Major Hamza Al-Mustapha
Sabella Ogbobode Abidde
World-wide, there have been more than a thousand “trials of the decade,” or “trials of the century.” Amongst these are the trial of Socrates in 399 B. C.; the trial of Galileo Galilei in1633; the Salem Witchcraft trial of 1692; the infamous Alger Hiss Trials 1949-50 ; the apartheid-era trial of Nelson Mandela1963-64 ; and the 1995 O. J. Simpson trial. And then there was the Nuremberg Trials which took place in Bavaria, Germany, from 1945 until 1949, and of course the recent Slobodan Milosevic trial at The Hague, which ended after almost five years without a formal verdict because Milosevic suffered a fatal heart attack.
Even in Nigeria, there have been some very famous court trials -- real and shambles. For instance, in November1962, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and 28 other members of his party, the Action Group (AG) was put on trial for treasonable felony. In the intervening years, great men like Fela Anikulapo Kuti and Gani Fawehinmi were also dragged through the court system on trumped up charges. University students, journalists and members of the intellectual class were also dragged through the system. Sometimes, the verdicts are clear; at other times, the cases simply “disappear.”
Every so often, however, we have instances were the cases go on and on and on almost without end. One such case is that of Al-Mustapha (and his alleged coconspirators). Indeed, peculiar circumstances may elongate trial durations. Under such a condition, the accused and the general public are made aware of the reasons why -- unless of course there are issues of national security at play. In the case of Al-Mustapha, the government, it seems, have simply decided to abridge his constitutional rights. If not, how else can they explain a decade long trial: a trial without end in sight!
Retired Major Hamza Al-Mustapha was the Chief Security Officer (CSO) to the Late General Sani Abacha. Amongst other charges, he was accused of “planning or helping to plan the murder of Mr. Alex Ibru, publisher of The Guardian newspaper.” Al-Mustapha may not be a nice man; and indeed, he may be one of the most despicable human beings that ever traversed Nigeria. But that’s not the point: he is not being held simply because he was not a nice fellow. He and his alleged coconspirators are being held because of a series of criminal complaints made against them.
Why are they still being held a decade after the allegations was first made? Why is Al-Mustapha still being detained without speedy and fair trial? A recent report by the Punch newspaper (Friday March 26 2010), stated that the “Absence of electricity supply at an Ikeja High Court on Thursday stalled the ongoing trial of Maj. Hamza al-Mustapha … Our correspondent, however, observed that there was power supply to all other courts except that of Justice Olokooba…” Other media houses also reported this strange event.
Is Al-Mustapha a security risk? We don’t know. Did he endanger the wellbeing of the nation? We don’t know. Is he a murderer? We don’t know. Did he conspire with others to kill the innocent? We don’t know. We don’t know the answers to these and other legal questions because the courts, either at the state or federal level, have not made a legal proclamation. A decade later, we still don’t know. Must it take another decade before he knows his fate and for us to know the answers? This is a travesty, a violation of his rights.
Sadly and unfortunately, the Nigerian Bar Association and the Civil Society in Nigeria have not deemed it fit to protest this illegality. To detain a man -- whether we like him or not -- for this long is unconscionable. His continued detention is against the law and common sense. Whatever Al-Mustapha did while an aide to General Abacha should not factor into how the courts treats him. If he committed prosecutable offenses, well then, let justice take its course -- fairly and speedily. Prosecute him now or set him free; prosecute him now or let him return to his family.
We cannot now embrace the same things we abhorred during the military regime when fellow Nigerians were detained without fair and speedy trials. We cannot condemn Al-Mustapha and then turn around and do to him what we are alleging he did to other Nigerians. Revenge is not justice; tit-for-tat is not justice. Throw the Criminal Code of Conduct at him, throw the Constitution at him; but do it in a fair and just manner.
What manner of law allows the government to incarcerate a man indefinitely; and what kind of people turns blind eyes to the illegal dealings of its government? The continuing detention of Hamza Al-Mustapha and others should be denounced by all peace and democracy loving Nigerians. If government can arbitrarily detain fellow Nigerians, then, none of us must feel safe and secured. At a time when we should be reaping the benefits of democratic rule -- our government is, essentially, kidnapping fellow Nigerians. If after ten years they cannot secure a conviction, how many more years do they need?
As responsible and civic-minded Nigerians, therefore, it is up to us to faithfully protest and vigorously condemn his continuing detention. It is our duty to help protect Hamza Al-Mustapha’s civil liberties. By doing so, we help to strengthen our position and our freedom before this and future governments. We safeguard our own constitutional rights if we help guarantee the constitutional rights of fellow Nigerians. We cannot and must leave this or future governments to its own devices. No. We’ll be courting disaster if we do so. Therefore, we must demand that government conclude this case within 90 days, or set the accused free. Let’s demand justice, not just for ourselves and for our friends, but also for our enemies and our critics.
Thank you for raising this very disturbing matter. Nigeria is a primitive and wicked country. Primitive in the sense that people do not care when they are not directly affected and wicked because people use their positions to oppress those they can oppress.
My former Senator once talked about "official wickedness" and I think this is it!
Tell me who is not using his position to oppress others in Nigeria? Even security guards use their positions to exploit visitors to their Ogas.
Nigeria needs the Rule of Law more than anything to survive!!
@ Sabella Ogbobode Abidde
Thanks for the thread. Our lawyers are often quick to tell us that justice delayed is justice denied. Unfortunately, delyed justice has become the order of the day in Nigeria. Lawyers deliberately frustrate the course of justice by asking for unnecessarily long adjournments and appeals on so called technicalities. It took 3 years to decide the Ngige/Obi gubernatorial tussle and Emordi senatorial tussle. Yet both governorship and senatorial tenures are 4 years! Compare these with OJ Simpson's trial, Clinton- Paula Jones' episode and a host of other cases. There have been cases when an accused spent more time in jail waiting for justice than the actual jail term prescribed for the offence. It is high time members of the legal proffesion convinced us that they truly believe that justice delayed is justice denied.
The case of Al-Mustapha & others will go down as one of the biggest travesty of justice in the history of Nigeria. The NBA & the office of the AG of Nigeria should be very ashamed for their silence & complicity in this travesty.
You have no idea how many folks are languishing in some rickety old buildings as awaiting trials in Obasanjo's modern Nigeria.
Though, I quite agree with u that justice should not be delayed.
There are one thousand and one inmates in Nigerian prisons awaiting judgement. I won't have any sleepless night over Al-Mustapha.
...hope envelope has not exchanged hands
We should worry about the Nigerian system and not one man who is obviously guilty of killing people.
Perhaps his being kept without trial is a ploy to prolong his life. I do not see him escaping with anything less than a life imprisonment in any fair court.
This guy masterminded and authorized assassinations and bombings. He should remain locked-up at the very least.
Al-Mustapha deliberately orchestrated legal bottle-necks to prolong his trial because he is trying to avoid a conviction which is almost definite.
Lateef Sofolahan and Bamaiyi who were both charged along with him had their cases concluded when they allowed the substantive issues to be adjudicated on.
I have no pity for Mustapha and will not rank him before hundreds of innocent Nigerians who are languishing in various prisons, police cells and detention centers across the country without trial. I will rather we agitate for those faceless, helpless and "unconnected" multitude first.
Please apply this above statement to all Nigerians detained without trial everywhere in the country and it will be less prejudiced and better received. I mean, what is special about Al-Mustapha?
If justice delayed is justice denied, what about justice unserved? That is absolute travesty!
The question still remains: Does Al Mustapha want his case disposed of within 90 days? If the guy wants it, it can be done. The onus lies on him.
I have followed the Abiola-Ibru-Mustafa-Bamaiyi saga with mixed feelings in the last eight years. Al mustafa was the chief security officer to the former Head of State, General Abacha. Mustafa sounds extremely intelligent? is he? .....yes. was he following the orders of his masters? yes. was his actions covered by military immunity?......probably.....relatively! Given all that have been revealed by his friends and foes, it is certain that Al Mustafa is innocent and ignorant of most of the sins he was assumed to have commmitted! At Least Mustafa was not power-hungry, or to say the least, the charismatic and witty major was not as power-thirsty as General Bamaiyi, Useni, etc, or Major Mustafa nursed the intention but was scared of the consequences of calling for a meeting of the then supreme ruling military elite, order their executions and then declare himself Head of State and Commander in chief. As usual, if he had done so, those greedy and insenstive multinational conglomerations that feed fat on the wealth of Nigeria, would have contributed to support the petty dictatorship! I think Mustafa should be looked at from different perspectives. Al-Mustafa is the victim of the victims of higher victims. No doubt, he was directly instrumental to the demise of many innocent lives, but we have to ask under whose orders!..........those of his conscience-less military superiors of course. Given the cult of stupidity and insecurity which we exist in and with, no man is worthy to judge Mustafa. Only God and nature can! Our nationalised imbecility is appalling! Mustafa's conscience, if he has one...........will be his only judge! He has suffered so much for the sins of his superiors. It is high time the nation's judiciary and presidency pardoned and let him go. The Nigerian Army, not Mustafa and the other children of lesser gods should be tried and convicted.Al Mustafa and co should be released. General Abdulsalami and other military elites that assumedly conspired to eliminate innocent nigerians should be accountable to the nation. Mustafa is not a saint, but I think Al Mustafa is probably the most intelligent Nigerian Army officer and strategist after the Late Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu. In the western world where we are, the likes of Al Mustafa should have been released, pardoned and used in other capacities for the benefit of the nation. We are open-minded Nigerians, and in the spirit of the growing humanism, Mustafa and co should be forgiven and released and put to better use, especially into the national security set-up to preserve the ongoing democracy. Irrespective of his shortcomings, the events that unfolded at the proverbial Oputa panel proved that Major Mustafa is a true Nigerian soldier, a gift to the Nigerian military..............I wish mustafa's operations were carried out against non-Nigerians and the corrupt elites, the true enemies of the country, than the weaker oponents of the Abacha junta. Please release him and other victims now.God bless Nigeria. God bless the sensitive that understand the plights of the helpless. only tolerance and forgivness can free. only truth can save. liberty is a slave to its security.