By Abdulwahab Abdulah
LAGOS— Alhaji Lateef Sofolahan, a former aide of the late Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, who was alleged to be an informant to the late General Sani Abacha’s government, will mount the witness box today to give evidence on what he knows about the murder of Kudirat on June 4, 1996
Sofolahan is presently before Justice Mojisola Dada of the Lagos High Court, answering charges of conspiracy and murder alongside Major Hamza al-Mustapha, former Chief Security Officer to late Gen. Abacha.
The court fixed today for Sofolahan to open his defence after Major al-Mustapha concluded his evidence and cross examinations yesterday.
However, Al-Mustapha’s defence suffered a set back as the trial Judge, Justice Dada restrained his lawyer, Mr. Olalekan Ojo from re-examining him on some alleged contradictions contained in his statements said to have been made under duress before the Special Investigative Panel, SIP.
Mustapha, in his statement before the SIP admitted knowing Sofolahan in Abuja, where Shofolahan was introduced to him by one Alhaji Sariki Sasa to serve as informant on the late Kudirat Abiola. This was after the prosecution counsel, Mr. Lawal Pedro, SAN, concluded his cross-examination.
In his evidence-in-chief, however, he said he met Sofolahan for the first time in March 1998 in Lagos when some youths organised a one-million-man match in support of the administration of the late Abacha and later at the SIP in Abuja.
The court also admitted in evidence yesterday the Supreme Court judgment which freed Mohammed, son of the late Gen. Abacha of complicity in the murder of Kudirat after over-ruling Ojo’s objection.
Ojo had insisted that the judgment was not relevant to the charge and that his client did not participate in the proceeding that led to the judgment.
Overruling Ojo’s objection, the judge directed Al-Mustapha’s counsel to address any ambiguity in his client’s statements in his written address because he could no longer be allowed to cross-examine the witness on same statement.
Justice Dada, stated that Al-Mustapha had under oath stated in the court that he knew Muhammed Abacha as the son of late Sani Abacha and that they were initially charged together for the death of Kudirat Abiola.
The court held that the judgment sought to be tendered is a public document and by the provisions of 112 of the Evidence Act, a Certified True Copy of it is admissible in law. Justice Dada also held that all the arguments proffered against the admissibility of the document were of no relevance.
She observed that “Ordinarily the court is bound to take judicial notice of the Judgment of the Supreme Court and act where it is appropriate. The objection is overruled the Certified True Copy of the judgment of the Supreme Court delivered in July 11, 2002 and signed by Justice Alfa Belgore admitted in evidence and marked exhibit D16.”
The Supreme Court had in the said judgment, quoted Muhammed Abacha’s testimony where he said he was in Al-Mustapha’s office when Sgt Roggers entered and was shown two bags containing machine guns and that Rogers was to be sent on an assignment.
Pedro had last Thursday sought to tender the judgment when Al-Mustapha stated during cross-examination that the apex court described the trial of Mohammed, himself and others for the murder of Kudirat as ‘persecutorial’ and that it formed part of the reason why Mohammed was absolved from the charge.