15 February 2013

Nigeria: Reasons Al-Mustapha Wants Appeal Court to Upturn Death Sentence

The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos on Friday fixed April 29 for the hearing of the appeal filed by Hamza Al-Mustapha, former Chief Security Officer to late Sani Abacha; and Lateef Shofolahan, former Personal Assistant to late Kudirat Abiola.

The men are appealing a death sentence handed to them on January 30, 2012, by Justice Mojisola Dada of the Lagos High Court.

Joseph Daudu and Olalekan Ojo, representing Messrs. Al-Mustapha and Shofolahan respectively, on Friday, applied for a regularization of their briefs of argument.

The appellate court, presided over by Chima Centus Nweze, granted both counsels the order as prayed, before adjourning for hearing of the appeal.

Grounds of appeal

Messrs Al-Mustapha and Shofolahan were convicted for conspiracy and murder of Mrs. Abiola in June 1996, along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

The victim was the wife of late politician and business mogul, Moshood Abiola, who won the June 12, 1993 presidential election. He was in detention for declaring himself Nigerian president when his wife was killed.

Barely 24 hours after the death sentence was pronounced, the convicts' counsels filed an appeal challenging the judgment.

The appellants contended that the death sentence by the lower court was "unwarranted, unreasonable and a manifest miscarriage of justice."

Mr. Al-Mustapha's four grounds and Mr. Shofolahan's five grounds of appeal faulted the judgment of the lower court in admitting the testimonies of Ore Falomo, as well as the contradictory statements of Barnabas Jabila (a.k.a Sgt. Rogers) and Mohamamed Abdul (a.k.a Katako).

In his testimony, Mr. Falomo had stated that the bullet extracted from Mrs. Abiola's corpse was a specialized one; a statement the defence had countered on the grounds that Dr. Falomo qualifies only as a medical doctor and not a ballistician. The doctor was a family doctor of the late Mr. Abiola's family.

The convicts' lawyers also accused the judge of the lower court of bias for "rejecting the evidence of Messrs. Jabila and Abdul that were favourable to their clients."

They urged the Court of Appeal to entertain the appeal, set aside the judgment, and discharge them of the charges of conspiracy and murder.

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