Major Hamza Al-Mustapha
Major Hamza Al-Mustapha

LAGOS State government yesterday asked the Supreme Court to set aside the judgement of the Court of Appeal which on July 12, 2013, discharged and acquitted Major Hamza Al-Mustapha in the murder of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, wife of the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential election, late Chief MKO Abiola. In place of the decision of the Appeal Court, the state government pleaded with the apex court to uphold the death sentence by hanging placed on the former Chief Security Officer, CSO, to the former dictator and late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, by a Lagos High Court on January 30, 2012. The dramatic u-turn of the Lagos State government to pursue the most controversial murder case to the Supreme Court is coming more than three years after the appellate court freed the ex-CSO
for want of credible evidence to link him directly with the murder. Al-Mustapha, Mohammed Abacha and one Lateef Shofolahan were arraigned before a Lagos High Court on a twocount criminal charge of conspiracy to commit murder and the murder of the late Alhaja Kudirat Abiola on June 4, 1996, in Lagos. In the judgement of the high court delivered on January 30, 2012, by Justice Moji Dada, the accused persons were found culpable as charged and sentenced to death by hanging. However, at the Court of Appeal approached by Al-Mustapha on April 27, 2012, for the review of the conviction, the three-member appellate court justices in a unanimous judgement of July 12, 2013, voided the decision of the high court, set it aside and discharged and acquitted the accused on the ground that the evidence against them was not strong enough to warrant the death sentence.
In the new move to re-open the case, however, the Lagos State government has filed a notice of appeal out of the time at the Supreme Court asking for the permission of the court to allow it to challenge the Appeal Court findings of Justices Amina Adamu Augie, Rita Nosakhare Pemu and Fatimo Omoro Akinbami, on ground of miscarriage of justice in the matter. The state prayed the apex court to allow it to exercise its constitutional right to test the validity and correctness of the decision of the Appeal Court. It claimed that its ground of appeal raised arguable legal and factual issues, especially the question of whether there was any direct or circumstantial evidence establishing the guilt passed on Al-Mustapha in the murder case. It justified its lateness in filing the appeal on the ground that it set up two legal teams to review the circumstances of the case and the verdict of the Court of Appeal. The government said that it took a long time for the two legal teams to present their findings and recommended that an appeal could be filed and sustained. However, when the issue was raised by counsel to the state, Mr. J. I. Jacobs, a principal state counsel in the state Ministry of Justice in the Supreme Court yesterday, the matter could not go on. Shortly after Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN) announced his appearance for Al-Mustapha, one of the five-member panel of justices, Centus Chima Nweze asked to be excused out of the case. The ground of Justice Nweze was that he had participated actively in some aspects of the matter at the Court of Appeal and would be morally wrong and improper for him to participate in the same matter at the apex court. Dauda did not object the request, prompting Justice Bode RhodesVivour to adjourn the matter till January 12, next year, for a full panel to determine whether the court would allow the appeal to be heard, having been filed out of time.

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