12 Aug 2011

I was forced to lie against myself -Al-Mustapha •Says statement made to save his life

THE Chief Security Officer to the late head of state, General Sani Abacha, Major Hamza al-Mustapha, on Thursday, stated before Justice Mojisola Dada of a Lagos High Court sitting in Igbosere, that he knew nothing about the statement he wrote on October 13, 1999 at the Special Investigation Panel (SIP) that investigated the killing of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, adding that he had nothing to do with Kudirat’s murder.
At the last sitting on Wednesday, there were arguments on whether or not the CSO could be cross-examined by the prosecution. The issue was laid to rest but Justice Dada held that he could be examined on the document, because it was non-confessional in nature.

When the case came up for hearing on Thursday, however and the prosecution team, led by Lawal Pedro (SAN) confronted Al-Mustapha with the statement, he denied being the author of the statement.

“I made it under duress, physical and serious torture. This is an SIP statement, not my own. I only made it to save my family, [my] life and that of my younger brother. I made 28 statements, including this one, under severe torture. I had to give up and succumb to the dictation of the SIP,” Mustapha argued.


Also, when the prosecution counsel sought to tender the said statement as an exhibit, there was vehement opposition from the defence counsel, Olalekan Ojo, who submitted that where a witness is to be contradicted pursuant to Section 209 of the Evidence Act through cross-examination, the counsel cross-examining must state clearly the purpose for which the statement is sought to be tendered.

“The counsel cross-examining must state that the previous statement is being tendered for the purpose of shaking the credibility of the witness. Where this is not done, the statement will be inadmissible,” Ojo maintained.

He reiterated that the statement could not be tendered during cross-examination of the defendant, owing to the fact that he had been consistently saying that the document was a product of torture and that he was forced against his wish to write the statement.

He also noted that the court’s ruling on the document was not for it to be tendered in evidence, saying that the correct position of the law was that any statement of an accused sought to be used against him for any purpose whatsoever could be objected to on the ground that it was not made voluntarily.

Ojo also alleged that based on Section 189(3) of the Evidence Act, the witness would suffer substantial prejudice that could cause great miscarriage of justice if the statement sought to be tendered was admitted as an exhibit.

However, in his own submission, the prose-cution’s counsel, Pedro, drew the attention of the court to Section 37 of the Evidence Act, which said any statement made by an accused was admissible except it was confessional.

He said the action of the witness in denying the statement confered admissibility on the document and noted that the witness had given evidence in respect of the statement during his evidence-in-chief, where he said it was his “visa” to go to Lagos.

In her ruling on the admissibility of the document, Justice Dada said “the document, being not a confessional statement, is admissible. The defendant has even made a retraction and, as such, is not qualified to be subject to trial within trial.”

The document was later on admitted as an exhibit.

The entire statement was read out by al-Mustapha in the open court with him insisting that it belonged to the Special Investigative Panel (SIP).

Al-Mustapha also denied giving evidence in favour of the second defendant, Lateef Shofolahan.

The case was adjourned till August 15.

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