Being the text of The State of the Nation Press Conference addressed by the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL)
on Thursday, 1st of August, 2013, at The Humanity Centre, Lagos
Gentlemen of the Press,
That pronouncement of discharge and acquittal of the duo of Al-Mustapha and Lateef Shofolahan of the charge of the murder of Kudirat Abiola by the Court of Appeal, on Friday, 12th July, 2013, expectedly, has since been attracting massive reactions from the cross-section of the public.
The protracted court proceedings that actually began in 1999 and which had so far entertained series of adjournments, motions after motions and of course, mind-boggling confessions and recantations from star witnesses, began heading for the long-awaited conclusion when, on the 30th of January, 2012, Justice Mojisola Dada of the Lagos High Court returned a verdict of guilt on the accused and so sentenced them to die by hanging. The reversal of that decision by the Court of Appeal, in favour of the accused, on Friday, 12th July, 2013 has no doubt been enjoying all the media hype and public comments it deserves. This development, of course is quite comprehensible given the personalities involved and there is no pretending on the far-reaching implication of the judgment on the polity. Therefore, given the high profile nature of the case, there is the need to look deeply into the case in its entirety and try to analyze dispassionately.
The Appeal Court, in its pronouncement, has picked a lot of holes in the process of investigation and subsequent prosecution of the accused. It noted apparent contradictions in the confessions of the prosecution’s star witnesses and consequently lashed out at the lower court which it accused of being hasty in convicting the accused. Looking critically at the position expressed by the appellate court, one is moved to beam a searchlight into the following areas:
The police, constitutionally, have the prerogative of investigating crimes and the materials so gathered in the process invariably form the basis for prosecution. Therefore, we need to ask in this context: How in-depth and of what quality was the investigation? Were the investigations carried out, using modern technologies like biometric mechanisms, to prove the authenticity of exhibits tendered? How technically sound are members of the police investigation team? For instance, why
were the bullets extracted and recovered from the body of the victim not presented to the court if only to prove the source of the weapon used in the act? And, of course, realizing the fact that the primary investigation exercise on matters of homicide invariably forms the very foundation upon which the prosecution would build other processes, how water-tight are the evidences produced – material and (or) circumstantial?
From the Lagos State government’s angle; how serious and committed, given what appeared to be lackadaisical in the attitudes of the prosecution team, especially the legal counsels, at certain stages of the case? It would be recalled that, on two occasions the matter suffered some set-backs when the prosecution team had to seek a leave from the court to prepare its briefs in response to the defendant’s statements. It is no secret that the prosecution had sealed a deal with the star witnesses in person of Barnabas Jabila a.k.a. Sergeant Rogers, who came in the full glare of the whole world, to confess to pulling the trigger on the orders of Al-Mustapha and how Shofolahan provided the lead. But we should ask again: What went wrong and how was the deal managed by the prosecution and what must have happened, prompting Jabila and others to recant their submissions? We know that the legal team of the Lagos State government must have largely comprised of civil servants and we of course know that unlike those days when the civil service used to parade the best of materials, what we have in our terribly depleted civil service today are mostly mediocre and non-starters. So the quality of manpower is another factor of concern here. And we know too that, as usual, the defense legal team are normally comprised of seasoned and highly influential SANS. So, we know where the pendulum of advantage lies in this setting. You cannot give what you do not have, so the saying goes.
- AFTER JUDGMENT, WHAT NEXT?
The reply from the Lagos State Attorney-General, Mr. Rahman Ade Ipaiye to a question bothering on a possible appeal against the judgment to the apex court, did not indicate convincingly that the state is prepared to do any such thing. Perhaps they are not sure that they have any grounds for an appeal. He was quoted as saying that he would have to study the judgment before making up his mind on the issue of appeal.
More so, Sergeant Rogers only claimed he was bribed to implicate Al-Mustapha and others, he never denied shooting Kudirat Abiola, why can’t Lagos State government go after him being the prime suspect? Or have we probably seen the end to another high profile murder?
Now, the murder of Kudirat Abiola, has finally gone the way of likes of Dele Giwa, Marshal Kebby, Pa Alfred Rewane, Sola Omotehinwa, Nelson Kassim, Bagauda Kaltho,
Madam Suliat Adedeji, Chief Bola Ige, attempted murder of Pa Abraham Adesanya and Felix Ibru. The killers were never found.
Governor Rabiu Kwakwanso of Kano State described Al-Mustapha as a hero and reference point to our justice system. The governor stressed that he knew Al-Mustapha was being held wrongly and that is why he decided to be part of the justice system. The question to be answered is what role did Kwankwaso play in bringing Al-Mustapha out? Was he the judge? Or was the governor saying but for his contribution, Al-Mustapha would not have been released?
It has once again been revealed that there exists that serious problem of inadequacy in both manpower and up-to-date equipment for investigation in our justice system and as long as this trend persists, so long will this trend of unresolved crimes continue.
On the other hand however, the insinuation of horse-trading cannot be flippantly dismissed, given the benefit of precedents in our political experience in this country. But whatever it is, the blood of the innocent will keep crying for justice. So, the question still remains: WHO KILLED KUDIRAT ABIOLA?
Thank you for your kind attention.
Executive Chairman, CACOL