Al-Mustapha Hamza; Major in the Nigerian army, an otherwise unknown soldier who played a pivotal role in determining the country’s direction and future. Born July 27, 1960 in Ngiru, Yobe State, Al-Mustapha was appointed Chief Security Officer to the Head of State with a Special Strike Force Unit during General Abacha‘s military regime (November 17, 1993 – June 8,1998). After about 15 years of incarceration, based on a series of allegations including extra-judicial killings under the regime of the late Abacha, he regained freedom on the heels of the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Lagos, which discharged and acquitted him of the June 4, 1996 murder of Kudirat Abiola.
With the death of Abacha, the former CSO to the Head of State was schemed out of the military politics, which eventually threw up Gen. Abudusalami Abubakar as the new Head of State. Some months after the new government became comfortable on its seat in 1998, Al-Mustapha was posted out of the Presidential Villa to Enugu, where he was first accused of being in possession of Abacha’s property. He faced a number of panels over series of allegations, one of which was the importation of ammunition from Libya to remove Abubakar as the Head of State. He also faced the Special Investigation Panel set up by President Obasanjo‘s administration, which succeeded Abubakar’s[i].
Al-Mustapha, alongside Mohammed Abacha, son of the dictator and a couple of others stood trial for their alleged involvement in the murder of Kudirat, wife of late Moshood Abiola, winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election[ii]. Mustapha however claimed he was prosecuted for being in possession of a tape that captured MKO Abiola’s last moment, presumed winner of the June 12 presidential election which was annulled[iii]. Sergeant Rogers, the deadly hit-man of the Abacha Strike Force, confronted Al Mustapha and some of his former masters with damning revelations during murder trial in 2000[iv]. The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos in 2013 discharged and acquitted Al-Mustapha and Shofolahan, an ex-aide to the late Kudirat, effectively upturning the Lagos High Court, which sentenced both men to death by hanging. He was escorted to Kano by Dr. Federick Fasheun, founder of the Oodua People’s Congress, then a party leader to the discontentment of strong interests in the west region where Abiola come from[v]. The fire incident in the house of Al Mustapha’s brother, Haidi on June 8, 1998, the day Head of State, General Abacha died, was recounted by him as possible arson targeted at him[vi].
Al-Mustapha was from 1993-1998 the keeper of the ruling dynasty of Nigeria under Abacha, a position he held with the innocuous title of “Chief Security Officer to the Head of State”. In his glory days, it was not unusual for serving and retired top ranking military officers to wait for hours to see him. At his whim, he could summon the head of any government parastatals including bank managing directors to his office. It is said that in 1995, Al-Mustapha kept the managing director of a government parastatal waiting in Abuja for two days without him succeeding in seeing Mustapha[vii].
[i] Punch July 13, 2013
[ii] TELL May 8, 2000
[iii] Punch June 17, 2017
[iv] Tell January 24, 2000
[v] Guardian July 28, 2013
[vi] Insider July 21, 2003
[vii] Tell May 15, 1995