By ABDULWAHAB ABDULAH
LAGOS—THE Lagos State Government has filed a 14-ground appeal before the Supreme Court to justify why the apex court should set aside the decision of the Appeal Court which discharged and acquitted Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, the former Chief Security Officer, CSO, to late General Sani Abacha and Lateef Shofolahan, of complicity in the murder of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola.
Kudirat Abiola was murdered on June 4, 1996, by gunmen suspected to be government’s agents following which the duo of Al-Mustapha and Shofolahan were charged for her assassination.
In separate motions on notice filed against the judgement of the appellate court by the state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Ade Ipaye, the state formulated eight and six issues against Shofolahan and Al-Mustapha, respectively.
The motion brought pursuant to section 233(3) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), section 27(2 and 3) of the Supreme Court Act, Cap S15, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, Order 7 Rule 1 of the Court of Appeal Rules 2011 and under the inherent jurisdiction of the court, prayed the apex court to set aside the judgement of the appeal court, which set aside the conviction of the respondents by a lower court.
Justice Mojisola Dada of the Lagos High Court had, on January 30, 2012, sentenced Al-Mustapha and Shofolahan to death by hanging for the murder of Kudirat. However, the Court of Appeal, Lagos, on July 12, 2013, set aside the judgement and quashed the death sentence passed on both Al-Mustapha and Shofolahan.
Appeal Court erred
The state argued that the appellate court erred in law by discharging and acquitting the two men when the evidence linking them to the crime was not materially challenged.
According to the state, the contradictions in the testimonies of the prosecution’s star witnesses, Barnabas Jabila (Sgt. Rogers) and Abdul Mohammed (Katako), were not sufficiently substantial to warrant the acquittal of both Al-Mustapha and Shofolahan, arguing that the testimonies of PW2 (Jabila) and PW3 ( Mohammed), were detailed, graphic and consistent.
It contended that there was evidence on the record of appeal that the second prosecution witness (Jabila) explained the immaterial differences in his evidence made under examination-in-chief and under cross-examination.
On the second ground, the government stated that the court erred in law when it held that there were material contradictions that rendered the testimony of the third prosecution witness unreliable and asserted that the witness gave graphic and detailed evidence of conspiracy to and murder of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola adding that his testimony was neither denied nor discredited in cross-examination.
It said: “Section seven of the Criminal Code identifies circumstances where a person may be held liable for commission of offence”, adding, “there was concrete evidence (both oral and documentary) before the trial court indicating the participation of the second and third prosecution witnesses and the respondent in the alleged crimes.”
The government further stated that both witnesses had testified how they participated in the killing of Kudirat under the instruction given by Al-Mustapha with Shofolahan’s assistance as an informant but later denied and recanted the incriminating testimonies during cross-examination.
“DW1 (Al-Mustapha) provided the logistics for killing the deceased in Lagos. PW3 (Mohammed) was assigned as driver to PW2 (Jabila) because of his knowledge of Lagos and PW3 gave graphic evidence of how he drove PW2 to the scene of the crime and how PW2 shot the deceased severally.”