After over a decade of incarceration, former Chief Security Officer, CSO, to the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha and Lateef Shofolahan will know their fate on 30 January, 2012.

Al-Mustapha

Justice Mojisola Ayoka Dada of a Lagos High Court fixed the date for judgment in a case of conspiracy and murder filed against them by the Lagos State government.

The accused were alleged by the state government to have killed Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, wife of the acclaimed winner of 12 June, 1993 presidential election, late Basorun MKO Abiola.

Justice Dada fixed the date after the submission of written addresses by counsel to the parties.

Counsel to the defendants, Mr. Olalekan Ojo, leading five other lawyers, submitted a written address, urging the court to free the accused.

Addressing the court, Ojo hinged the defence of his clients on five key issues which he wants the court to determine.

First, he pleaded with the court to dismiss the evidence of the prosecution witnesses, saying they are unreliable. He explained that the two key prosecution witnesses, Sergeant Barnabas Mshelia, alias Rogers and Mohammed Abdul, alias Katako, denied their evidence-in-chief while being cross examined.

Ojo also described the statements made by the witnesses as extra judicial, stressing that Rogers while being cross examined said the whole case was ‘arrangee.’

Two, Ojo averred that the statements of the two witnesses have no evidential value as they are extra judicial statements. “Therefore, they cannot be referred to as evidence of truth,” he stated.

He said the third witness, a police officer did not conclude his evidence. Therefore, he was not cross-examined.

Finally, Ojo submitted that the prosecution has not proved its case beyond reasonable doubt. According to him, the prosecution did not prove that al-Mustapha and Shofolahan killed Alhaja Kudirat Abiola.

He described murder as a serious offence, stressing that nobody was invited from the family of the late MKO Abiola to identify Shofolahan as a staff of the family.

Based on the totality of the evidence before the court, Ojo submitted that the prosecution has not proved its case beyond reasonable doubt.

He urged the court to discharge the accused who have been in detention since October 1998.

In his own presentation, the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Lawal Pedro, SAN, urged the court to consider the long time taken by the matter and convict the accused as charged.

He told the court that many of the witnesses vital to the case were either dead, retired or are not forthcoming.

Pedro identified two key issues for the court to determine.

One, whether the accused committed the offence or not and two, whether the evidence is credible or not. He contended that conspiracy does not necessarily means meeting physically. But it is determined by inference and meeting of like minds before the court.

—Akin Kuponiyi