The Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal Monday reserved judgment in an appeal filed by Major Hamza Al-Mustapha and Lateef Shofolahan, challenging a death sentence handed to them by Justice Mojisola Dada of the Lagos High Court.
Al-Mustapha, a former Chief Security Officer (CSO) to the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, and Shofolahan, a former Personal Assistant to Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, were sentenced to death on January 30, 2012.
The judge convicted and sentenced the duo to death for conspiracy in masterminding the murder of the late Kudirat.
The presiding judge of the appellate court, Justice Amina Augie, reserved judgment after counsel to the appellants had adopted their written briefs.
Counsel to Al-Mustapha, Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN), adopting his address, urged the court to allow the appeal and set aside the judgment of the lower court.
Daudu argued that the trial court erred in law to have based its judgment on the testimonies of PW1 and 2, which were contradictory.
"The testimonies of PW1 and 2 were inconclusive and contradictory.
"The court drew inferences from these contradictory statements, to establish the guilty of the appellants.
"It is my submission that those inferences upon which the court based its judgment, were merely political evidence formulated by the respondent, and which the trial court ought not to have considered.
"I therefore urge the court to allow this appeal, and quash the judgment of the lower court," Daudu argued.
Counsel to Shofolahan, Mr. Olalekan Ojo, also aligned himself with the submission of Daudu.
In his response, counsel to the respondent, Mr. Lawal Pedro (SAN), urged the court to dismiss the appeal and uphold the judgment of the lower court.
Pedro argued that apart from the evidence of PW1 and 2, there were other evidence from the defendants, which supports the counts of conspiracy and murder.
He therefore urged the court to dismiss the appeal for lack of merit.
Justice Augie then reserved judgment to a date that will be communicated to the parties.
Both Al-Mustapha and Shofolahan were arraigned in October 1999 on a four-count charge bordering on conspiracy and their involvement in the 1996 murder of the deceased, along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
Justice Dada had found them guilty of the offence, and accordingly convicted and sentenced them to death by hanging.
The appellants had however, appealed the decision 24-hours after they were convicted.
They challenged the judgment of Justice Dada.
In the notice of appeal, the appellants contended that the death sentence handed them was unwarranted, unreasonable and a manifest miscarriage of justice.
They also contended that the trial judge erred in law by arriving at the conclusion that they conspired to kill Alhaja Kudirat on June 4, 1996.
The appellants faulted the judge's treatment of the contradictory statements of Barnabas Jabila (aka Sgt. Rogers) and Mohmamed Abdul.
They also faulted the court's reliance on the testimony of Dr. Ore Falomo on the bullet extracted from the late Kudirat.
According to the appellants, the court's rejection of portions of Jabila's testimony which favoured them and applying only areas which did not favor them, was a gross miscarriage of justice.