After 13 years, a Lagos High Court this afternoon ruled that Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, the former chief security officer to late General Sanni Ababcha must die by hanging for the 1994 murder of Hajia Kudirat Abiola, the wife of the late buisness mogul and winner of the June 12 election, late Bashorun MKO Abiola.
Also sentenced to death by hanging alongside Al-Mustapha is the former chief of staff to late Kudirat Abiola, Lateef Shofolahan.
Friends and sympathisers of Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, the former Chief Security Officer to late military head of state, General, Sani Abacha had endured for over 8 hours in the sun awaiting the court’s judgment.
Security around the court premises were increased today and Al-Mustapha himself came in through the exit gate rather than the entry gate where friends, sympathisers, the press and the general public had all been waiting for him.
Justice Mojisola Ayoka Dada of a Lagos High Court had on November 10, 2011 fixed today, January 30, 2012 for judgment for Al-Mustapha and Lateef Shofolahan.
Justice Dada fixed the date after the submission of written addresses by counsel to the parties. Counsel to the defendants, Mr. Olalekan Ojo, leading five other lawyers, submitted a written address, urging the court to free the accused.
Addressing the court in November, Ojo had hinged the defence of his clients on five key issues which he wants the court to determine.
First, he pleaded with the court to dismiss the evidence of the prosecution witnesses, saying they were unreliable. He explained that the two key prosecution witnesses, Sergeant Barnabas Mshelia, alias Rogers and Mohammed Abdul, alias Katako, denied their evidence-in-chief while being cross examined.
Ojo also described the statements made by the witnesses as extra judicial; stressing that Rogers while being cross-examined said the whole case was ‘arrangee.’
Ojo also averred that the statements of the two witnesses have no evidential value as they are extra judicial statements, saying: “Therefore, they cannot be referred to as evidence of truth.”
He said the third witness; a police officer did not conclude his evidence. Therefore, he was not cross-examined.
In his own presentation on the same day, the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Lawal Pedro (SAN) urged the court to consider the long time taken by the matter and convict the accused as charged.
He told the court that many of the witnesses vital to the case were either dead, retired or are not forthcoming.
Pedro also asked the court to determine the case based on whether the accused committed the offence or not and whether the evidence is credible or not. He contended that conspiracy does not necessarily mean meeting physically but that it could be determined by inference.