Judgement was on Monday reserved by the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal in an appeal filed by Major Hamza al-Mustapha, the Chief Security Officer (CSO) to the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha.
Justice Mojisola Dada of a Lagos High Court had on January 30, 2012, sentenced him to death for the murder of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, wife of the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola, the winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election annulled by former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd).
Also sentenced to death is the Personal Assistant to Alhaja Abiola, Alhaji Lateef Shofolahan.
The court, presided over by Justice Amina Augie, took the decision shortly after counsel to both appellants and respondent adopted their written briefs.
Justice Dada had sentenced them on grounds of conspiracy in masterminding the murder of Alhaja Abiola.
During Monday’s proceedings, counsel to al-Mustapha, Mr Joseph Daudu (SAN), while adopting his written address, prayed the appellate court to allow the appeal and set aside the judgement of the lower court.
Daudu, a former President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), argued that the trial court erred in law to have based its judgement on the testimonies of PW1 and PW2, which he claimed were contradictory.
He said: “The testimonies of PW1 and PW2 were inconclusive and contradictory.
“The court drew inferences from these contradictory statements, to establish the guilty of the Appellants.
“It is my submission that those inferences upon which the court based its judgement, are merely political evidence formulated by the respondent, and which the trial court ought not to have considered.
“I, therefore, urge the court to allow this appeal, and quash the judgement of the lower court” Daudu submitted.
Counsel to Shofolahan, Mr Olalekan Ojo, also aligned with the submission of Daudu.
But in his response, counsel to the respondent, Mr Lawal Pedro (SAN), urged the court to dismiss the appeal and uphold the judgement of the lower court.
Pedro, who is the Solicitor General of Lagos State, argued that apart from the evidence of PW1 and PW2, there were other evidence from the defendants themselves, which supports the counts of conspiracy and murder.
He, therefore, urged the court to dismiss the appeal for lack of merit.
After listening to the two parties Justice Augie then reserved judgement to a date that she said would be communicated to the appellant.
The convicts were first arraigned in October, 1999 on a four-count charge bordering on conspiracy and their involvement in the June 4, 1996 murder of the deceased in Lagos.
Justice Dada had found them guilty of the offence, and accordingly convicted and sentenced them to death by hanging.
Counsel to the appellants had, however, appealed to the Court of Appeal, 24 hours after the sentence of the convicts.
They challenged the judgement of Justice Dada.
In the notice of appeal, the appellants said that the death sentence handed by the lower court was unwarranted, unreasonable and a manifest miscarriage of justice.
They contended that the trial judge erred in law by arriving at the conclusion that they conspired to kill Alhaja Kudirat on June 4, 1996.
The appellants faulted the judge’s treatment of the contradictory statements of Barnabas Jabila (Sergant Rogers) and Mohmamed Abdul.
They also faulted the court’s reliance on the testimony of Dr. Ore Falomo on the bullet extracted from Alhaja Abiola.
According to the appellants, the court’s rejection of portions of Jabila’s testimony which favoured them and applying only areas which did not favour them, was a gross miscarriage of justice.
The appellants are, therefore, praying the Court of Appeal to entertain the appeal, set aside the judgement, and discharge them of the charges of conspiracy and murder.
Al-Mustapha’s appeal is premised on four grounds, while that of his co-convict (Shofolahan) is hinged on five grounds.