Al-Mustapha's appeal: Court reserves judgment

By The Citizen

The Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal Monday reserved judgment in the appeal by former Chief Security Officer to late Sani Abacha, Major Hamza al-Mustapha and an aide to the Abiolas, Lateef Shofolahan, challenging the death sentence handed to them by a Lagos State High Court.

Al-Mustapha and Shofolahan are challenging the death sentence passed on them by the lower court on January 30, 2012, by Justice Mojisola Dada, for conspiracy in masterminding the murder of Kudirat Abiola, wife of late Chief MKO Abiola.

The convicts were arraigned in October 1999 on a four-count charge bordering on conspiracy and their involvement in the 1996 murder of the deceased on the Lagos/Ibadan expressway.

Justice Dada of the lower court found them guilty of the offence and accordingly convicted and sentenced them to death by hanging.

In their appeals, the appellants were contending that the death sentence passed on them by the lower court was unwarranted, unreasonable and a manifest miscarriage of justice, arguing that the trial judge erred in law by arriving at the conclusion that they conspired to kill Alhaja Abiola on June 4, 1996.

The appellants faulted the judge's treatment of the contradictory statements of Barnabas Jabila (aka Sgt. Rogers) and Mohammed Abdul, as well as the reliance on the testimony of Dr. Ore Falomo on the bullet extracted from late Kudirat.

Meanwhile, during yesterday's proceeding, counsel to Al-Mustapha, Joseph Daudu (SAN), told the court that the evidence of PW2 and PW3 contradicted each other and the evidence of the prosecution did not support the charge brought against the appellant.

In his response, counsel to the respondent (Lagos State), Lawal Pedro (SAN), told the court that there are evidence, especially under cross-examination, tendered at the lower court linking the convicts with the crime.

In the respondent's brief of argument dated May 30, 2013, Pedro urged the court to dismiss the appeal, adding that the judge whom the appellant accused of being bias did not even allow his (Pedro's) witness to conclude before closing the case.

Following Pedro's argument that his witness did not conclude, counsel to Shofolahan, Olalekan Ojo, argued that the prosecution's failure to call vital witnesses was tantamount to losing the case.

'It is not permitted for any judge to reprobate and probate at the same time. The judge treated the evidence of PW2 and PW3 as corroboration for PW1. There is a catalogue of errors,' Ojo insisted.

Citing the case of Ojutola vs Mabogunje reported in 2013 (7) NWLR, Ojo said Justice Dada did not behave like a referee having no favourite, saying 'there were only four prosecution witnesses and one of them, Dr. Ore Falomo, knew nothing about the matter.'

He noted that the bullet, said to have been used by the appellants, was not tendered at the lower court and the judge's statement as regards to PW2 and PW3, over issue of witness, was contradictory.

Justice Ibrahim Saulawa had earlier declined to be among the panel to hear the appeal based on personal reasons.