Kudirat: Appeal Court judge withdraws from al-Mustapha’s appeal


hamza_al-mustaphaThe appeal filed by former Chief Security Officer (CSO) to the late dictator, General Sani Abacha, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha and Lateef Shofolahan, challenging the death sentence passed on them by a Lagos High Court yesterday suffered a set back as one of the members of the panel of Court of Appeal presiding over the appeal, Justice Ibrahim Saulawa, withdrew from the case.

Justice Saulawa, who headed the three-man appeal panel consisting of Justices Joseph Ikyegh and Justice Fatima Akinbami, cited “personal reasons” for his withdrawal” from the case.

Justice Mojisola Dada sentenced the duo to death on January 30, 2012 for conspiracy in masterminding the murder of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, wife of the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola.

Both convicts had filed separate notices of appeal, asking the Court of Appeal to set aside the judgement delivered by Justice Mojisola Dada and quash the sentence passed on them.

It will be recalled that Justice Chima Nweze-led appeal panel, which previously presided over the matter, had on April 29, 2013, adjourned till Monday for the hearing of the appeal.

But during the proceedings, Justice Saulawa stopped the state lead counsel, Mr. Lawal Pedro (SAN), who was about announcing an application he had filed for the substitution of the state’s brief of argument.

Justice Saulawa told counsel to the appellants, that he could only assist them in recording a further date for arguments, but will not participate in hearing the main appeal for reasons which he described as personal.

After delivering a ruling, announcing his withdrawal, the court adjourned the hearing of the matter till June 10.

Earlier, the court granted separate applications filed by the state and al-Mustapha’s co-convict, Shofolahan, both seeking the substitution of their briefs of argument and reply, respectively.

In his brief of argument filed through his counsel, Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN), al-Mustapha is asking the court to set aside the judgement of the lower court, saying he was only convicted because he served in a hated administration of the late Abacha.

He insisted that the testimonies of the prosecution’s star witnesses relied upon to convict him were contradictory and unreliable.

In the notice of appeal, the appellants also contends that the death sentence handed by the lower court was unwarranted, unreasonable and a manifest miscarriage of justice.

They contend 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 (

Sergeant Rogers) and Mohammed Abdul, as well as the reliance on the testimony of Dr. Ore Falomo on the bullet extracted from the late Kudirat.

They also faulted the court’s rejection of portions of Jabila’s testimony which they felt favoured them and applying only areas which did not favour them.

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 Shofolahan is hinged on five grounds.

However, the state, which is the respondent in the appeal, insists that compelling facts and circumstances point to al-Mustapha and Shofolahan as being behind the murder of Kudirat.

The respondent’s brief read in part: “Prominent members of NADECO were targets of assassination and persecution by the late General Sani Abacha.

“It was in the middle of the above situation in Nigeria that Alhaja Kudirat Abiola was shot in cold blood in broad day light in her car on the street of Lagos.”


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