An Abuja Division of the Federal High Court has refused to grant an adjournment in the ongoing trial of the former Peoples Democratic Party Spokesperson, Olisah Metuh, pending the release of a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
Mr. Metuh is facing trial on a seven-count charge for alleged diversion of N400 million from the office of the former NSA.
Mr. Dasuki, who was billed to appear as the eighth defence witness in Mr. Metuh’s trial, told the court on Wednesday that he could only give answers to questions from Mr. Metuh’s lawyers if he (Dasuki) is released and allowed to access his documents.
Following the submissions of Mr. Dasuki, the defence counsel, Emeka Etiaba, asked for an adjournment to allow the witness “resolve issues with those that detained him and access his documents.”
The application was however opposed by the prosecution counsel, Sylvanus Tahir.
In a short ruling by the presiding judge, Okon Abang, on Friday, the court held that the application by Mr. Metuh’s lawyer for the court to tarry until Mr. Dasuki is freed from the custody of the State Security Service lacked merit.
Mr. Abang ruled that Mr. Dasuki was not invited to come and tender documents but to give evidence based on documents already in court.
“I have considered the arguments by the defence counsel. It should be settled that to refuse or grant the request for an adjournment is at the discretion of the court. The exercise or use of the Court’s discretion should point at the justice of the case. The court will take its decision based on the facts of the case and the provisions of law.
“It is my humble view that a party that calls a witness is entitled to lead evidence from the witness, either in person or through his counsel. He is in control of his brief,” Mr. Abang said, adding that the request by the defence counsel to have Mr. Dasuki in court has already been complied with.
The judge added that a request for a further adjournment cannot be granted, as the counsel was at liberty to ask questions that will lead to the testimony Mr. Dasuki was brought to give.
“The witness is in court. The counsel is at liberty to ask the witness questions and any answer given by the witness is his testimony and he can be cross-examined on the basis of it. The witness is at liberty to not answer questions that he is unable to answer. If the witness answers the questions based on what he is asked, he can be cross-examined on that basis,” he said.
“The Court cannot intervene to grant an adjournment to enable a witness, according to him: refresh his memory, to examine documents that are not in evidence. The first defendant counsel did not make reference to any documents, neither did the witness. It is not clear, if the imaginary document is the witness’ personal documents or an official document. I say so because the witness is no longer in the office of the NSA.
“If there is any document that is not in court certainly the document will be at the office of the NSA. It is up to the defence counsel to obtain the documents from the court. The witness has not given evidence that he took official documents home. It is up to the defence counsel to obtain the documents. He should have done that earlier. The court cannot take an adjournment.
“As regards the ability of the counsel to obtain relevant documents from the witness, his detention is irrelevant. The counsel should not hinge his ability or inability to obtain the imaginary documents (if at all the documents exists) on the detention of the witness.”
Mr. Abang said Mr. Dasuki appears “sound and willing to be examined, so no attempts should be made to postpone his examination.”
“Watching his demeanor in the witness box, I think the witness is willing to answer questions. The witness that I see in the witness box is not a difficult witness. The role of a witness is to answer questions, not to give conditions.
“There are several ways to elicit relevant information from a counsel. The defence counsel cannot ask a question that will result in an application for an adjournment. To determine how the witness should answer a question is not known in law. It is the counsel’s duty to look for documents, not that of the witness.
“I think this application lacks merit. If this application is granted, the prosecution shall be overreached,” said Mr. Abang who added that granting the said application will amount to a negation of justice.
Following an order of the appeal court, in September Mr. Metuh’s request to have Mr. Dasuki appear as a defence witness, was granted by the lower court.
Although Mr. Dasuki appeared in court on Wednesday, his lawyer, Ahmed Raji, is asking the court to set aside its order for a subpoena, which compelled Mr. Dasuki to appear as a witness.
Mr. Dasuki has been in the custody of the State Security Service for over two years.