The Lagos High Court on Tuesday October 4, 2022, heard an audio recording of a phone conversation between Chidinma Ojukwu and Abubakar Mohammed, a security guard at the rented short-let service apartment where Michael Usifo Ataga, the Chief Executive Officer of Super TV was murdered.
Ms Ojukwu is standing trial for Mr Ataga’s murder before the court sitting at the Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos Island. She is also charged with stealing and forgery alongside her sister, Chioma Egbuchu, and one Adedapo Quadri.
In the audio recording, the court heard Ojukwu saying hello while Mohammed also responded by saying hello, who is this?
The first defendant replied, “It’s me” and then she asked the security guard about Ataga’s car.
She said, “Is the car around?” “Which car?” Mohammed responded.
She then said: “The Range Rover; that my oga car, the black Range Rover”.
The court also heard when Mohammed asked her why she hasn’t returned since Tuesday night that she left. She responded by saying that she went for a meeting, then he asked her how about Ataga, and she said he was fine.
In the conversation, the court further heard where Mohammed told the first defendant that as she was not around he could not go and knock on the man’s door.
He further asked her what time she was coming back; she said I am coming; while she was saying “I am coming,” Mohammed asked her to please use her number to call him so that he can have it, and she said ok.
Before listening to this recording, the Lagos State Deputy Director for Public Prosecutions, Mrs Adenike Oluwafemi, asked the ninth prosecution witness, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Olusegun Bamidele, to confirm his testimony of May 9, where he told the court about the security guard’s interaction and conversation with the first defendant.
Bamidele confirmed the evidence he gave before the court and how he had testified that the security guard transferred the audio conversation to his Infinix Hot 4, smartphone.
He said that the audio was attached to their office desktop and with the help of one of his senior colleagues who is very conversant with ICT; it was burned into a Compact Disc.
Asked if he would be able to identify the CD, the witness said yes. When it was shown to him, he identified it and also told the court that he attached a certificate of compliance to the CD.
The prosecution tendered the CD in evidence but the first defendant’s counsel, Onwuka Egwu, objected to the tendering of the CD on the grounds that Bamidele (PW9) was not the maker of the CD.
“The alleged maker of the CD, is Mohammed (PW2) and the prosecution had not made the required document of why this court will make do with a hearsay document when the author had already given evidence as PW2”.
Egwu cited Section 83 1 (a) (ii), 2011 of the Evidence Act and said:
“The prosecution has not laid any of this foundation of the tendering of the document through Segun Bamidele. If the prosecution actually desires and wants to rely on this document, PW2 ought to have been called.”
In her reply, Oluwafemi said,
“It is trite law that whatever the investigation Police Officer gathered as evidence is direct evidence and not hearsay. Finally, admissibility is based on relevance.”
In a short ruling on the arguments of the prosecution and defence counsel, Justice Yetunde Adesanya dismissed the objection of the defence counsel.
Justice Adesanya held that on June 16, 2021, PW2, gave evidence of how he asked the first defendant some questions and she answered. She said:
“The maker of the audio recording has already been called to this court and so there is no requirement necessary for the presentation of the gadget; the evidence sought to be tendered stays and the objection is misconceived and is hereby dismissed, I so hold.”
The audio CD was marked as exhibit PW22A and the certificate of compliance was marked as exhibit PW23B.
When the prosecution also sought to tender the pictures and video recordings which were transferred into the Infinix Hot 4, smartphone, of the witness, by the IPO from Maroko Police Station, the first defendant’s counsel also objected that he was not the maker of the documents.
Justice Adesanya has adjourned the case to October, 6, 2022, for the continuation of the trial.
On the last adjourned date on July 7, the case was stalled as counsel to Ojukwu, Egwu, was absent and had applied to the court to vacate the date as he was stuck in Anambra State due to flight delay.
The three defendants were arraigned on October 12, 2021, on a nine-count charge preferred against them by Lagos State Government.
Ojukwu and Quadri are facing the first to eight counts bordering on conspiracy, murder, stabbing, forgery, making of bank statements, and stealing.
The third defendant, Egbuchu, is facing the ninth count – stealing of iPhone 7 belonging to the late Ataga.
Ojukwu and Quadri are alleged to have conspired and murdered Ataga on June 15, 2021, by stabbing him several times with a knife on the neck and chest.
This allegedly took place at 19, Adewale Oshin Street, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos.
The duo was also accused of committing forgery by procuring and making bank account statements purported to have been made by the deceased.