Panic over Al-Mustapha's claims of possessing bags of secret tapes?
The continued trial of Hamza Al-Mustapha in Lagos and claims that he is in possession of more than 11 'Ghana must go' bags filled with video tapes, CDs and files of official secrets before his arrest after the death of Nigeria's despotic Head of State, General Sani Abacha and eventual murder of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, is causing anxiety among top Nigerians that the content may indict.
Hamza Al-Mustapha had claimed he had recordings of last minutes of late MKO Abiola's life and of the meeting where money were allegedly shared among Yoruba leaders, but were taken from him by security agents who ransacked his residences in Abuja, Kaduna and Yobe states respectively.
The trial at the Lagos High Court premises also witnessed an unprecedented prayer session by Al-Mustapha's supporters who turned up at the hearing. A source says they have suddenly resorted to invoking God's support for the defendant.
During Tuesday's cross examination, Al-Mustapha admitted that he was not with Sani Abacha when he died and told the court that he last saw his late boss around 2am on the day he died, along with some ministers and ambassadors who were at the Presidential Villa for a meeting.
He also admitted he was 'technically present when Abiola slumped and died in the presence of the four people that were with him when he drank the tea' via a centralised tape recording system maintained by him, just as he claimed the video tapes were no longer in his possession.
'If I am not there, I cannot confirm it from the tape I have. My technical presence is as good as physical presence; otherwise I cannot claim my knowing.'
'They (tapes and CDs) were seized after I was arrested on October 21, 1998 in Enugu on the orders of General Abdulsalami Abubakar where I had been transferred to and in Abuja, 11 'Ghana-must-go bags' were taken and I've not seen them till date'. Al Mustapha therefore enjoined the court to order that all the things seized from him should be produced.
When the prosecution team, led by the Solicitor General of Lagos State, Pedro Lawal, asked him how he was able to get the tape of the visiting Yoruba elders, Al-Mustapha replied that 'Careless keeping is a form of security where something valuable are kept in the open,' but that 'the video was labelled cartoon, and that was why it was left behind.'
The prosecution team further asked why the video of Abiola's death and the one where money was shared were not tagged cartoons or carelessly kept, but Al-Mustapha replied that 'They were all taken away' while Mr Lawal, head of prosecution team called for a replay of the video aired on Monday, which Al-Mustapha presented to back his claim that Yoruba leaders were paid by the presidency after Abiola's death.
After the replay, Mr. Lawal stated that the response by the leader of the group, Abraham Adesanya, did not signify that the alleged meeting held a day after Mr. Abiola's death, which Al-Mustapha debunked, saying that M. K. O. Abiola died exactly a month after Abacha's demise, and 'such was so automatic for anyone to understand.' Adding that 'On July 6, 1998, Bola Ige brought Abiola's family to see him and on July 7, 1998, Abiola died and then on July 8 1998, the Yoruba elders came and held discussions where they agreed to go ahead with the government of national unity without knowing what happened to their man who was hale and hearty? These are questions that must be asked,' he said.
Repeating his charges that Mr. Abdulsalami was central to the riddle of how the late Abiola died, Al-Mustapha asked rhetorically: 'Why Obasanjo was sent home and Abiola left behind in detention. Abiola was in Abuja, while Obasanjo was in Yola. If General Abdulsalami cannot answer these questions because he is bigger than everybody, then let those distinct questions remain open.'
Still on the video, Mr Lawal noted that amongst those in the video was Arthur Nwankwo, a NADECO chieftain and asked the suspect if he would not agree that the people in the video were 'elders of NADECO and not South-West leaders', Al-Mustapha agreed with the prosecution and acknowledged that this was indeed a meeting with NADECO leaders.
On the allegation that Nuhu Ribadu had orders to kill him, Al-Mustapha claimed that the Commissioner of Police 'this morning confirmed on Radio France that 'Ribadu is my boy and he operated under me.'
Al-Mustapha however agreed that he is making fresh revelations because, 'This is the first time for me to defend myself in 13 years. Even while I was at Oputa panel, I was always given no-go areas - issues I could never discuss. There was a time late Gani Fawehinmi came and sat beside me in the box and said 'if they were going to shoot you, let them shoot us together. Speak and you must speak.'
Further in his claim, embattled Al-Mustapha said he was merely a victim of high-wire politics, and demanded for the inventory of his properties, alleging that 'it is my possession of the tape on Abiola's murder that has brought this case. I have become an enemy to people that wanted Abacha removed. This started in 1994 when they wanted to kill him and they could not because I was there'.
He also urged the court to issue a subpoena to police officers from Panti CID who investigated the assassination of Kudirat Abiola between 1996 and 1998, saying 'they must be brought to testify.'
The trial of Al-Mustapha continues on Wednesday.