AL-MUSTAPHA FAILS TO STOP ADMISSION OF SUPREME COURT JUDGMENT
After serious objection that lasted for almost two days, a Lagos State High court, presided over by Justice Mojisola Dada on Monday admitted in evidence, a judgment of the Supreme Court, which absolved son of the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, Mohammed Abacha from any complicity in the murder of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola.
Mohammed was charged along with the former Chief Security Officer (CSO), to General Abacha, Major Hamzat Al-Mustapha over alleged role in the June 4, 1996 assassination of Kudirat Abiola, wife of the winner , June 12 , 1993 presidential election.
Portion of the judgment, which contained statement of Mohammed where he stated during investigation into death of Kudirat that he was in Al-mustapha's office when he handed over to Sgt. Barnabas Jabila (aka Rogers) a bag containing ammunition, which include two SMG and other weapons, was read to the court by the lead counsel to the prosecution, Lawal Pedro (SAN).
He also read to the court the portion where Mohammed, in his statement explained that Rogers came to explain to him later that people were pointing to him over the murder of Kudirat Abiola and he advised him to go meet his immediate boss (Al-Mustapha).
The lead prosecution counsel, Pedro had on Thursday last week applied to tender the judgment as part of the relevant materials to the case of the prosecution.
He told the court that the judgment was relevant and admissible since, Mohammed Abacha was originally charged along with the former CSO and one Alhaji Lateef Shofolahan for offence.
However, lead defence counsel, Olalekan Ojo vehemently raised objection to the admissibility of the judgment under cross-examination. He argued that, the document was totally irrelevant to the trial before the court and that the first defendant was neither the maker of the document nor was he part of the processes and procedure that led to the making of the document. He insisted that being the judgment of the Supreme Court, only registrar of the court in which the judgment emanated was competent to tender it in court.
According to the defence counsel,' Since the abolition of Preliminary Investigation section 37 of the Evidence Act under which the document can be admitted as relevant is only applicable to cases of coroner inquest'.
He submitted further that 'since the judgment did not form part of evidence of the prosecution before the court as envisage under Section 225 (1) of the administration of Criminal Justice, Law of Lagos State. It is inadmissible as the necessary foundation for its relevant has not been laid'.
Pedro in his response urged the court to discountenance with the objection raise as according to him it misconceived and premature at the stage of cross-examination.
'The prosecution is not limited to the document in the proof of evidence. So far, the document sought to be tendered is relevant, it is admissible, the judgment i9s a public document and as such does not required the registrar of the before it can be tendered. It can even be tendered from the bar.
'All the argument canvasses by the defence in their objection to the admissibility of the judgment can only be a matter of weight to be attached to the document and not it admissibility', he argued.
He submitted that the witness in his evidence before the court on oath had earlier said that he had read the judgment. And noted that the only way can test the veracity of the witness
statement which includes his rejection or acceptance of the truth of its content is to cross-examine him on it. Pedro insisted that, 'as the judgment of the supreme court and having been certified by the court as public document it is admissible in law on mere production.'
In her ruling, the court agreed with the prosecution, that the prosecution is not limited to the document in the proof of evidence. And that the judgment being a public document emanated from the apex court of the land is admissible.
The court also held that the witness in his evidence on oath had said that he had seen and read the document sought to be tendered. Consequently she overrule the objection raised and admitted the judgment in evidence.
At the conclusion of proceeding, al-Mustapha was discharge from the witness box having concluded his evidence in chief and cross-examination. Further hearing continues today as defence is expected to call its second witness.