Death penalty: A’Court decides Al-Mustapha, Shofolahan’s fate today

The Court of Appeal, Lagos, will today (Friday) deliver judgment on the appeals filed by Maj. Hamza al-Mustapha, and his co-convict, Lateef Shofolahan, challenging the death penalty passed on them in January 2012.

Al-Mustapha, former Chief Security Officer to the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha; and Shofolahan were on January 30, 2012, sentenced to death by hanging for the murder of Kudirat Abiola.

Kudirat, a wife of the acclaimed winner of June 12, 1993 presidential election, the late Chief MKO Abiola, was shot dead in Lagos on June 4, 1996.

The Justice Amina Augie-led appeal panel had reserved judgment after hearing the separate appeals filed by the two convicts on June 11, 2013.

Augie led the all-female appeal panel, comprising two other Justices – Rita Pemu and Fatima Akinbami.

Our correspondent learnt on Thursday that the court had on Wednesday notified parties that judgment would be delivered on Friday.

The new panel took over the case from Justice Ibrahim Saulawa, who withdrew from the case on April 29, 2013, for “personal reasons.”

At the hearing of the appeals, counsel for both convicts urged the appellate court to quash the conviction and set aside the sentence.

But the Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Mr. Lawal Pedro (SAN), urged the court to uphold the trial court’s judgment.

He argued in the reply to appellants’ briefs that he needed not prove to the court that Abacha regime, under which al-Mustapha wielded enormous power, was a reign of terror, during which several attempts were made on the lives of perceived opposition to the late dictator.

However, arguing al-Mustapha’s case, former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN), said the trial judge convicted his client by relying on “evidence which was not before the court, political inferences and conjectures.”

He said, “We argued that those conjectures and inferences are mere political inferences – they did not constitute the evidence before the court,” Daudu had said.

On his part, counsel for Shofolahan, Mr. Olalekan Ojo, who led the defence team for both convicts at the trial court, said, “There is a catalogue of errors in the trial court’s judgment.”

According to Ojo, the trial judge erred in law by holding that the contradictions in the evidence of PW2 (Barnabas Jabila aka Sgt. Rogers) and PW3 (Mohammed Abdul aka Katako) were immaterial.

 
-Punch

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