By Tunde Opeseitan -Senior Reporter, Lagos
Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, former Chief Security Officer to the late Head of State, Sani Abacha, on Wednesday continued his testimony at the Lagos High Court, explaining in graphic detail, how former federal Attorney General and Justice Minister, Bola Ige, and former Afenifere leader, Abraham Adesanya, were tricked into working against the Presidential mandate given to Moshood Abiola on June 12, 1993.
Al-Mustapha, who is standing trial over alleged complicity in the murder of Abiola’s wife, Kudirat, on June 4, 1996 told Justice Mojisola Dada that former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar deceived Ige in the name of serving as a liaison officer between Aso Rock and aggrieved South West leaders.
Led in evidence by his lawyer, Olalekan Ojo, Al-Mustapha recalled that after Abacha’s death, Oladipo Diya, who was supposed to take over as Head of State, was imprisoned for coup plotting, and then Abdulsalami took over.
He said he was still in the Villa at the time and was in the process of handing over to the new Chief Security Officer, and retrieved a memo from counter espionage photocopy machine signed by Abdulsalami and the then National Security Adviser (NSA), Abdullahi Mohammed.
Al-Mustapha said the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor was directed in the memo to withdraw funds from the treasury.
The memo, referenced NSA/A/320/5, dated July 8, 1998, was tendered and admitted as exhibit D12.
He said the publisher of Abuja Mirror and elder brother to former Inspector General of Police, Abidden Coomassie, also got the memo through a source in the CBN.
He alleged that Coomassie was poisoned while planning to publish the memo.
Al-Mustapha recounted that Abdulsalami instructed Mohammed to raise a memo requesting funds from the CBN to take care of visitors to Aso Rock, to service the Presidential aircraft fleet, and provide logistics for Nigerian soldiers in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
But, according to Al-Mustapha, part of the money – $200 million, £75 million, and N500 million – was used to appease South West leaders over Abiola’s death.
He said the instruction to raise the memo was given less than 24 hours after the death of Abiola on July 7, 1998.
He added that after the approval of the memo, the CBN Governor was instructed on the telephone to bring the money in cash to Aso Rock.
“I was there when the money was brought in brown buses. I witnessed it when the buses containing the money were being offloaded,” he narrated.
Al-Mustapha said he had discussions with Julius Berger engineers who told him that they were constructing a building with a big underground safe on Abdusalami’s farm in Minna.
“Some of the bullion vans were moved to Minna. I was shocked and surprised that national resources were being used in that manner. That was why I decided to monitor the situation of things in the Villa.”
On the activities of Yoruba leaders coordinated by Ige, he said Ige was unknowingly tricked by Abdulsalami to work against the realisation of Abiola’s mandate and to delay him in detention to be killed.
“I was in the Presidency and was in the process of handing over to the new Chief Security Officer on one hand and with Abdulsalami on the other hand. I was briefing Abdulsalami on issues of national security.
“I also drafted a 16-point agenda with Abdulsalami. Part of the agenda was Abiola’s release from detention and short transition programme.
“Along the line, I was asked to hand over issues about Abiola to the late Bola Ige. He (Ige) was appointed as a liaison officer between the Presidency and the South West.
“Ige continued to bring South West leaders to the Presidency against our initial plan to let Abiola go home or to be given his mandate within a short time.
“After the death of Abiola, Yoruba leaders went to Aso Rock for another visit. This particular visit was led by Abraham Adesanya. When they arrived the Villa, they were visibly angry, annoyed, mad, and refused to speak to the press men.
“But when they were leaving, their comments were totally the reversal order from the situation on the ground in the country. They were very happy while leaving!
“The reaction and comments by Adesanya on the situation in the country at that particular time clearly put the June 12 issue as secondary and they were saying that no matter what, the country must forge ahead.
“There were two cameras that captured the visit; one was for the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), the other was for me. I stationed and instructed my bodyguard to capture the whole thing.
“That was one of the major reasons Abdulsalami had to seize everything I had, including documents, tapes, and even my shoes.
“Whether Bola Ige knew that he was used to murder Abiola is another matter entirely because I wrote him an 11-page letter between June and July, 2001 titled: How you were unconsciously used in the murder of M.K.O Abiola.”
Absolving himself of complicity in Kudirat’s death, Al-Mustapha told the court that his plight was due to the fact that he knew a lot about what happened at the time.
He said in order to nail him at all costs, soldiers who served under him as members of body guards and strike force, including his personal orderly, were induced to give evidence against him at the Special Investigation Panel (SIP) set up to investigate the alleged crime.
The case continues today.
Al-Mustapha had opened his defence on Monday by narrating how Abacha and Abiola were killed in 1998.
Abacha died on June 8, 1998, and Abiola died in incarceration on July 7, 1998.
He said he has been incarcerated since 1998 because of the top secret in his possession, and accused Abubakar of masterminding his perpetual detention.
He broke down in tears when he told the court that he has both audio and video evidence on how Abacha and Abiola were murdered.
He said Abdulsalami is living in fear that he would divulge information, hence the man wants him to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
His words: “In the course of this testimony, I wish to say that I will omit any issue that will affect the national security of the country as a serving officer of the Nigerian Army.
“My incarceration was as a result of a script written and acted out by (Abdulsalami) to further keep me in prison.
“First, were the events that happened after the murder of (Abacha) and (Abiola). For fear that I may divulge information that led to their death; they have to keep me in prison.”
Al-Mustapha, who told the court that he was enlisted in the Army in 1980, said he served in various units before his appointment as Abacha’s CSO.
According to him, there is documentary evidence that after the death of Abiola, Abubakar allegedly ordered that various sums of money be withdrawn from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), including $200 million, £75 million, and N500 million to appease South West leaders and douse tension.
Al-Mustapha confirmed that he knew Abiola as far back as 1985, and that he (Abiola) was like a father to him.
He said after the annulment of June 12, 1993 election, he assisted Abiola on several occasions to gain access to senior military officers, including Abacha.
Dada adjourned hearing until August 3.
The Judge had at the last hearing discharged and acquitted a former Commander of Aso Rock Unit of mobile police, Mohammed Lawal, of complicity in Kudirat’s murder.
Lawal was charged to court alongside Al-Mustapha and Abiola’s former Chief Protocol Officer, Lateef Shofolahan, over alleged complicity in the murder of Kudirat.
The trio had filed a no case submission on the grounds that there was no prima facie evidence linking them to the crime.
Dada upheld the argument that the prosecution failed to establish prima facie evidence against Lawal.
But she directed Al-Mustapha and Shofolahan to open their defence in the matter.
He ruled that at the stage the matter had reached, the court was not concerned with whether the evidence of Sergeant Banabas Jabila Msheila (Rogers) and Mohammed Abdul (Katako) was to be believed or credible.
She insisted that the case against the accused was sufficient to warrant them to give some explanation.
Ojo had, while arguing the application, urged the court to discharge his clients, as the court is bound to dispense justice in accordance with the law and not on rumour and sentiments.
He submitted that the court has a constitutional duty to discharge and acquit the defendants since the prosecution is not able to establish a prima facie case against them – adding that the case of the prosecution must be cogent for it to compel the defendants to prove their innocence.