At Last, Court Sets al-Mustapha, Others Free
LAGOS, Dec 21, (THEWILL) - General Sani Abacha’s Chief Security Officer (CSO), Major Hamzat al-Mustapha was today set free after more than a decade behind bars for the alleged attempted murder of Publisher of Guardian Newspapers, Mr. Alex Ibru. Other accused persons, who were set free alongside al-Mustapha include former Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. James Danbaba; former Zamfara State Military Administrator, Lt. Col. Jubrin Bala Yakubu; and former Head of the Aso Rock Anti-Riot Police, Rabo Lawal. A Lagos High Court sitting at Tafawa Balewa Square today declared al-Mustapha and other persons free following the prosecutions inability to establish a prima facie case against the accused persons in the attempted murder suit. THEWILL however gathered that al-Mustapha and Rabo Lawal will remain in detention until another court of competent jurisdiction determine their alleged involvement in the gruesome murder of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, the wife of the winner of June 12, 1993 Presidential election, Bashorun Moshood Kasimawo Olawale Abiola. In a ruling, the presiding judge, Justice Muftau Olokoba said all charges preferred against Mustapha and other accused persons by the State lacked substantive evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt, saying there was no evidence of conspiracy as alleged on the first count. Olokoba declared: “I hold that no prima facie case has been established against the accused persons. I hereby acquit and discharged them.”
Counsel to the 3rd accused person, U.C Ikeguble, had argued that where an essential element has not been proved, his client has no case to answer. Ikegbule said: “In proving the allegation of attempted murder of Alex Ibru, the prosecution was not able to show that the defendant actually had the intention to kill the publisher of Guardian Newspapers.” He urged the court to discountenance the testimony of prosecution witnesses who have at one point or the other contradicted themselves during cross examination. According to him, none of the prosecution witnesses mentioned the name of the 3rd accused person in their testimonies in court linking him with alleged attempted murder of Alex Ibru. Ikegbule explained that the prosecution “has failed to make a prima facie case against the defendants as to conspiracy to kill Alex Ibru and Isaac Porbeni who was former Commissioner of Sports in Delta State as alleged. “The prosecution also failed to produce the original tapes of the Special Investigation Panel that carried out investigations into the alleged crime in spite of long adjournments.” Counsel to the first accused, C.K Nmakwe had on November 3, 2010 while adopting his written address prayed the court to acquit and discharge the 1st accused of all allegations preferred against him by the prosecution. Nmakwe urged the court to consider if the prosecution has established a prima facie case against his client, arguing that the court cannot convict the accused on allegation of conspiracy when there is no evidence before the court to prove same. Nmakwe said the prosecution “has a duty to establish all the allegations made against the 1st accused beyond reasonable doubt. The prosecution was not able to establish that the 1st accused caused serious bodily wound on the publisher of Guardian Newspapers, Alex Ibru as was suggested by the prosecution. The burden of proof is solely the responsibility of the prosecution and not the accused.” In his brief, counsel to al-Mustapha and Rabo Lawal, Olalekan Ojo argued that it would be unjust if the prosecution continues to subject his clients to trial when it cannot prove that they committed the alleged offence. Ojo argued that there “has been no legally admissible evidence against the accused persons by the prosecution. The court should consider the failure of the prosecution to call on Investigating Police Officers (IPOs) who took statement from the accused to testify before the court,” he said. Ojo however prayed the court to uphold the no case submission of the 2nd and 4th defendants in the matter. But the prosecution counsel, Gbadebo Oshoala, informed the court that the accused persons knew about the attempted murder of Ibru and therefore has a case to answer. He therefore urged the court to discountenance the written submissions of the accused persons and rule against the accused accordingly. Shortly after the court delivered its decision, their family members and sympathisers took to the streets around the court to celebrate the victory which they said has taken a long time to achieve.