Al-Mustapha’s video fails to indict Ige, Adesanya

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Former Chief Security Officer to the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, at the Lagos High Court Igbosere, in Lagos... on Thursday.

It was an anti-climax of sorts on Thursday at a Lagos High Court presided over by Justice Mojisola Dada as the former Chief Security Office to the late Head of State Gen. Sani Abacha, Major Hamza Mustapha, failed to prove his allegations against two former leaders of the Yoruba pan socio-cultural group, Afenifere, the late Pa Abraham Adesanya and the late Chief Bola Ige.

Al-Mustapha had dropped hints during his appearances at the court on Monday and Wednesday that he had documentary and other evidences to prove that some South-West leaders who visited Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar at the Presidential Villa were bribed to truncate the movement for the revalidation of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election.

He had also tendered a video film and a memo in which Abubakar purportedly ordered the release of monies to pacify South-West leaders who were protesting the sudden death of the presumed winner of the election, the late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, in custody. When asked to name the political leaders who visited Abubakar, he mentioned Adesanya and Ige.

He had said that the Afenifere chieftains in the video looked unhappy on arrival at the presidential villa but were laughing when they came out after they had been settled with money.

Led in evidence by his counsel on Wednesday, Olalekan Ojo, al-Mustapha had said, “On the day the Yoruba leaders visited the presidential villa, they were visibly angry, annoyed and mad. They refused to speak with the media men attached to the presidential villa. But when they were leaving, their countenance changed and they were very happy.

“The delegation of the Yoruba leaders was led by late Pa Abraham Adesanya. On leaving, they started granting interviews, downplaying on June 12. Their slogan became, 'the nation must forge ahead.'

“There were two cameras which captured the visit of the South-West leaders to the presidential villa. One was for the Nigeria Television Authority and another one held by my bodyguard.

“Whether Bola Ige knew how Abiola was murdered or not is another matter, but I wrote him an 11-page letter sometime in June or July 2001 titled, 'How you were unconsciously used in the murder of Abiola'.

He also said he witnessed when the $200m, E75m and N500m spent to settle the Yoruba leaders was brought to the presidential villa.

Already, the allegations had generated angry reactions by chieftains of Afenifere who questioned the integrity of al-Mustapha in making the allegations 13 years after the death of Abiola.

The ex-CSO is currently standing trial alongside one Lateef Shofolahan for the June 4, 1996 murder of the wife of Abiola, Kudirat. Shofolahan was a Personal Assistant to Kudirat.

However when the video was played on Thursday, the four-minute footage merely featured Adesanya, decked in a black suit and surrounded by six people, including Ige, addressing the press on Government of National Unity and Sovereign National Conference.

Adesanya, while fielding questions from the pressmen, spoke briefly on the team's meeting with the former Head of State, Abubakar.

The encounter between Adesanya and the interviewers went thus:

What is your comment about the meeting that you just held with the Head of State?

I wouldn't know, but the Head of State spoke with us and that was all.

What was the consensus reached at the meeting?
I don't know of any consensus. There is no consensus.

What was the agreement reached?
There is no agreement. The Head of State said he would consider the points put before him.

What is the new position in view of the meeting that was just concluded and now that Abiola has died?

The new position is that the Government of National Unity will still be there but only that it will not be Abiola that will head it.

Who will head it?
We have not appointed anyone yet.We still want the Government of National Unity and a Sovereign National Conference that will prepare the constitution by which we are to be ruled. We have a proverb in Yoruba land that when two brothers get into the room to discuss, if they come out of the room with frowned faces it means they have spoken the truth to each other.

The video ended with members of Adesanya's delegation chanting “press disperse, press disperse, press disperse.” In the video after the interview, Adesanya and Bola Ige moved towards a black Mercedez Benz with registration number,'CNU 29', smiling. They entered the vehicle and zoomed off.

Al-Mustapha said the meeting was held “on July 8, a day after, Abiola was murdered.

When asked by his lawyer if he could identify the personalities in the video clip, Al-Mustapha said he didn't know them, “apart from the two prominent leaders, Adesanya and Ige.”

The letter he claimed he wrote to Ige on July 5, 2001, was also admitted as evidence during the proceeding.

He said he was motivated to write the letter to Ige, then the newly appointed the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of Justice, when he discovered that Lagos was receiving directives to ensure that he was convicted at all cost.

“I was motivated to write the letter when I discovered the directive given to Lagos to secure (my) conviction at all costs,” Al-Mustapha said.

“I did not write him the letter for him to help me quash the charges against me but to use his office as the Minister for Justice and Attorney-General to ensure that I got a fair hearing,” he added.

Ojo told the court that his client could only tender the photocopy of the original letter, saying it was impossible for him to get the original copy because Ige the supposed custodian had died.

Leading the prosecution on Wednesday, the Solicitor General of Lagos State, Mr. Lawal Pedro, had objected to admitting the letter as evidence.

Relying on Section 97(a) (i), (b) and (c) of the Evidence Act, Pedro said, the letter “has not passed the test of the Evidence Act as to the admissibility as secondary Evidence.”

He contended that the letter was not the original and that no evidence was shown that the witness had tried to search for the original.

Pedro also sought for the dismissal of the tendering of the letter on the grounds that it was “a mere piece of paper”, blank without any acknowledgement, either by the late Ige or any of his lawyer through whom he claimed the letter was sent to the addressee.

But Justice Dada, in her short ruling, overruled the objection, saying the court took “the judicial notice” of the fact that the addressee had died.

She said, “The question arises, to who will the witness expected to have issued the notice to serve the original copy.

“The interest of justice will be better served to admit it than rejecting it. The letter will be admitted as Exhibit DI4.”

She held that the admissibility of a document and its weight were not the same.

“The weight attached to it will be determined at the conclusion of the trial,” Justice Dada ruled.

Also on Thursday, al-Mustapha narrated to the court how the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nuhu Ribadu, wanted to kill him but for the intervention of former Inspector-General of Police, Mike Okiro, who was then the Commissioner of Police in Lagos State.

He said, “Abiola's family is my family. I can never go against Abiola's family. I can't betray his trust for me. If he doesn't trust me he will not accept food from my wife's pot. He will not confide in me issues concerning his private businesses.

“Nuhu Ribadu had an assignment to kill me and he had to do that but Okiro maintained that if there was going to be anything like this there should be a letter from Abuja.”

He said Okiro was transferred out of Lagos soon after that because of his (Okiro) opposition to the alleged plan.

He alleged that Ribadu's coded instruction to the drivers who drove the Black Maria in which they conveyed him was “no gra gra.”

He said the slogan meant that they should drive them on rough roads and through potholes. He said he and others in the Black Maria sustained various degrees of fracture and injuries on those occasions.

The matter was adjourned for cross-examination and probable conclusion of the case for August 8, 9, 10 and 11.