Court of Appeal sets Al-Mustapha free

Hamza Al-Mustapha
Hamza Al-Mustapha

The court upturned the judgement of a Lagos High Court.

The Court of Appeal in Lagos has discharged and acquitted Hamza Al-Mustapha of the murder of Kudirat Abiola.

The judgment overturns that of the Lagos High Court which sentenced him to death by hanging.

The presiding judge accused the lower court of being “stroked to secure a conviction by all means.”

Mr. Al-Mustapha was a former chief security officer to the late dictator, Sani Abacha.

He was sentenced to death on January 30 for conspiracy and murder of Mrs. Abiola.

Mrs. Abiola, 45, was shot in Lagos on June 4, 1996, as the lower court ruled, on the orders of Mr. Al-Mustapha.

Find updated story below.

The Court of Appeal in Lagos, Friday, discharged and acquitted Hamza Al-Mustapha and Lateef Sofolahan from the murder of Kudirat Abiola.

The judgment of the appellate court overturned that of the Lagos High Court which sentenced both men to death by hanging.

In a unanimous judgment that lasted about two hours, the court berated Mojisola Dada, the Lagos High Court judge who convicted Messrs Al-Mustapha and Sofolahan, accusing her of being “stroked to secure a conviction by all means.”

Rita Pemu, who read the lead judgment, said that the Lagos State government, the prosecution, failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.

Supporters of Mr. Al-Mustapha, a former Army Major, who crowded the court room – some of them sat on the floor – shook hands and embraced one another after the court announced its decision. One of them, in apparent ecstasy, screamed at the three-man judges’ panel: “Allahu Akbar! You will live long.”

Two prosecution’s “star witnesses,” Barnabas Jabila (also known as Sergeant Rogers) and Mohammed Abdul (also known as Katako) had given conflicting statements during their testimonies – the duo had narrated how Mr. Al-Mustapha had ordered the murder, but then recanted days later claiming that they made the statement under duress. But Mrs. Dada, the trial judge, had insisted that their evidences were still admissible.

Mrs. Abiola, 45, was shot in Lagos on June 4, 1996 and- as Mrs. Dada held in her 326-page judgment- on the orders of Mr. Al-Mustapha.

The appellate court accused the lower court of allowing sentiments to becloud its judgment.

“It is unimaginable that the lower court did not expunge the testimonies on the grounds of their contradictions,” said Mrs. Pemu. “This court is not interested in politics and its attendant semantics.”

Mr. Al-Mustapha, a former chief security officer to the late military dictator, Sani Abacha, was arraigned in 1999 for conspiracy and murder of Kudirat Abiola.

Mr. Sofolahan, personal assistant to the murder victim; Mohammed Abacha, son of the late Mr. Abacha and; Rabo Lawal, a Police Chief Superintendent, were also arrested in connection with the murder. While Mr. Lawal was left to walk on a “no case submission,” the Supreme Court discharged Mr. Abacha on “non culpability.”

In January 2012, both Messrs Al-Mustapha and Sofolahan were sentenced to death by hanging by the Lagos High Court.

Prosecution’s gaffe

The appellate court stated that there was a “gaping hole” in the prosecution’s case. First, its first witness, Ore Falomo, a medical doctor, testified that the bullet extracted from Mrs. Abiola’s skull was a “special bullet” that could have come “only” from the presidency.

The victim died after a three-hour surgery to remove the bullet and after suffering a second heart attack. Mr. Falomo said that the police took away the bullet “for investigation” and never returned it.

The appellate court noted that the prosecution failed to state the whereabouts of the bullet, get a ballistician to examine the bullet or tender it as an exhibit before the court.

“The prosecution failed to produce the bullet, and there was no explanation as to why it was not available,” Mrs. Pemu said.

Again, Mr. Jabila, during his testimony gave a vivid account of how they, acting on the orders of Mr. Al-Mustapha, trailed their victim from her Ikeja home to Lagos-Ibadan expressway where they sprayed her white Mercedes Benz with bullets.

However, under cross-examination, the witness said he was in Abuja on June 4 but was asked to give such testimony as part of an agreement with the federal government and the Lagos State government. Mr. Jabila said that he was promised a job, house, and security. His wife had been on a N15, 000 monthly salary which was later increased to N20, 000.

Mr. Jabila also said that Yemi Osibajo, the Lagos State Attorney General and the late Bola Ige, then Attorney General of the Federation, paid him repeated visits while in detention, with the latter giving him N100,000 on one occasion.

Mr. Abdul, who had admitted being Mr. Jabila’s driver when the murder was committed, said he was made the same offers by the authorities including a promise that he would not be brought to court – but they reneged on their promise. When he recanted, Mr. Abdul said that he was in Azare, Bauchi State, on the day of the murder.

“There was no explanation for this somersault,” said Mrs. Pemu.

The prosecution’s fourth witness, Ahmed Fari, a retired Police Commissioner in charge of Budget, disappeared when it was time for his cross-examination. His absence renders his evidence and exhibits “of no relevance,” according to the appellate court.

Al-Mustapha’s sins

Mr. Al-Mustapha said that he was arrested in October, 1998 and initially accused of holding the late Mr. Abacha’s properties. After the charge could not stick, he said he was accused of gunrunning, and then planning a coup against the then Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar.

Finally, in 2004, Mr. Al-Mustapha said that he was accused of planning to overthrow the Olusegun Obasanjo regime. He said that he was blackmailed by people “in high places” even though he had been cleared by all the 10 panels he faced.

The appellate court said that although the prosecution’s first witness stated that it was the “fifth columnist” that killed Mrs. Abiola; he did not suggest any conspiracy involving Messrs Al-Mustapha and Sofolahan.

The court further said that there was nothing to show that the police investigated Mrs. Abiola’s murder properly.

“I wonder why PW2 (Mr. Jabila) was treated as a prosecution witness instead of charging him with murder,” Mrs. Pemu said. “In the face of all these, can it be said that the prosecution had proven its case beyond reasonable doubt?”

In his reaction to the judgment, Olalekan Ojo, counsel to Mr. Sofolahan, said that the judgment had “brought sanity to the criminal justice administration in this country.”

  • Wale

    I knew it…………. This country is just F****************KED!

    • Lanre

      Wale, my brother. Wipe your tears. Why should a Hausa/Fulani man die for a Yoruba man. Is Babangida not walking the streets free. Yoruba Ronu!

  • don jazzy

    @Wale if u aint satisfied with d court ruling den u shud go to hell.

  • v

    Wale go and jump inside lagoon

    • Wale

      Like your father, mother and whole family did??? No thanks, you could join them illiterate buffon!!!

      • abubakar umar musa

        Be courage n pateint n go 4 what you want,for Allah is dia always,wale put eyes n cee for wat wll cum up 2015 as Brid General ALmustapha wll emage as president…….I qoute”destiny can neva be stop nor delay,bt delayin is anoda process of destiny

  • truthdondie

    Jona coming back. Northern agenda part 1

    • Ben

      No Southern agenda..

  • Ak

    A judgment that will definitely change the political landscape of this nation. Nigerians should wait and see. Time will tell,if the judgment was travesty or not.

  • Okpani

    No better news as this one. Men who should be behind bars until date, held this guy captive unjustly. I can’t wait to see this guy become a loose canon on them political class. This guy has seen what I would say; no Nigerian living has seen. he knows more than we can imagine which is the reason why they would prefer him dead.

    Justice it is at last. There are some people who would want him forever remain silent. Please Mustapha, don’t cow for them. Let loose that cannon some of us have forever patiently waited for all along. Give it to us blow-by-blow again: who killed Abacha, Abiola, Kudirat, Shehu Yaradua, etc. there are things we need to know.

    • abdul

      Yes. Let their be light. Now let them know. We are with U all along we will not back down 4 no reason. Waleabi na wale be ur name. If u no like as it happen so go carry him put 4 ur cell or shoot him. That’s if u can. By d way here is a ticket 2 hell. No look back coz u have nothing here.

  • sanchos

    I am full of joy right now!!!

    • Dayine N Samson

      Justice delayed, is not Justice denied.

  • Miemie Kamal Wasa

    Alhamdullilah Allah is indeed da almighty.

  • abdullahi Abubakar

    Alhamdulilah free @ last. Wale 2 hell with Ʊ . Since Ʊ dn’t have humanbin sympthy.

  • sadeeq

    Wale infact go nd hug transformer

  • Sadiq

    Weather u like it or not he his our next president ,NIGERIA belong to Gen Almustapha

    • Afam

      Day dreamer..

    • Troy

      How?

      • Muhammad Lawal Yankara

        EXactly, please ask him for us

  • ibrahim Garba Aliyu

    Alhamdulillah! Its a welcome development but I hope its not another consipracy against the North!

  • Hassan Ningi

    Alhamdulillah, may Almighty Allah continue to show us mercy.

  • alkasim m sarki

    We are all happy with this news by Alkasim m sarki

  • usman rilwan

    Alhamdulillah all thanks be to almighty Allah for this wonderful blessing that happen to our beloved brother in islam. Indeed allah is wonderfull

  • Musa Almustapha

    This is the time for

  • bsadiq

    يايهاالذيزءامنواكتب عليكم الصيام أكما كتب عل الذين من قبلكم لعلكم تتقون شهررمضان ألذ ى انزل فيه القراءن هدى للناس وبينت من الهدى والفرقان فمن شهدمنكم الشهرفليصه. We thank allah

  • fauxiyyah jibril

    Alhamdullillah! M hppy 4 mustapha.n its a very cool story 4 we”Muslims”atlast,whew!

    • Troy

      What are you celebrating? if he’s found not guilty so be it. I don’t see what ‘we Muslims’ would celebrate here. The people committed a lot of bad things during Abatcha’s reign. Don’t forget also that Kudirat was a Muslim as well.

  • shata muhammad Ali

    Alhamdulillah for Exonerating our innocent hero our future president mallam hamza major Almustapha. This is a good and positive development to our Nigerian’s political future. Masha Allah

  • willy

    We cant blame al-mustapha cos dis is an oda frm his oga at d top or he wil kil him……wat if its u……may d lord av mercy

  • kingbaabu

    A murderer is set free and Hausas are happy but they will cry from morning to night against Jonathan simply because he is not a Hausa man. My people are blinded by tribalism and don’t know it. Kudirat Abiola is dead and her killer is free. Tell me if that is justice.

    • Nanah

      He is not a murderer and yes we are happy that he is free,if he wasnt innnocent who would’nt be set free after all these years.How many non hausas have comitted crimes and they are all free.And we all know that jonathan is a bad man.This is not tribalism,it is justice!!!

    • zubby

      even the family of the slained have offered forgiveness…. please i bliv this is not an hausa issue it is justice and it has no tribe…..

    • biZzy

      So mANy havE doNe worst thaN this aNd are stil free, his crime shouldn’t be aN exception Alamesiya have diSgrAce our country bUT he free today. Al mustapha shul have free long b4 Now. NigeriA is fOR us all

  • Anonymous

    Justice delayed isn’t justice denied…..Alhamdulillah

  • muzzammil

    Alhamdullillah 4 dis Great news, Allah is indeed great, 4 all dose motherfuckerz hu dnt like it shuld skydive inside molten magma, idiots!

  • ibraheem basheer

    Alhamdu lillah. Every begining must have an end.

  • musab musa

    Alhamdulillah

  • asheikh a kabir

    @wale, if you like, go and take him back to the prison.

  • JabirNalado

    Thanks to Amighty ALLAH for this great event, may HE continue guiding us all. Ameen.

  • Owolabi

    This is not the end of it. The prosecutors should go on appeal to the supreme court if dissatisfied with the judgement which I’ll urge them to.

    Murderers in the name of performing their duties should not be encouraged in a civil society.

  • abubakar umar musa

    qoute”destiny can neva be stop nor delay,bt delayin is anoda process of destiny

  • Anas

    Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied. He Manage To Get His Finally. Happy For Him And His Family!

  • Abdullah Musa

    Nigeria!
    The pain of tribalism! Those for and those against on ethnic grounds.
    On our part we celebrate the judicial process

  • abduol ahmad nayaya zariya

    Alhamdulillah I rilly tanx god 4 been releasing our broder muslis al-mustapha welcom bck home

  • Charles

    I am just amazed at the nature of comments I am seeing here. People should shut up if they don’t know how to comment on issues. Al Mustapha’s acquittal has nothing to do with religion, tribe, state or region. I have never been comfortable with a man being incarcerated for so long in the name of trying him. Whether he committed the crime or not, if the prosecutors cannot prove beyond REASONABLE DOUBT that he indeed committed the crime, he should be set free without any sentiments and I believe that is what the court has done. If the Supreme court tows the same line, (that is if at all an appeal against this judgement is filed in the higher court), I think he should be compensated for all these years behind bars. Be this as it may, I appeal to all commenting on this issue to stop all ethnic and religious indications or vindications that they are trying to attach to this issue. Congrats! Major Al Mustapha.

    • Muhammad Alibaba

      You”ve said it all!. Nothing to add. May Alaah SWT less this country with more truthful n lesss sentimental compatriots like. Our tendency to triblize n sentimentalize each nd every issue is responsible for our beleagured counntry’s continued slide into the abyss. It is a very ancient elite strategy but we have cotinued to fall for their DIVIDE & RULE every now then. Yet they cotinue to rape the country nd wine n dine together, without, ethnic, triball or religious differences. When will Nigerians wise up and support ecredible causes n elect credible n performing leaders at all levels without ththese negative considerations?!!!

  • Abdallah Gumel

    Thank God.

  • abdul

    Person cum from maiduguri wunna still dey talk jackshit,wunna know the history of maiduguri so make wunna tink am well na,abeg make wunna buth wunna brain oooo.the jurge self they confused.lol

  • Usman Hassan

    Alhamdulillah! A faithful heart never fail! With Allah nothing is impossible, Major Hamza AlMustapha d Lion’s heart, may U n Ur family be blessed

  • hafsat

    Alhamdulillah!it is sed dat d innocent shall not suffer 4eva…those dat are against his freedom can take him bak 2 prison if they hav d power 2 do dat…bad bele people,u people can go 2 hell@wale n co…I think d former gov of bayelsa also commited a crime n he is a free man 2day.

  • Abu salam

    Is just of election they release Al-mustapha

  • method

    the way the former head of state gen. Sani Abacha was mentioned in this article is highly disrespectful and uncouth, how can a man who ruled and died serving his country be mentioned like a hooligan. Ben Ezeamalu please rethink your stand and respect the general because he deserves it…