Al Mustapha Claims He Was “Technically Present” When Abiola Died

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Abiola and Abacha

Abiola and Abacha

Demands Testimony of Panti CID Officers

At the resumed murder trial of Al Mustapha, the former Chief Security Officer to Sanni Abacha, Nigeria’s late military ruler, the defendant today provided insights into the deaths of Abacha and Moshood Abiola.

Reports at the time, in 1998, said that Abacha died at the presidential villa in Abuja while in the company of Jeremiah Useni, his bosom friend who was then the Minister for the Federal Capital Territory, and two prostitutes imported by Useni from India.

Under cross-examination today by the Chief Prosecutor, Pedro Lawal (SAN), the Solicitor General of Lagos State, Al Mustapha admitted that he was not physically present when Abacha died on June 6, 1998, but that he ”saw him last around 2am on the day he died with some ministers and ambassadors.”

In the death of Abiola, however, Mustapha claimed he was ”technically present when Abiola slumped and died in the presence of the people with him when he drank tea.”

He attributed his technical presence to a secret centralized tape recording which he maintained, a tool that backed his confidence to confirm what actually happened. ”If I am not there, I cannot confirm it from the tape I have?” he asked the court.  ”My technical presence is as good as physical presence, otherwise I cannot claim my knowing what happened.”

Mustapha, who is accused of ordering the murder of Mrs. Kudirat Abiola and several pro-democracy activists in Nigeria, also claimed that several of his secret video tapes, CDs and files were seized following his arrest in Enugu in October 1998 on the orders of General Abdulsalam Abubakar. Al was transferred to Enugu after Ababcha died.

He told the court that the Abubakar regime raided his residences in Kaduna, Abuja and Yobe states and took a large cache of sensitive materials he had kept in those places.  “In Abuja alone, 11 “Ghana-Must-Go” bags were taken and I’ve not seen them till date,” he said.

The prosecution then asked how he came by the tape by which he has sought to implicate visiting Yoruba elders of complicity concerning Abiola’s death.  Said the defendant: ”Careless keeping is a form of security where something valuable are kept in the open…that video was labeled “cartoon,” and that’s why it was [not seized].”

The prosecution then asked why the video of Abiola’s death and the one where money was allegedly shared among Yoruba leaders were not tagged cartoons or carelessly kept to which Mustapha replied, ”They were all taken away.”

Mr. Lawal also called for a replay of the video that was aired on Monday in which Mustapha alleged the Yoruba leaders were paid by the presidency to reduce the tension after Abiola’s death. Lawal argued that Chief Adesanya’s response on the tape did not connote that the alleged meeting occurred the day after Abiola’s death.

Further trying to debunk the allegation that the visit recorded in the video was a Yoruba affair, the prosecutor pointed out that among those in the video was Arthur Nwankwo, an Igbo who was a NADECO chieftain.  On that basis, he argued that the people that visited were ”elders of NADECO and not Southwest leaders’.  Mustapha acknowledged that observation.

The defendant also tried to draw attention to coincidences, observing that Abiola died exactly one month after Abacha’s demise.  In his view, ”such was so automatic for anyone to understand.”
In that regard, he narrated that for three consecutive days before Abiola’s death and especially on July 6 1998, Bola Ige brought Abiola’s family to see him.  Then on July 7 1998, Abiola died.  He stated also that on July 8, 1998, the Yoruba elders came and held discussions and agreed to go ahead with the Government of National Unity “without knowing what happened to their man who was hale and hearty?”

In jibes aimed at the former Head of State Abdulsalam Abubakar, who succeeded Mr. Ernest Shonekan into office, Mustapha said, “”These are questions that must be asked.”

He also asked, ”Why was Obasanjo sent home from prison and Abiola left behind in detention? Abiola was in Abuja, while Obasanjo was in Yola,” he reminded the court. “If General Abdulsalam cannot be made to answer these questions because he is bigger than everybody, then let those distinct questions remain open,” he stressed.

On the allegation of Ribadu’s plot to kill on orders from above, Mustapha claimed that the Commissioner of Police staff during that time ”this morning confirmed on Radio France, that ‘Ribadu is my boy and he operated under me.”

Asked why he is only saying these things now, Mustapha referred to the length of his detention. ”This is the first time for me to defend myself in 13 years,” he answered. “Even while I was at the Oputa panel, I was always given no go areas-issues I could never discuss.”

Continuing, he said, ”There was a time late Gani Fawehinmi came and sat beside me in the witness box at Tafawa Balewa Square venue of the Oputa Panel sitting and  said if they were going to shoot you, let them shoot us together. Speak and you must speak,” he said, quoting the late human right activist.

Mustapha expressed faith in the integrity of the court and called for all the things seized from him to be be produced. He demanded a full inventory of his property, pointing out, ”It is my possession of the tape on Abiola’s murder that has brought this case about.”

He urged the court to subpoena police officers from the Lagos State Central Intelligence Department at Panti in Yaba, Lagos, who investigated the assassination of Kudirat Abiola between 1996 and 1998 to testify and present their findings in open court.  “They must be brought to testify,” he begged.

He stated that he became ”an enemy to people that wanted Abacha removed. And this started in 1994 when they wanted to kill him and they could not because I was there.”
The defendant ended today’s testimony by accusing the prosecution of being used as persecutors in a ”game that is contractual agreement for inducement.”

Meanwhile, Al Mustapha’s supporters have resorted to turning the premises of the Lagos High Court into a prayer ground.  At the end of every Al-Mustapha’s testimony, they gather in the centre of the court premises and pray for him.

The hearing continues tomorrow.


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