Today, January 30, 2012, a Lagos High Court, after a protracted trial occasioned by several delays largely by the Defendants, sentenced to death by hanging, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, the Chief Security Officer to the late Nigerian dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha and one Lateef Shofohan. They had been standing trial for the murder of Mrs. Kudirat Abiola, pro-democracy activist and wife of the late Chief MKO Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election in Nigeria. In reaching this verdict, the trial Judge concluded that the evidence against the two Defendants was “so weighty that the court” had “no doubts” and therefore, found the Defendants “guilty as charged”. The judge described Al-Mustapha’s evidence as substantially self-serving and full of intimidation. “The light shines in darkness and darkness comprehends it not. Those who shed blood are those who fear death most. The defendants are accordingly sentenced to death by hanging until they are proved dead,’’ the judge further held. ”
The Kudirat Abiola’s Murder trial is one of the longest criminal trials ever experienced in Nigerian legal system lasting more than twelve years passing through five successive judges during which time the accused persons were held in jail.
The judgment is no doubt, a welcome development as both the prosecution and the defence had ample time to prepare and argue their cases. It also represents, yet, another defining moment in Nigerian criminal justice system while putting a logical conclusion to the long years of courtroom drama, intimidation and blackmail.
In spite of the fact that the Nigerian criminal justice system is slow and the case lasted for several years, it is not unusual for a complex case of this nature to take a very long time to complete. Be that as it may, I have no doubt that the judgment has met the ends of justice, due administration of justice and interest of justice. Justice is the end of government, it is the end of every society, it has always been and it will continue to be until it is obtained. Everybody receives from justice in accordance with the works of our hands.
Therefore, Al Mustapha and Lateef Shofolahan have been made to received their dues from justice; the crimes they committed demanded that justice be done in accordance with the law of the land and the weight of evidence against them. It is just unfortunate that human memory is very short; otherwise, I don't see how anybody would wish that they be set free from their criminal enterprise and the heinous crimes they had committed against humanity.
The lesson from this is that nobody is immune from the law and the era of sacred cow is over.
January 30, 2012.