfere with the asset tracing activities.
“The applicant transferred huge sums of monies to various companies, whose identifies we are still trying to trace. And, if released on bail, the applicant will interfere and frustrate our investigation. Our investigation also revealed that the applicant transferred large sums of monies outside Nigeria and he acquired several assets in Dubai and London with these funds.
“The prosecution is prepared to prove its case within the shortest possible time if the application is refused and the court orders accelerated hearing,” Saidu said.
The lead prosecution lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), arguing the counter affidavit yesterday, urged the court to refuse the bail applications by Dasuki and two others arraigned with him on Monday on a 19-count charge of criminal breach of public trust and diversion of public funds. They are ex-Finance and Administration Director in the office of the NSA, Shuaibu Salisu and former Executive Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Aminu Baba-Kusa.
Jacobs faulted the argument by Dasuki’s lawyer, Ahmed Raji (SAN), that a Federal High Court, before which another case was pending against his client, had ruled that the offences are bailable. He contended that both cases were distinguishable.
‘‘Money laundering is a secondary offence and not a primary offence. But the charges before My Lord here are primary offences. My learned friend didn’t tell My Lord whether his client was enjoying the bail granted him by the other court before he was transferred to us (EFCC). Every money laundering case has a predicate offence.’’
Jacobs argued that presumption of innocence is not a sufficient ground for the accused persons to be granted bail. He noted that the status of the first defendant would intimidate the prosecution witnesses who had worked under him.
‘‘They are not entitled to bail because they may jump bail. I recognise that the granting or refusal of bail is at the discretion of the court, but if they will interfere with investigation of other cases that will be instituted against them, you can refuse them bail. If bail application is filed, it is not automatic that it must be granted,’’ Jacobs said.
On Raji’s argument that the charges did not indicate that the alleged money was for procurement of arms, Jacobs said the proof of evidence showed the purposes for which the money was meant, which was for the purchase of security equipment.
Moving his client’s bail application earlier, Raji urged the court to allow Dasuki on bail pending the conclusion of his trial.
He argued that under the Constitution, an accused is presumed innocent, no matter the gravity of the charge before the court. Also, the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 has made bail possible in all cases.’’
Raji urged the court to discountenance Jacobs’ argument, particularly in relation to his claim that the former NSA would interfere with further investigation and witnesses in the current case.
He urged the court to seriously consider the ruling of the Federal High Court, Abuja which had earlier granted Dasuki bail in another case.
“It will amount to internal inconsistency. I urge you, My Lord, to grant the first defendant bail on very liberal terms, even if you are not moved by the ruling by your brother at the Federal High Court.’’
Justice Baba-Yusuf cut in, telling Raji that the case before him and the one in which the first defendant is standing trial at the Federal High Court, Abuja are different.
‘‘Move the circumstances on which the bail should be granted and that is what will impress me,” Justice Baba-Yusuf said.
Salisu’s lawyer, A.U. Mustapha, argued in a similar manner, noting that his client has served the country meritoriously for 29 years.
“He is a responsible citizen of this country and he is ready to defend himself. He needs his liberty and unfettered access to his lawyer. He also needs to consult his books. So, he needs his freedom to be able to do all this,’’ he said.
Justice Hussein Baba-Yusuf adjourned till Friday for ruling on the bail application. He directed that the defendants be further remanded in the custody of the EFCC.