A retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice James Ogebe, said at the weekend that the late maximum ruler, Gen. Sani Abacha, tried to force the judiciary to deny bail to the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential election, late Chief Moshood Abiola.
Justice Ogebe, who disclosed this at the launch of a book he wrote to mark his the 80th birthday, said after Abiola was arrested and detained for declaring himself president-elect, the late dictator asked the Court of Appeal to dismiss the late business mogul’s bail application.
The book which is an autobiography of the octogenarian is titled: “Justice Under the Shadow of the Almighty; My Life Sojourn to the Nigerian Supreme Court.”
The late Abiola was the acclaimed winner of the 1993 election that was controversially annulled by a former military President, Ibrahim Babangida.
The businessman was arrested in June 1994 in Epetedo area of Lagos Island after he declared himself the country’s president-elect.
He died in detention on July 8, 1998.
According to the retired Supreme Court’s Justice, after a panel of justices of the appellate court that heard the bail application, including himself, decided that Abiola deserved bail, the late head of state in a bid to reverse the ruling extended the compulsory retirement age of Justices of the Supreme Court from 65 to 70 years.
He declared that the action was to frustrate the hearing of an appeal against the late Abiola’s incarceration by the military junta.
He said: “There is a very intriguing historical footnote to my ascension to the Supreme Court. When business mogul- turned politician, Moshood Abiola, was arrested after declaring himself President in the June 12, 1993 election, I was put on a panel of Appeal Court Justices who granted him bail.
“Gen. Abacha’s regime did not take kindly to our decision and appealed against our decision to the Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court could not form a quorum because many of the Justices recused themselves since they had a libel lawsuit against Abiola’s Concord Newspaper.
“There was accordingly, a stalemate because of shortages of Justices on the Supreme Court.”
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