22 December 2010

Nigeria: Attempted Murder of Alex Ibru - Al-Mustapha, Others Cleared

Lagos — After about 12 years of incarceration and legal tussle, Justice Muftau Olokoba of Lagos High Court, Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), yesterday acquitted and discharged Major Hamza Al-M ustapha, Chief Security Officer (CSO) to the late military ruler, General Sani Abacha, alongside others standing trial over alleged attempted murder of publisher of The Guardian newspapers, Chief Alex Ibru.

The judge also acquitted and discharged them of all other charges preferred against them.

Some of the other charges include the attempted murder of former Naval chief, Isaac Porbeni, and the torching of Rutam House, the publishing house of The Guardian newspapers.

Those standing trial alongside Al-Mustapha include former Lagos State police commissioner, Mr. James Danbaba; former Zamfara State administrator, Lt. Col. Jubril Bala Yakubu; and former head of the Aso Rock Anti-Riot Police, CSP Rabo Lawal.

Ruling on the no case submission instituted by Al-Mustapha and the others, the judge declared that the evidence on all the counts preferred against the accused were "thoroughly worthless and incurably in conflict. "

He held that the evidence of some of the prosecuting witnesses were incurably inconsistent. He declared that the evidence had no credibility.

"I hold that no prima facie case has been established against the accused persons,"

The pronouncement of the learned judge threw the court into frenzy. Supporters of Al-Mustapha were jubilant and some of them sang a song of joy in Hausa language to show their happiness.

One of the supporters of Al-Mustapha, a human right activist and the founder of Oodua Peoples' Congress (OPC), Dr. Frederick Fasheun, wept for joy in court.

However, while Yakubu and Danbaba will immediately walk home free persons, Al-Mustapha and Lawal still have a matter before Justice Morenike Dada on the murder of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, the spouse of the late Moshood Abiola.

Reacting to the ruling, Olalekan Ojo, counsel to Al-Mustapha and Rabo Lawal, argued that it would be unjust if the prosecution continues to subject his clients to trial when it cannot prove that they committed the alleged offence. Ojo said, "James Danbaba, former commissioner of police in Lagos State, would go home, the third defendant, Colonel Bala Yakubu, former military administrator of Zamfara State, would go home.

But my clients, Al-Mustapha and Rabo Lawal, can't go because of the case before Honourable Justice M.A Dada. "It must be realised that the same set of witnesses that gave evidence before Justice Olokoba, were the same set of witnesses that gave evidence before Justice Dada. But, I can say that the evidence before Justice M.A. Dada, who is handling the case of alleged murder of Kudirat Abiola by the defendants, is even much more damaging, contradictory and repudiatory than what they had before Justice Olokoba.

"What I expect of any honourable prosecution is to throw in the towel and withdraw the case."

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