The Supreme Court has been urged by the Lagos State Government to set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal which acquitted Hamza al-Mustapha and Lateef Shofolahan of the murder of Kudirat Abiola.
The Lagos government wants the apex court to uphold the death sentence passed on Messrs. al-Mustapha and Shofolahan by Justice Mojisola Dada of the Lagos State High Court on January 30, 2012.
The state government’s appeal was contained in a 10-ground notice of appeal filed against the judgment of the Court of Appeal.
The state government filed the notice of appeal following an earlier order of the Supreme Court on January 12, granting the appellant leave to file the notice of appeal outside the time frame stipulated by law.
The appellant told the apex court in its notice of appeal that the testimonies of its star witnesses, Barnabas Jabila, also known as Sergeant Rogers, and Mohammed Abdul, who had confessed to their roles in the murder, were detailed and consistent.
It claimed that the contradictions in the witnesses’ testimonies were not material enough to warrant the decision of the Court of Appeal to disregard their entire evidence.
It therefore contended that the Court of Appeal erred in discharging and acquitting Messrs. al-Mustapha and Shofolahan.
Kudirat, wife of the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Moshood Abiola, popularly known as MKO, was gunned down in Lagos on June 4, 1996.
Both Mr. al-Mustapha, a former chief security officer to then Head of State, Sani Abacha; and Mr. Shofolahan, were on January 30, 2012 sentenced to death by a Lagos State High Court for the murder of the deceased.
But the Court of Appeal in Lagos on July 12, 2013 discharged and acquitted both men on the grounds of lack of credible evidence.
In its judgment delivered on July 12, 2013 by its bench of three justices led by Amina Augie (now a Justice of the Supreme Court), the Court of Appeal held that the testimonies of Ore Falomo, as first prosecution witness, and Ahmed Yusuf, the fourth prosecution witness, were irrelevant and unreliable.
It added that the oral evidence and statements of Messrs. Jabila and Abdul had been discredited under cross-examination and were therefore unreliable.
But the 10 grounds notice of appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal signed by the Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Adeniji Kazeem, sought an order of the Supreme Court allowing the appeal, and another “setting aside the judgment of the court below.”
The Lagos State Government argued that the appeal court “erred when it determined that there were material contradictions that rendered the testimony of PW2 (Barnabas Jabila) inconsistent and unreliable.”
It insisted that Mr. Jabila, in his testimony before the Lagos State High Court, was consistent and that the details supplied by him were “not materially controverted.”
The Lagos State Government also faulted the Court of Appeal’s rejection of the testimony of Mr. Abdul. It argued that the Court of Appeal “erred in law when it held that there were material contradictions that rendered the testimony of PW3 unreliable.”
It said, “PW3 gave graphic and detailed evidence of the conspiracy to and murder of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola.”