Why we formed Strike Force, by Al Mustapha
EX-Security chief Hamza al-Mustapha
EX-Security chief Hamza al-Mustapha told a Lagos High Court yesterday why the Strike Force – the Sani Abacha regime's killing machine – was established.
The Strike Force and its sister squad, the Body Guard, were created to sustain the late Gen. Abacha in power, his former Chief Security Officer (CSO) said.
Every regime that seeks to survive, he said, requires an expanded version of the Strike Force.
It was at the resumption of al-Mustapha's trial for conspiracy in the murder of the late Chief Abiola's wife, Kudirat, who was killed on a Lagos street on June 4, 1996. She was at the vanguard of the battle to revalidate the annulled June 12, 1993 election, which the late Abiola won. The election, Nigeria's freest and fairest ever, was cancelled by the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida regime. Abiola died in a bid to reclaim his mandate.
al-Mustapha explained that the Strike Force, constituted of locally trained 75 personnel drawn from the various arms of the military, was a small mobile outfit responsible for repelling any threat to the seat of power.
He admitted that members of the Body Guard, to which Sergeant Barnabas Jabila (aka Rogers) belonged, were trained in Libya and Korea, adding that they functioned as guards to important personalities.
Jabila, who initially confessed to killing Kudirat, also told the court how he led the attack on pro-democracy activists, including the late Chief
Abraham Adesanya, on al-Mustapha's orders. He later recanted, saying he was coached by the prosecution.
al-Mustapha denied that the outfits were special squads created for eliminating members of the opposition.
He said of all those detained during his time in the Presidency, he ordered only Turner Ogboru, Great Ogboru's younger brother, to be tortured.
“I said at the Oputa Panel that it was only Turner Ogboru that I ordered to be kobokoed (beaten with horse whip) because he was bringing heroine for soldiers who were killing people,” al-Mustapha said.
He denied being a party to Kudirat's murder, saying he was only informed about the incident.
The former CSO said he learnt about the murder of Alhaja Suliat Adedeji in Ibadan, Oyo State and the then chieftain of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Pa Alfred Rewane, in the media.
al-Mustapha, who was being cross-examined, said he also learnt of the arrest and detention of some pro-democracy activists in the media.
The former CSO, who is standing trial with Kudirat's former aide, Lateef Sofolahan, was cross-examined before a Lagos High Court by the state's Solicitor General Lawal Pedro (SAN).
al-Mustapha, who claimed to have known the late Kudirat before her murder in 1996, said he, on several occasions, assisted her to see her husband while he (the late Abiola) was in custody.
On how he reacted to the news of her death, he said: “As a Muslim, I met Chief M. K. O. Abiola and condoled with him and I prayed.”
On why the state did not produce a report on the Kudirat murder two years before the then Head of State died in 2008, al-Mustapha said it was not his responsibility to do so because he was neither in the police nor the Inspector-General of Police.
He also denied knowing that any court declared the Interim National Government (ING), headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan, illegal.
al-Mustapha argued that the late Gen. Abacha did not sack the ING before becoming the Head of State, saying the Abacha regime was the offspring of a consensus between the military and some civilians who felt the need to change the course of history, then.
“A consensus of the military and civilian came together to take the decision that the course of history be changed at that particular time.
“No military government has ever come to power on its own. It is always a combination of the military and the civilian. That is the marriage of convenience. It is when there is a conflict between them that there is always a problem,” he said.
The former CSO justified the detention of the late General Shehu Yar'Adua in 1995, arguing that though he was the late Gen. Abacha's friend, he had to be subjected to the law for alleged involvement in coup planning.
“Gen. Abacha and Gen.Yar'Adua were friends. But he was detained because he found himself in a coup. If a friend finds himself in a coup, the law will take its course,” he said.
al-Mustapha, who urged the court to direct Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar to release all the documents and video evidence he has about how the late Abiola died. He told the court how he took care of the late Abiola in custody and how he ensured the release of N800, 000 monthly for his upkeep.
al-Mustapha told the court that the then Inspector General of Police ordered the late Abiola's arrest. When asked why the government failed to investigate Kudirat's murder, he said the question should be directed to the police because that was not his responsibility.
He said NADECO and its members were not the strongest opposition to the late Gen. Abacha's regime, adding that the military was the strongest opposition because the regime stopped three coup attempts.
al-Mustapha, who said the late Gen. Abacha remained the most hated Head of State in the country, noted that, like everyone, his late boss had his shortcomings.
“By my understanding, Gen Abacha was the most hated Head of State. Everyone probably has his shortcomings and Gen Abacha has his, but he is gone,” he said.
On the attack on “The Guardian” publisher, Alex Ibru and Chief Abraham Adesanya as well as the arrest and detention of Pa Anthony Enahoro, Ayo Opadokun and Chief Olu Falae, among others, the accused said he only got informed about the incidents through the media.