This report is not about to contest or upturn the judgment of the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal which set Major Hamza Al-Mustapha free. However, judging from the plethora of unresolved murders, it does appear that a ‘KILL-AND-GO’ syndrome may have settled into the Nigerian system. Freeing Al-Mustapha has not changed anything. The authorities should answer the question: WHO KILLED KUDIRAT ABIOLA?
By Jide Ajani
KILL-AND-GO! That was the catch-phrase when the mobile police unit was first introduced in Nigeria about four decades ago. Because of the fiesty mien of the officers and men of that unit, they earned for themselves a reputation of no-nonsense.
Worse still, Nigerians were conditioned to believe that whenever the unit was deployed to quell riots, their rules of engagement differed from the civil, gentle and persuasive approach of the regular police. Indeed, people were left to go with the impression that whatever the officers and men of the unit did was not to be questioned. There was also the belief – for effect at that time – that if an officer of the mobile unit killed in the course of his duty, he would not be held accountable. And so they were named KILL-AND-GO.
Not surprisingly, too, is the case of the many unresolved high-profile murders in Nigeria, that is, cases of people who have killed and since moved on – killing and going scot-free.
There are over two dozen cases of unresolved high profile murders since the beginning of the Fourth Republic. Whereas Nigerians gnash their teeth in unmitigated anguish upon hearing of the murder of a prominent personality, many appear to be contented with the show of anguish and emotion in sympathy with the family or colleagues of the deceased. Beyond that, time begins to play its healing role, such that Stockholm Syndrome sets in – a sense of pity begins to emanate from members of the society who are supposed to be victims of the dastardly act.
It was in late 1999 that journalists waited anxiously at the water-front office of the High Court, Lagos. These were both local and foreign journalists. Then British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC’s Sola Odunfa, could not but wonder aloud “Igba’olo bi orere” (nothing lasts forever).
What forced that phrase out of him was nothing more than the near criminalisation of Hamza Al-Mustapha, the man who served as Chief Security Officer, CSO, to the late General Sani Abacha, Nigeria’s one-time maximum dictator.
To virtually all the reporters waiting anxiously that morning, the whole set-up looked unbelievable. But here we were, waiting anxiously for Al-Mustapha to arrive in a Black Maria. He was arrested earlier and was to be arraigned for the murder of Kudirat Abiola, wife of the late winner of the June 12, 19993 presidential election, Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola.
She was murdered in cold blood on the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway by gunmen who pumped bullets into her.
A Lagos High Court sentenced Al-Mustapha and an alleged co-conspirator, Lateef Sofolahan, Kudirat’s personal assistant, to death on January 30, 2012 for the killing. Before then, there were others charges brought against Mustapha that had been dropped.
On Friday, the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal said the prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and that there was no real or substantiated evidence or proof linking Al-Mustapha to the murder of Kudirat. A system that kept a trial alive for all of 14 years needlessly cannot be said to be one enamoured of serious conduct. To some people, the consolation is that a closure has been brought to this saga, albeit, controversially.
Just as controversial as Mustapha was when he served as CSO, the judgment setting him free has also been greeted with mixed feelings.
The first judgment which ordered that he be hanged was over 300pages.
Upon hearing that his son would be hanged, Al-Mustapha’s mother reportedly suffered from all manner of ailments before she died.
Part of the myth which surrounded Al-Mustapha’s tenure as CSO was that there was no visitor’s chair in his office; therefore, any guest, including very senior officers, must, of necessity, stand before him. Infact that which was made public and corroborated by former Chief of General Staff, CGS, General Oladipo Diya, at the Oputa Panel, was the way senior officers cringed in fear when they were before Al-Mustapha. But when, on June 7, 1998, his boss died under mysterious circumstances, all that changed and, from thence, his travails started.
Part of the strangeness of his trial was that, at some point, Nigerians had even forgotten that an Al-Mustapha was in prison. It took some hands (hired or not) to begin the campaign for his release. So, why incarcerate an individual for 14years only to be finally set free. His wife, Alhaja Hafsat, lived a married-but-living-single life; the daughter, Fati, is now 19. The family house in Kano was yesterday agog.
But all these – his travails, the initial death sentence and his eventual release – do not, in any way, address the systemic catastrophe that unresolved murders have become in Nigeria.
Particulary during this Fourth Republic, the number of unresolved murders in the country continues to confound the people.
In any murder trial, it is expected that the prosecution should prove its case beyond reasonable doubt because the alleged offender has his or her life on the line. Which explains why the old saying that it is better to allow a bad person go free than hang an innocent man.
In almost all the unresolved murder cases, especially the ones that managed to get to trial, the shambolic handling of the facts (or so they seem) of the matter has almost left the authorities with the short end of the stick. There is even a very strong suspicion that the non-resolution of the murder cases may have been the product of a well-choreographed engagement with an expected negative end.
And whereas one of the daughters of the Abiolas has said that Allah would fight for justice on behalf of the dead, Nigerians are still going to be wondering why murder mysteries remain with them. But with a KILL-AND-GO mentality still very much with us, those who kill may continue to kill and let go.
Below is a list of some of the high profile murders in some parts of the country in just over a decade.
*Dele Giwa – October, 1986
*Kudirat Abiola – June 1996
*Aminasoari Kala Dikibo – February 2004
*Harry Marshall – March, 2003
*Barr. Barnabas Igwe and his wife, Amaka, September 1, 2001
*Hon. Odunayo Olagbaju, December 19, 2001
*Chief Bola Ige, December 23, 2001
*Isiaka Mohammed, September 24, 2002
*Theodore Egwuatu, February, 2003
*Rasak Ibrahim, March 20, 2003
*Mr. Anthony Nwudo, March 21, 2003
*Mr. Ikenna Ibor, March 27, 2003
*Emma Onyewuchi, April 19, 2003
*Toni Dimegwu, April 29, 2003
*Chief Ajibola Olanipekun, June 20, 2003
*Andrew Agom, March 3, 2004
*Chief Philip Olorunnipa, March 7, 2004
*Mr. Sunny Atte, February 5, 2005
*Alhaji Alabi Olajokun, May 15, 2005
*Patrick Origbu, June 3, 2005
*Lateef Olaniyan, July 16, 2005
*Anthony Ozioko, July 27, 2005
*Jesse Aruku, June 30, 2006
*Hajiya Sa’adatu Rimi, January 2006
*Engr. Olufunsho Anthony Williams, July 27, 2006
*Dr. Ayo Daramola, August 2006