Hamza Al-Mustapha and Lateef Sofolahan were sentenced to death for the murder of Kudirat Abiola.
The lawyers to Hamza Al-Mustapha and Lateef Sofolahan, Monday, began moves to quash the conviction of their clients at the Court of Appeal, Lagos.
Messrs Al-Mustapha, former Chief Security Officer to the late Head of State, Sani Abacha; and Lateef Shofolahan, were sentenced to death, on January 30, 2012, for conspiracy and the murder of Kudirat Abiola.
Mrs. Abiola, wife of the winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential elections, Moshood Abiola, was shot in Lagos on June 4, 1996, as the lower court ruled, on the orders of Mr. Al-Mustapha.
On Monday, Joseph Daudu, counsel to Mr. Al-Mustapha, said that there were “serious contradictions in the evidence of two star witnesses” of the prosecution.
Barnabas Jabila (also known as Sergeant Rogers) and Mohammed Abdul (also known as Katako) had recanted their earlier testimonies during trial; but the judge had insisted that they were still admissible.
Mr. Daudu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said that although the evidence of the prosecution’s four witnesses was meant to support their conspiracy and murder case, it fell short of achieving that purpose.
Apart from Messrs Jabila and Abdul, who gave conflicting testimonies, the prosecution’s fourth witness failed to turn up for his cross examination, according to Mr. Daudu.
“Those conjectures were mainly political differences brought against the appellant (Mr. Al-Mustapha). There is no outside evidence to sustain this charge,” Mr. Daudu added.
In his response, Lawal Pedro, counsel to the state government, urged the appellate court to dismiss the appeal.
“Apart from the evidence of the prosecution witnesses, there were evidence of the defendants themselves particularly under cross examination which were very relevant. In addition to the documentary evidence,” said Mr. Pedro, Solicitor-General of Lagos State.
Both convicts had filed separate notices of appeal against the judgment of Mojisola Dada of the Lagos High Court.
In his appeal, Mr. Sofolahan, former aide to Mrs. Abiola, argued that the prosecution failed to call “vital witnesses” during trial at the lower court.
Olalekan Ojo, counsel to Mr. Sofolahan, said that Mrs. Dada helped the prosecution “shore up” their case at the high court.
“It is not permitted for any judge to approbate and reprobate at the same time,” Mr. Ojo said.
“The trite principle of law is that the trial judge should behave like a referee and not approach a case with any favourite in mind.
“In this case, the trial judge patronized the case of the prosecution. And everything from the defence was thrown out without any scruples,” Mr. Ojo added.
The appellant also argued against the evidence given by Ore Falomo, a medical doctor, who testified during trial that the bullet extracted from the head of Mrs. Abiola “must have come from the presidency.”
Mr. Ojo said that Dr. Falomo was not a ballistician.
The lawyer also described the prosecution’s case as “a catalogue of errors.”
“They said that Kudirat was the financier of NADECO. No evidence was provided. The judge agreed with them,” Mr. Ojo said.
Reacting, Mr. Pedro said that saying that Mrs. Dada erred in her judgment was “unfair.”
“On the same case, the judge discharged some of the defendants.
“He closed the case of the prosecution before they finished, while there were still more witnesses,” Mr. Pedro added.
While adjourning for judgment, Amina Augie, the presiding judge, said that the date of the next sitting will be communicated to all the parties.