BACKSTORY TO THE KILLING
In May 1996, the month before Kudirat Abiola was mercilessly gunned
down, she had been briefly detained for a few hours for allegedly
possessing publications critical of the Nigerian military government
headed by General Sani Abacha. Although her husband and billionaire
businessman, Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, was already jailed over
charges of treason, Kudirat became the tireless advocate for his freedom
and return of his mandate. The beautiful woman soon became one of the
most dreaded foes of Abacha.
On a Tuesday, 4th
of June, 1996, around 3:05 pm one of the most senseless murders in
Nigeria was carried out. A sparkling white Mercedes Benz was cruising
along the streets of Lagos. As the car slowed down around 7-Up Depot/Bus
Stop in Ikeja, they were attacked by six men who suddenly opened fire
on the German machine: Mrs. Abiola, her assistant (who had just been
released by the police) and chauffeur were in the car.
The assassins approached her car and opened a volley of gunfire. The
vehicle came to a halt as the driver was hit. A bullet flying from
nowhere lodged itself in Kudirat’s forehead, penetrating her skull and
smashing her brain. The trauma must have been too much for the poor
woman. She lost consciousness and was rushed in that state to the Eko
Hospital for urgent medical attention. All efforts made by the medical
team to save her life failed. Kudirat Abiola died, with a gaping bullet
wound on her forehead. She was 44. Her driver too did not survive the
attack. Both were shot at close range.
the assassination of Kudirat Abiola at the age of 44, his government
announced a $45,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of her
killers. Abacha blamed terrorism and the increasing crime rate in the
country for her assassination.
Mrs. Abiola was with
her assistant and driver on the streets of Lagos, while in her white
Mercedes Benz, they were attacked by six (some say three) men in a
vehicle driven by Mohamed Abdulof, who rained bullets on them with a
Belgium-made FN P90 submachine gun/compact assault rifle which is quite
driver was shot and he died while her personal assistant, Michael
Adesina, was unhurt. She died from gunshot injuries to the forehead. She
was rushed to the Eko Hospital after the attack. Before the killing,
Kudirat Abiola had complained of threats to her life and that she was
being trailed by unknown men. In May 1996, a month to her killing, she
was arrested and detained briefly for possessing publications that were
deemed critical of the Abacha junta.
THE WEAPON USED IN KILLING KUDIRAT
Made in Belgium and described as a selective fire personal defence weapon, it is compact but highly efficient.
for 1990, the year it was made by FN Herstal, the weapon is ideal for
vehicle crews, support personnel, special forces and counterterrorist
teams. Weighing 2.6 kg and just 50.5 cm long, it is in use by the US
Secret Service and its standard variant is not available to civilians.
It has an integrated reflector sight system, back-up iron sights, fully
ambidextrous control meaning it can be easily used by right or
left-handed shooters and can fire 900 rounds per minute to a maximum
distance of 1,800m.
See videos of the gun in action below:
BUILDUP TO THE ASSASSINATION AND AFTERMATH
Rogers (Barnabas Jabila) later confessed that the ‘contract’ to snuff
life out of Kudirat was given by the Chief Security Officer to General
Sani Abacha, Major Hamza al-Mustapha, to Rabo Lawal, who was in charge
of the mobile police (MOPOL) force at the presidential villa. Rogers
also said the killer team was then provided with Uzi rifles complete
with silencer and cash for the operation, all in the presence of
Mohammed Abacha, son of the head of state. He claimed to have had direct
involvement in the assassination with Lawal. Rogers said he was sent to
kill three times but succeeded only with Kudirat Abiola failing with
NADECO chieftain Abraham Adesanya and Alex Ibru.
In order to penetrate the security network of the Abiolas, the killer
squad went via Alhaji Lateef Shofolahan, Alhaja Kudirat’s personal
assistant. There were two attempts to assassinate Kudirat, the first
attempt was planned to take place right inside the residence of MKO
Abiola but when the assailants discovered that would be too dangerous,
they abandoned the plan only for them to continue their surveillance of
their primary target, Alhaja Kudirat Abiola.
the gunmen successfully got their target killed, each member of the
killer team was reportedly given the sum of N50,000 ($250) by Major
Al-Mustapha for a job well done. The announcement of Kudirat’s killing
was made by Mudashiru, a brother to MKO Abiola, he said the very
afternoon she was shot:
THE RESPONSE OF THE NIGERIAN MILITARY GOVERNMENT
Following the killing of Alhaja Kudirat, the Nigerian junta headed by
General Sani Abacha. His government offered the sum of $45,000 as reward
for information leading to the arrest of those who killed Kudirat.
Abacha’s government placed the blame of Kudirat’s killing on the
increasing spiral of violence and terrorism in the country. Before the
assassination, Mrs. Kudirat had been complaining that there were threats
to her life, that unknown men were trailing her. The military
government would later send a ‘high-powered’ delegation to the Abiola
family to commiserate with them over the brutal assassination of their
In the videos below, Kudirat, the wife of the late MKO Abiola is shown watching General Abacha on the television:
Kudirat Abiola Watching General Sani Abacha on TV 2
Kudirat Abiola Watching General Sani Abacha on TV
in May 2001, a Federal High Court in Abuja declared that Mohammed had
no case to answer in the Kudirat Abiola charges and was roped in simply
on circumstantial evidence. He was released and went to Kano where he
was treated to a hero’s welcome by hordes of Abacha’s supporters. He
would later refuse to sign the proposed settlement agreement with the
FGN announced by the Swiss authorities in April 2001. At about the same
time, he was paid a visit by General Muhammadu Buhari who announced he
was going to run against Obasanjo come 2003. Assuming Buhari won, it is
safe to assume that the Abacha family would have had a better deal but
Buhari lost to Baba Iyabo.
- South Africa was vociferous in its condemnation of the killing
of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola. The South African government called the
assassination of the woman a horrifying event. The SA Foreign Minister
Alfred Nzo while calling for the release of Abiola said: “It is all the
more regrettable that this tragedy occurred while her husband remains
- The spokesman for the British Foreign Office called the shooting ‘tragic news’.
- Nigerian activists represented by Shina Loremikan,
spokesperson of the Campaign for Democracy pressure group: “The Civil
Liberties Organization calls for a judicial panel of enquiry for a
thorough investigation of the circumstances leading to the brutal murder
and prosecution of the culprits. This is a very bad omen for the
nation. We need an immediate return to democracy because the military
regime with all its might still cannot guarantee the safety of life.”
Femi Ojo-Ade analyzed the murder as follows:
her sudden, and speedy elimination, Kudirat had become one more victim
of harassment in the hands of those holding the poor country in bondage.
Everyone with a brain knew exactly why: Unlike many others echoing
their master’s voice by calling for compromise, dialogue, and connivance
as the best way forward, the woman kept insisting on her husband’s
right to justice.
In Nigeria, if you
insist on your right, you are adjudged to be confrontational. Since the
military and their brothers and sisters from the North have been chosen
by the Almighty to rule the country forever, it makes sense that, if you
are oppressed, battered, butchered, or whatever, it is your duty to beg
the oppressors who are simply acting out their God-given right. You
must not resist, because Allah has decided the condition to which you
must resign yourself. Maybe that is why Kudirat’s submissive family did
not deem it necessary to cry out on her behalf while she was still
Maybe another reason would be more
pertinent. They were convinced she was being confrontational or, worse
still, over-ambitious, obsessed with first ladyship (as Abiola’s most
senior wife) and the power deriving from the position. Now, as far as
the first ladyship is concerned, let us agree that, in the Nigerian
context, particularly in the performance of those two namesakes who
followed each other in proving their care for the Nigerian Woman and
Family by piling up billions, there is reason to fear, or envy,
Kudirat’s potential. Which does not mean that she was into anything
unheard of, or beyond her right. For, whether the Abiolas or all of us
like it or not, she was the man’s senior wife and, therefore, in charge
of the household, and his affairs, while he remained in jail. Kudirat
proved her mettle during the 1993 election campaign. Her husband never
has any reason to doubt her competence. The very fact that, throughout
his ongoing travails, she was the ONLY member of his family with enough
courage to speak out, and to refuse to veer from the path of justice and
fair play, shows that Kudirat was a superior human being.
Before she was killed, Kudirat was embroiled in a quarrel with Abiola’s
first son, Kola, over the choice of attorneys. The case was, and still
is, in court. The two lawyers are, G. K. O. Ajayi, and F. R. A.
Williams, both of them well-respected in the profession. Kudirat stuck
with Ajayi, the one handling the case from the beginning, while Kola
preferred Williams who, according to him, and Falomo, Abiola’s personal
doctor, has been chosen as replacement by Abiola himself. This last
piece of information or, let us say, clarification of near- (now, total,
with Kudirat’s passing) unanimity, is contained in a full-page
advertorial by the family, published in several newspapers on June 16,
1996. The signatories are, Alhaji Mubashiru Abiola, the detainee’s
junior brother, and Alhaji Adio Kassim, a close family friend. It is
useful to make a comprehensive analysis of the published statement.
the family members express their gratitude to the federal military
government, ‘for sending a high-powered delegation to express heart-felt
sympathies over the death of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola.’
Kudirat was assassinated in 1996, it would not be until the presidency
of Olusegun Obasanjo that investigations would be properly launched into
the affair. However, all the senior police and military chiefs
implicated in the assassination denied having anything to do with it.
Al-Mustapha said not once did he order Rogers to kill anybody and the
former army chief, Lt. General Ishaya Bamaiyi washed his hands of any
On his own, Mohammed Abacha
said he only saw Al-Mustapha giving some weapons to Sergeant Rogers for
an operation but that he was not aware of the operation and did not take
part in the killing of anybody. Rogers maintained he was saying the
truth and that he even got the weapons (to kill Alex Ibru) from General
Bamaiyi, who was the Lagos Garrison Commander and even got cover from
the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, who ordered the diversion of a
police patrol team away from the premises of Guardian newspapers.
November 2007, Mr. Mohammed Abdul, a driver to the defunct Presidential
Strike Force aka Abacha Killer Squad narrated in court what happened
that fateful day:
“Alhaji Mohammed called me and
told me to go to Dodan Barracks in Lagos and work with the squad to
carry out the said assignments.
“I went to Dodan Barracks and met Lawal, a Chief Superintendent of police and Rogers.
drove them to the places where we carried out the three operations. We
carried out surveillance before each of the operations.
were aided in this task by the Personal Assistant to the late Mrs.
Abiola, Alhaji Lati, who gave us the information and pointed many places
”The places we visited during our preparation
for the attack were Victoria Island, Igbosere, Dolphin Estate, Ikeja
and Dodan Barracks, which we normally returned to after every operation.
”I am an experienced driver who knows Lagos very well. Five of us were in the team that carried out the operations.
five are myself, Lawal, Rogers, Aminu Mohammed, and Sunmaila Shaibu,
who was later killed in a bomb blast at Abuja Airport. But Aminu only
took part in the two of the operations.”
” Before the attack, Lati took us to Abiola’s house on Toyin Street, Ikeja.
actually drove in and entered the compound. Lati conducted us briefly
round the compound and pointed to some vehicles before we drove out. We
went to drop him (Lati) in his house at Surulere.
the day of the attack, we followed Kudirat Abiola’s white Mercedez Benz
from Ikeja to Allen Avenue and then to Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. When we
got to the Toll Gate area, Rogers asked me to get close to the Benz and
”Then, he (Rogers) leaned out of the window
and started spraying the victim with bullets with the P 90 rifle. After,
we immediately drove to Dodan Barracks.”
1999, after the arrest of Major Hamza Al-Mustapha and others, Alhaji
Mohammed (Mohammed Abacha) called me and told me to go to Abuja and
gather up everybody who took part in the operations for the purpose of
leaving the country.
“He offered us money for
the travel and later gave me $10, 000. I travelled to Abuja to inform
two of those who participated- Aminu and Rogers. Rogers was not
interested in leaving the country.
”I travelled to
Niger Republic with Aminu, but I kept $9,800 out of the $10, 000 given
to me by Mohammed with a friend and went to Niger with only $200 but I
came back four days later.
”When I came back I
collected the money, and changed it to naira. I intended to use the
money to buy a car because that was the only thing I did not have then. I
already had a house.
“But on my way to where I would buy the car, armed robbers attacked me and stole the money.”
also claimed that the P90 rifle they used in killing Kudirat Abiola and
the attempted assassination of Chief Abraham Adesanya was given to them
by former Zamfara State military administrator, Bala Yakubu.
Rogers narrate in the video below how they assassinated Kudirat Abiola:
- MONDAY, 27TH OCTOBER, 1997: The Kudirat Abiola Corner of the 44th
Street and Second Avenue in New York, United States of America was
installed in 1997 in her honour. The name change faced serious
opposition from the Nigerian government and far-right American leader
- The Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND) was set up by her daughter, Hafsat Abiola.
- Radio Kudirat was named in her honour.