Kudirat’s Murder: Why S’Court can’t hear Lagos appeal challenging Al-Mustapha’s acquittal

Supreme Court

Indications emerged on Monday that six months after Lagos State Government has entered an appeal to set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal which acquitted Maj. Hamza al-Mustapha (retd.)and Lateef Shofolahan of the murder of Kudirat Abiola, it is yet to compile the records of appeal.

Compilation of records of appeal is a legal sine qua non to properly place an appeal in the court’s docket.

It is trite that until the records of appeal are compiled from the lower court and transmitted to the higher court, there is technically no appeal.

It was not clear why Lagos government went cold on the issue of compilation of the records of appeal.

Kudirat, wife of the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief MKO Abiola, was gunned down in Lagos on June 4, 1996.

Both al-Mustapha, a former Chief Security Officer to the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha; and Shofolahan, were on January 30, 2012 sentenced to death by a Lagos State High Court for the murder of the deceased.

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But the Court of Appeal in Lagos on July 12, 2013 discharged and acquitted both men on the grounds of lack of credible evidence.

In its judgment delivered on July 12, 2013 by its three-member panel led by Justice Amina Augie (now a Justice of the Supreme Court), the Court of Appeal held that the testimonies of Dr. Ore Falomo, as first prosecution witness, and Ahmed Yusuf, the fourth prosecution witness, were irrelevant and unreliable.

It added that the oral evidence and statements of Jabila and Abdul had been discredited under cross-examination and were therefore unreliable.

The judgment was not appealed by government immediately.

At the time Lagos government eventually entered the appeal, it had to seek the leave of the Supreme Court to regularise the process which was filed out of time.

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In a 10-ground notice of appeal filed by the Lagos State Government against the judgment of the Court of Appeal,  it wanted the apex court to affirm the death sentence passed on al-Mustapha and Shofolahan by Justice Mojisola Dada of the Lagos State High Court on January 30, 2012.

The state government filed the notice of appeal following an earlier order of the Supreme Court on January 12, 2017, granting the appellant the leave to file the notice of appeal outside the time frame stipulated by law.

The appellant told the apex court in its notice of appeal that the testimonies of its star witnesses, Barnabas Jabila (a.k.a Sgt. Rogers) and Mohammed Abdul (a.k.a Katako), who had confessed to their roles in the murder were detailed and consistent.

It claimed that the contradictions in the witnesses’ testimonies were not material enough to warrant the decision of the Court of Appeal to disregard their entire evidence.

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The Lagos State Government argued that the appeal court “erred when it determined that there were material contradictions that rendered the testimony of PW2 (Barnabas Jabila a.k.a. Rogers) inconsistent and unreliable.”

It insisted that Jabila, in his testimony before the Lagos State High Court, was consistent and that the details supplied by him were “not materially controverted.”

The Lagos State Government also faulted the Court of Appeal’s rejection of the testimony of Abdul. It argued that the Court of Appeal “erred in law when it held that there were material contradictions that rendered the testimony of PW3 unreliable.”

It said, “PW3 gave graphic and detailed evidence of the conspiracy to and murder of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola.”