Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Murder of Kudirat Abiola: Shofolahan Denies Working For Mrs. Abiola

Alhaji Lateef Sofolahan 

For many years, Lateef Shofolahan has been presented in discussions of the unsolved 1999 murder of Kudirat Abiola, who was the wife of the winner of the June 12 1993 presidential election, as having been her employee.
 Today, he indignantly told the court, “I never worked for her in any capacity.”
The defence had said that Shofolahan, in a statement made to the Special Investigation Panel (SIP) in 1999, been identified as Mrs. Kudirat Abiola’s Protocol Officer who ran errands for her, travelled with her and dealt with her visitors. “How can a person who never worked as a protocol officer become her servant?” the defendant challenged. “Why hasn’t any of her friends or associates come before this court and say that I delivered a message to them from Alhaja Kudi?”

Going further, Shofolahan, who is charged along with Hamza Al-Mustapha, the former Chief Security Officer (CSO) to General Abacha, called on the court to invite members of the Abiola family to come forward to identify him. He stated that on August 8, 1999, following his arrest by the Special Investigation Panel (SIP) in Abuja, he had also asked Mrs Ojomo to call in a family member of the Abiola’s to come and confirm if he was ever worked for their family.   He said he even told them to “handcuff my arms and legs and take me to the family house for identification, which they have not done till date.”
He said his only meeting with Mrs. Abiola was at the offices of her husband’s campaign headquarters when she came by to pick up campaign posters.  Other Abiola wives such as Doyin and Bisi, also came to the office, he said. 
Mr. Shofolahan also told the court that the statement written by him on the 9th of August 1999 and given to the court in evidence was procured by military officers who tortured him mercilessly and dictated it to him. “I was forced to copy the statement on Saturday, 09/10/1999, a day after I was arrested,” he said, “and I was asked to date it 08/09/1999.”
Referring to that statement, he said that only his name, date of birth and residential address of 116, Ojuelegba Street, are correct.  He then urged the court to demand the video and voice recordings of the transaction between him and the investigators who allegedly coerced the statement out of him, as it would reveal the truth.
The defendant also denied knowing other defendants mentioned in the 08/10/1999 statement, including Serkin Shasha, Rabo Lawal and Hamza al-Mustapha. He said Shasha never took him to Mustapha, and jokingly added, “The only place I know called Shasha is the place along the tow-gate on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.”
In the case of Mustapha, he said he met the former military officer twice before they were both detained.  “I know Mustapha openly in 1998 where he sat on the high-table at Eagle square, wearing agbada with 20 other ministers at the two-million man march for Abacha where I was a delegate from Lagos.”
Asked about his background by defence counsel Olalekan Ojo, Shofolahan described his relationship with the Abiola family was when he was a protocol officer to MKO Abiola’s campaign officer in 1993.”  In that capacity, he said he moved guests between the Campaign Office and Gateway Hotel in Sango Otta.
Prior to that job, he told the court he had been a beer distributor, an engagement “which I continued in 1995 till 1998 when I joined the Olusegun Obasanjo campaign for the 1999 presidential election.”   He left the Abiola campaign office in July 1993 after the organization led was dissolved.”
Testifying further, Mr Shofolahan also denied knowing Bernabas Jabilla (Sergent Rogers), Rabo Lawal, Mohammed Abdul (Katako), or AVM Idi Musa, all of whom were referred to in his statement as accomplices. He said he met Rabo Lawal on at the SIP on 09/10/1999.
Responding to a question as to whether he would have copied a statement which claimed he murdered Mrs. Abiola, the defendant said, “Anything they ask me to copy, I will copy to gain my freedom.”
The case was adjourned to November 21 2011 after the judge summoned both counsels to admit their written addresses for adoption before she delivery of judgement."

Vanguard newspaper, Lagos

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