Posted by News Express | 12 July 2013 | 8,947 times
Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, the dreaded former Chief Security Officer to late military ruler, Gen. Sani Abacha, was discharged and acquitted because there is no concrete evidence linking him with the murder, on June 4, 1996, of Kudirat Abiola, wife of the deceased winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief MKO Abiola.
This is the explanation given by the justices of the Court of Appeal Lagos who this afternoon dismissed charges of conspiracy to murder levelled against Al-Mustapha by the Lagos State Government, which has been prosecuting him.
The court in a unanimous decision ruled that there was no direct circumstantial evidence that he conspired with anyone as evidence of prosecution witnesses in that regard were contradictory.
Justice Rita Pemu who read the lead judgment held that there was no direct circumstantial evidence that he conspired with anyone as evidence of prosecution witnesses in that regard were contradictory. Both the presiding Judge, Justice Amina Augie, and the third Judge, Justice Fatima Akinbami, concurred with the lead judgement as read by Justice Rita Pemu.
Al-Mustapha and his co-accused, Lateef Shofolahan, had been found guilty by Justice Mojisola Dada of the Lagos High Court, convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. However, Al-Mustapha in his appeal described the death sentence was unwarranted, unreasonable and a manifest miscarriage of justice.
Some lawyers who commented on the Appeal Court verdict said it did not come to them as a surprise. Richard Akinnola, a lawyer who has covered the judiciary as a journalist for 31 years, said he saw it coming. According to him, “In the past two years, the campaign for his (Al-Mustapha’s) freedom has been quite vociferous. Eventually, l knew that a politically-correct judicial decision would soon exculpate him. And I say this with due respect to the Appeal court that freed him today.”
On his part, Emeka Ugwuonye, who practices both in Nigeria and the USA, correctly predicted the judgement. Addressing members of his group, the Due Process Advocates (DPA), Ugwuonye wrote this morning on Facebook: “Today, the Court of Appeal will deliver judgment on the appeal filed by Al Mustapha against the judgment of the Lagos State High Court finding him guilty and sentencing him to death.
“I wanted to alert our members to this development, particularly because it is likely that the judgment of the High Court would be reversed the judgment of the High Court, and that could mean that Al Mustapha will be set free immediately. It is not a sentimental thing. It is the law and evidence.”
Al-Mustapha’s acquittal has however generated mixed reactions among the generality of Nigerians, with many people from the North hailing the judgment and many from the South condemning it.
•Photo shows Al-Mustapha.
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