Al-Mustapha’s Appeal: Judge Withdraws

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 Major  Hamza Al-Mustapha



Davidson Iriekpen



Justice Ibrahim Saulawa of the Court of Appeal in Lagos Thursday withdrew from adjucating on the appeal filed by Major Hamza Al-Mustapha and Lateef Shofolahan, challenging a death sentence handed them by a Lagos High Court.

Al-Mustapha, former Chief Security Officer to the late General Sani Abacha, and Shofolahan former Personal Assistant to Alhaja Kudirat Abiola were sentenced to death on January 30, 2012, by Justice Mojisola Dada, for conspiracy in masterminding the murder of Kudirat.

The case, which ought to be for argument of the appeal filed by the appellants, could not go on, as the presiding justice declined hearing for personal reasons.
Justice Saulawa told counsel to the appellants that he could only assist them in recording a further date for arguments, but will not participate in hearing the main appeal for reasons which he described as personal.

He therefore adjourned the case to June 10 for hearing.
Meanwhile, the judge in the meantime, granted two applications filed by Mr. Pedro Lawal (SAN) and Mr. Olalekan Ojo, counsel to the respondent and second appellant respectively.

Lawal in his application, sought to amend his respondent’s brief by substituting it with the correct version, and deeming same as being properly filed and served.
Ojo on his part, prayed for an order to amend respondent’s brief as properly filed and served.

Justice Saulawa granted the applications of both counsel, adding that it was the much he could do in the matter.

The convicts were arraigned in October 1999 on a four-count charge bordering on conspiracy and their involvement in the 1996 murder of the deceased, along the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway.

Justice Dada had found them guilty of the offence, and accordingly convicted and sentenced them to death by hanging.
Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN) and Mr. Olalekan Ojo, counsel to the first and second appellants respectively, had however, appealed to the court of appeal, 24 hours after the sentence of the convicts.

They challenged the judgment of Justice Dada.
In the notice of appeal, the appellants contends that the death sentence handed by the lower court was unwarranted, unreasonable and a manifest miscarriage of justice.
They contended that the trial judge erred in law by concluding that they conspired to kill Kudirat on June 4, 1996.

The appellants faulted the judge’s treatment of the contradictory statements of Barnabas Jabila (aka Sgt. Rogers) and Mohmamed Abdul, as well as the reliance on the testimony of Dr. Ore Falomo on the bullet extracted from the late Kudirat.

They also fault the court’s rejection of portions of Jabila’s testimony which they felt favoured them and applying only areas which did not favour them.

The appellants are therefore praying the Court of Appeal to entertain the appeal, set aside the judgment, and discharge them of the charges of conspiracy and murder.
Al-Mustapha’s appeal is premised on four grounds, while that of his co-convict (Shofolahan) is hinged on five grounds.