From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Lagos State Government has secured an order of the Supreme Court to re-open the murder case of late Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, against Major Hamza Al-Mustapha (retd), former chief security officer (CSO) to late military Head of State, General Sani Abacha.
Kudirat was the wife of late business mogul, Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, which annulled by former military President, Ibrahim Babangida.
In a brief ruling on the application brought by the Lagos State government to re-open the case, yesterday, the apex court granted the request for the appellant to challenge the Court of Appeal decision of July 12, 2013 that discharged and acquitted Al-Mustapha from the murder case.
Reacting to the court’s decision, Chairman of the Arewa Young Lawyers Forum (AYLF), Mr. Sadiq Abubakar Ilela, who witnessed the proceedings, hailed the ruling.
Ilela, who said he was in court with some members of his group to show support for Al-Mustapha, said the leave granted Lagos would allow the court to determine the case on merit.
“We were in court to show support to the respondents. We believe in the rule of law.
“We are convinced that, with the ruling, parties now have the opportunity to present their cases before the court to enable them make an informed decision and determine the case on merit,” Ilela said.
A seven-man panel of justices of the Supreme Court headed by acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, ordered Lagos to file its notice of appeal within 30 days.
The decision of Justice Onnoghen on the Lagos application argued by Osunsanya Oluwayemisi, a senior state counsel in the Ministry of Justice, followed the consent of Al-Mustapha’s lawyer, Mr. Joseph Dauda (SAN), not to oppose the application.
The acting CJN said by the decision of the apex court, the time for Lagos to appeal against the findings of the Court of Appeal on the celebrated murder case was extended from July 12, 2013, when the appeal court judgment was delivered, till yesterday.
By the granted permission, the coast was cleared for Lagos to challenge the ‘no guilty’ verdict in favour of the former military officer by the Court of Appeal, almost four years ago.
In the new move to re-open the case, Lagos state government sought to file a notice of appeal, out of the time, at the Supreme Court ,asking for the permission of the court to allow it to challenge the Appeal Court findings of Justices Amina Adamu Augie, Rita Nosakhare Pemu and Fatimo Omoro Akinbami on grounds of miscarriage of justice in the matter.
The state had, in the application, prayed the apex court to allow it exercise its constitutional right to test the validity and correctness of the decision of the Appeal Court.
The state governmentclaimed it wants to raise its grounds of appeal on arguable legal and factual issues, especially the question of whether there is any direct or circumstantial evidence establishing the guilt passed on Al-Mustapha in the murder case.
It justified its lateness in filing the appeal on the grounds that it set up two legal teams to review the circumstances of the case and the verdict of the Court of Appeal.
The government said it took a long time for the two legal teams to present their findings and recommended that an appeal case can be filed and sustained.
The Lagos government said it will ask the Supreme Court to set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal which on July 12, 2013 discharged and acquitted Al-Mustapha, in the murder case of the late Kudirat Abiola.
In place of the Appeal Court decision, the state government said it will plead with the apex court to uphold and restore the death sentence by hanging placed on the former Abacha CSO by a Lagos High Court on January 30, 2012. (The Sun)