Thursday, August 11, 2011

Abiola drank tea, died in my presence –Al-Mustapha

Former Chief Security Officer (CSO) to the former Head of State, the late Gen. Sani Abacha, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, yesterday declared before Justice Mojisola Dada of a Lagos High Court that he saw Chief MKO Abiola slumped and died after he drank the tea that was served to him in custody.

He said this while being cross-examined by the prosecution, led by the Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Mr. Lawal Pedro (SAN). The ex-CSO is standing trial for the killing of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, the wife of the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.

Al-Mustapha told the court that he was present technically and watched the whole proceeding through centralised cameras placed at Aguda House where Abiola was detained. “I was technically present when Abiola slumped and died. I was present with him when he drank the tea and with the four visitors that were there. But I was not the one that gave him the tea. When I said ‘technically present’, in security parlance it means I was physically present there. If I was not there, then I cannot claim ownership of the tape I talked about. I was watching through a centralised camera. I took a video tape of what happened and I saw everything. I kept the tape in secret.”

Asked if he was physically present, he said: “I was not physically present but technically I was present because I saw everything that took place. Technically present is as good as being there. The difference is between ‘physical and technical’ but I was present. Otherwise I cannot claim to know what happened if I was not technically present there. “I was separated from him; I would have been there physically. Abiola had a big Quran and a Bible and he was busy writing on them. It was then I realised that he needed writing pads to write on. All his writings were very important and they should be produced in court for everybody to see.”

When told that all his accounts relating to Chief Abiola was as a result of what he watched through central recordings, he said: “It was based on the central recording and what was reported by those who were with him. Zardock was with Abiola physically as at the time he died. “My Lord, after the death of Chief Abiola, Zardock was arrested and kept away from access to any person. He suffered a lot; he was induced to keep mute until they brought him before the Oputa panel, nobody could see him.

Zardock served under me, he was under detention and I had no access to him. He should have provided the documents and the notes Chief Abiola wrote in detention.” Al-Mustapha added that the events that led to the death of Chief Abiola was too sudden to be taken for granted, stressing that he was not insulting anybody when he related the events that occurred before, during and after Chief MKO Abiola was murdered. His words: “On July 6, 1998, the late Chief Bola Ige was told to bring Abiola’s family to the Presidential Villa.

On July 7, Chief MKO Abiola was murdered and on July 8, the leaders you saw on that tape were brought to the Presidential Villa. This was too real to be true, within three consecutive days, major events happened in a country like this, where the position of the late Chief Abiola could determine the standing of Nigeria! “Yet, the elders still came and they had discussions, they were people who ought to be in a state of shock but they were ready to go on without the man they claimed to be fighting for, somebody who was hale and hearty suddenly died. “All the detainees were to go home; Chief Obasanjo and the rest were sent home, why should Chief Abiola be left behind?

Now, I am an enemy because I asked why Abiola was not allowed to go like the rest which was in our agreement. “I never in my entire life insult a person, I don’t even insult my juniors, but there are questions that must be asked, this is too much of a Hollywood film to be accepted. Chief MKO was in Abuja; Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was in Yola and they were to be released. That was what we agreed, but Gen. Abubakar Abdulsalami could not answer because he was bigger than everybody then. Let those 16 points that we agreed on be made public.” Asked if he was present when Gen. Abacha died, he said, “I was not right there when Abacha died, I saw him around 2am in company of some ministers, state chief of protocol and two ambassadors. I left them but I was not there when he died.”

Al-Mustapha insisted that the former Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, was instructed to eliminate him, saying, “Ribadu was my boy; he served under me. I cannot lie against him. There are many things I have to say but the evidence (tapes) has been seized by Gen. Abdulsalami.” The ex-CSO added that none of the statements he made during interrogations were made voluntarily, stating that he was tortured and placed under horrible condition. He noted that at a point the Army authority had to complain to the Presidency over the excesses of the Special Investigation Panel (SIP) led by the former Director-General of the State Security Service (SSS), Col. Kayode Are.

Al-Mustapha said he became the enemy to those who wanted Gen. Abacha dead at all cost and “once I took an oath to protect the seat of government, I must stand by it. I told them that for them to kill Abacha, they have to kill me first. “I did not stop to be the CSO immediately Gen. Abacha died, but my appointment as the CSO terminated when my posting to Enugu came out and when my handing over and taking over were through.

That was in August 1998. However, handing and taking over processes as agreed by Gen. Abdulsalami and I was not even completed.” Meanwhile Justice Dada has granted Al-Mustapha (the first defendant) and Lateef Shofolahan (second defendant) leave to appeal against her ruling delivered on July 13, which dismissed their no case submission. Justice Dada, in her ruling, acknowledged that the appeal, if allowed by the Court of Appeal, would definitely terminate the suit before her. However, an attempt to tender a statement made by Al-Mustapha to the SIP, dated October 13, 1999 by the prosecution was resisted by the defence lawyer, Mr. Olalekan Ojo, on the grounds that the statement was not tendered initially by the prosecution.


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