The Nigerian government on Wednesday insisted on questioning former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, in the ongoing trial of former Peoples Democratic Party spokesperson, Olisah Metuh.
Mr. Metuh is facing trial for alleged diversion of N400 million from the office of the former NSA.
Mr. Dasuki who was ordered into the witness box to testify on Wednesday, told the court that he could only comment on questions relating to the allegations against himself after looking through documents relating to the exercise of his duty while in office.
Asked if he could recall having to deal financially with Mr. Metuh and his company, Dextra Investment, Mr. Dasuki said until he is released and given a chance to examine his past official records, the answer to the question was ‘no’.
“Currently I am in custody of the State Security Service. I have been there for two years now. I wouldn’t be able to record if I had any dealings with the first and second defendant from my memory.
“Three years is a long time, so I cannot recall. I cannot respond in a manner that will please the counsel, except with recourse to my records.
“I have stated earlier that I am in custody. When the authorities decide to obey the court orders and release me; that is when I will be able to give a time line. They have refused to obey court orders on my release. We have processes in court, when we get to the Supreme Court, those in charge today, will listen,” Mr. Dasuki said.
“As long as I am in the custody, the answer is I don’t know,” he added.
Reacting to the witness’ submission, counsel to Mr. Metuh then prayed for more time to allow Mr. Dasuki resolve issues of his detention before he would testify.
The counsel, Emeka Etiaba, asked for time and intervention of the court, while counsel representing the second defendant, Tochukwu Onwubufor, asked the court to let Mr. Dasuki recover from the his experience in detention.
“I have a witness who is most willing to testify. He is in the witness box and has taken introductory questions, but is unable to answer questions with regards to specific actions of his, while he was functioning as National Security Adviser and all that he did, three years ago.
“His position is justifiable, because in our very presence the registrar of court warned him that if he tells us any lie or makes an incorrect statement he will be penalized for it. He desires therefore to give correct answers to questions from me.
“It is very important to note that the only reason why he does not have and cannot consult his records is because he us being detained by the very state that is prosecuting the defendant.
“I believe that it is possible for some administrative efforts to be made to enable him get in touch with the records. I am saying this because when it seemed difficult to see the subpoena to the witness, this honourable court directed the prosecutor to apply administrative means to ensure that the subpoena is not only served but that the witness attends trial. In the circumstance, I apply that the witness be allowed some time to get in contact with his records,” Mr. Etiaba said.
Responding, however, to the submission of the defence, the prosecution counsel, Sylvanus Tahir, asked for the invocation of the law to compel Mr. Dasuki to speak.
“No effort has been made by the prosecution to size up the witness. Only one document links DW8 with the transaction in question. And the Director of Finance and Account of ONSA confirmed transferring the sum of N400 milion million to the account of the second defendant.
“No attempt has been made to show that document to the witness. I believe if that attempt was made and the witness responded otherwise, that would have maybe settled the issue.
“In the event that the defence is not able to proceed with the witness, the prosecution should be given the liberty to cross-examine the witness on what he has said in court so far. The Court can invoke section 250 (2) b.
“More so, there are linked conditions to dictate the pace of the trial: by suggesting that unless the Supreme Court judgements is delivered or that the witness gathers his mental conjecture, a thing the witness has not said. We are vehemently opposed to the application on the grounds that no cogent reasons have been advanced on the grounds that the defence have not finished with the defence witness”.
Reacting to the submission of the prosecution counsel, Mr. Etiaba said the documents referred to by Mr. Tahir belong to his client and the defence witness should be given a chance to access his own documents before agreeing or disagreeing with the content of Mr. Tahir’s document.
“My Lord the prosecution makes it sound very easy that the evidence is very narrow, but he forgets that when he starts talking now he will argue that he is at liberty to ask any questions under cross-examination and we may not be able to limit him.
“The exhibit referred to by the prosecution does not exist in vacuum. That document is predicated on actions taken within the office of the NSA. He needs to compare them with what he has and determine whether they are the same. It does not lie in the mouth of the prosecutor to make those findings,” Mr. Etiaba said.
Mr. Etiaba also said the section of the law cited by Mr. Tahir is only applicable to a witness who refuses to testify. He added that Mr. Dasuki had affirmed his resolve to speak and tell the truth in court and so that section of the law cannot be applied to him.
In a ruling on the matter, Mr. Abang said the court will decide on the request for time on Friday.
Earlier the court struck out an application brought by a counsel to former President Goodluck Jonathan seeking an order of court for Mr. Jonathan to deposit N1 billion as travel and logistic allowances before he would testify on his behalf.