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The long trial of Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, former Chief Security Officer to the Late Nigerian Military Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha and Lateef Shofolahan finally came to an end yesterday at a Lagos High Court sitting at Igbosere where they were both sentenced to death by hanging, over the assassination of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, the wife of Late M.K.O Abiola the acclaimed winner of the 1993 Nigerian Presidential election.
The trial Judge, Justice Mojisola Dada found the duo guilty of three-count charge of conspiracy and murder and ordered that they should die ‘by hanging until pronounced dead.’ It took 13 years for Al-Mustapha to be convicted in what is arguably the longest trial case in the nation’s history.
According to The Vanguard, In a nine-hour judgment, Justice Dada chronicled the genesis of the case, analyzing it with evidence produced before the court by both prosecution and defense before arriving at the conclusion that evidence against the defense ‘is too strong.’
The Judge also stated further that gunmen sent by Major Al Mustapha killed Kudirat on the street of Lagos on June 4, 1996, while he was the CSO to Abacha.
On the part of Shofolahan, the judge held that overwhelming evidence against him also proved that he provided surveillance assistance to the killer squad as they trailed the outspoken wife of Abiola until she was murdered.
The court further held that Shofolahan connived and gave vital information concerning the itinerary of late Kudirat Abiola to the hitman Sergeant Barnabas Jabila, popularly known as Sergeant Rogers, leading to the death of Kudirat in June 1996.
Lateef Shofolahan was also said to have conspired with the other accused persons by giving a magazine, which had the picture of the late Mrs. Abiola to Rogers who then traced the car of the deceased to Lagos-Ibadan Expressway where she was killed.
Major Hamza Al-Mustapha was instrumental to the 5 years of tyrannical rule unleashed on Nigerians by Late general Sani Abacha. He was in charge of the Abacha ‘Strike Squad’ which ensured that all oppositions to the then military despot were perpetually silenced.
Several oppositions were sent to their early graves; notable among those silenced by the regime included Elder Alfred Rewane, Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, etc. Others who miraculously survived their assassination attempts included Isaac Porbeni, Late Alex Ibru and Late Pa Abraham Adesanya the then leader of NADECO (National Democratic Coalition).
While al-Mustapha held sway and helped to consolidate the wicked Military leader in office, he forgot that there would be a day of judgment either here on earth or hereafter. Yesterday was the Day of Judgment which he never anticipated. The judgment delivered by the court elicited reactions from numerous Nigerians. Nigerians believed that though the trial took too long a time, at least the judgment was welcome and seen as a plus for the judiciary.
The lawyer to the convicts, Mr. Olalekan Ojo stated emphatically before the court that the defense team would to file an appeal against the judgment of the court the following day, praying that copies of the judgment be made ready to commence the appeal immediately.
This judgment should serve as a reminder to those in position of authority that evil will never rule for ever. Power is transient; after vacating from the seat of power one would always be faced with the day of accountability.