Justice Ibrahim Saulawa of the Court of Appeal, Lagos on Thursday declined hearing an appeal filed by Major Hamza Al-Mustapha and Lateef Shofolahan, challenging a death sentence against them.
Al-Mustapha, a former Chief Security Officer to late General Sanni Abacha, and Shofolahan, a former Personal Assistant to late Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, are challenging their death sentence by a Lagos High Court.
The convicts were sentenced to death on January 30, 2012 by Justice Mojisola Dada, for conspiracy in masterminding the murder of late Abiola.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the matter, which was schedule for arguments of parties, could not continue as the presiding justice declined hearing for personal reasons.
Saulawa told the appellants’ counsel that he could only assist them in recording a further date for arguments, but will not participate in hearing the main appeal.
He, therefore, adjourned the case to June 10, for hearing.
Meanwhile, the judge granted two applications filed by Pedro Lawal, SAN, and Olalekan Ojo, counsel to the respondent and second appellant, respectively.
Lawal, in his application, sought to amend his respondent’s brief by substituting it and deeming same as been properly filed and served.
Ojo, on his part, prayed for an order deeming his reply to the amended respondent’s brief, as properly filed and served.
Saulawa granted the applications, adding that it was the much he could do in the matter.
NAN recalls that the convicts were arraigned in October 1999 on a four-count charge bordering on conspiracy and involvement in the 1996 murder of the deceased.
Abiola was murdered in front of 7up Nigeria Plc, Oregun, on the Ikosi-Ketu Road in Lagos State.
Dada had found the convicts guilty of the offence and accordingly sentenced them to death by hanging.
Joseph Daudu, SAN, and Ojo, counsel to the first and second appellants, respectively had, however, appealed against the verdict 24-hours after the sentence of the convicts.
Al- Mustapha and Shofolahan had challenged the judgment.
In the notice of appeal, the appellants contended that the death sentence handed by the lower court was unwarranted, unreasonable and a manifest miscarriage of justice.
They contended that the judge erred in law by arriving at the conclusion that they conspired to kill the deceased on June 4, 1996.
The appellants faulted the treatment of the contradictory statements of Barnabas Jabila (aka Sergeant Rogers) and Mohammed Abdul, and reliance on the testimony of Dr. Ore Falomo, on the bullet extracted from the corpse.
They also faulted the court’s rejection of portions of Jabila’s testimony, which they felt favored them.
The appellants are therefore, praying the appellate court to entertain the appeal, set aside the judgment and discharge them of the charges of conspiracy and murder.
NAN reports that Al-Mustapha’s appeal is premised on four grounds, while that of his co-convict, Shofolahan, is hinged on five grounds.