The Lagos State government yesterday got the nod of the Supreme Court to re-open the murder case of the late Alhaja Kudirat Abiola against Major Hamza Al-Mustapha (retd).
Major Al-Mustapha was the Chief Security Officer (CSO) of the late Military Head of State, General Sani Abacha while Kudirat Abiola was the wife of the late businessman and winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola.
Former Military President Ibrahim Babangida had anulled the election which was adjourned the most credible in the history of the country.
The Supreme Court, in a brief ruling on the application by Lagos State for permission to re-open the case out of time, granted the request to challenge the Court of Appeal decision of July 12, 2013 that discharged and acquitted Al-Mustapha from the murder case.
Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, in the ruling of a panel of seven justices, ordered Lagos State to file its notice of Appeal within 30 days.
The decision of Justice Onnoghen on the Lagos application, argued by Osunsanya Oluwayemisi, a SeniorState Counsel in the Lagos Ministry of Justice, followed the consent of Al-Mustapha’s lawyer, Mr. Joseph Dauda (SAN) not to oppose the application.
The acting CJN said that 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 had been extended from July 12, 2013 – when the appeal court judgment was delivered – till yesterday.
In the appeal before the Apex Court, Lagos State government had sought to file a notice of appeal out-of-time at the Supreme Court, asking for the court’s permission to allow it to challenge the Appeal Court findings of Justices Amina Adamu Augie, Rita Nosakhare Pemu and Fatimo Omoro Akinbami on the ground of miscarriage of justice in the matter.
The state had, in the application, prayed the apex court to allow it to exercise its constitutional right to test the validity and correctness of the decision of the Appeal Court.
It claimed that it wanted to raise its ground of appeal on arguable legal and factual issues, especially the question of whether there is any direct or circumstantial evidence establishing Al-Mustapha’s guilt in the murder case.
It justified its lateness in filing the appeal on the ground that it set up two legal teams to review the circumstances of the case and the verdict of the Court of Appeal, and that it took a long time for them to present their findings.
According to the Lagos State government, the two panels recommended that an appeal case could be filed and sustained.
Consequently, it said that it would ask the Supreme Court to set aside the judgement of the Court of Appeal which, on July 12, 2013, discharged and acquitted Al-Mustapha in the murder case of the late Kudirat Abiola.