The audio recording of a phone conversation between Chidinma Ojukwu and the security guard, Abubakar Mohammed, at the rented short-let service apartment where Michael Ataga, the Chief Executive Officer of Super TV, was allegedly murdered, was Tuesday heard by the court.
Ojukwu is standing trial on charges of murder, theft, and forgery alongside her sister, Chioma Egbuchu, and one Adedapo Quadri before the Lagos High Court sitting at Tafawa Balewa Square.
In the audio recording that was played, the court heard Ojukwu saying hello while Mohammed also responded by saying hello, who is this? The first defendant said it is me, and then she asked the security guard about Ataga’s car.
She asked the security man “Is the car around? To which the guard replied ‘’which car.’’ Chidinma said, ‘’that my oga car, the black Range Rover.”
The court also heard Mohammed telling the first defendant that, as she was not around, he could not go and knock on the man’s door. He then asked her if the man was alive and she replied that Ataga was alive.
He further asked her what time she was coming back; she said, “I am coming.” Mohammed then asked her to use her phone number to call him so that he can have it, to which she replied, “ok”.
Earlier, 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 on 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.
Asked if he would be able to identify the Compact Disc, 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.
However, the prosecution tendered the CD in evidence, but the first defendant’s counsel, Onwuka Egwu, objected to the tendering of the CD because Bamidele (PW9) was not the maker of the CD.
He said, “The alleged maker of the CD is Mohammed (PW2), and the prosecution has not made the required document as to why this court will make do with a hearsay document when the author has 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 desires and wants to rely on this document, PW2 ought to have been called,” he said.
Meanwhile, the second Quadri’s counsel, Babatunde Busari, said he had no objection as the document does not relate to the second defendant, and the third defendant, Egbuchu’s counsel C. J. Jiakponna aligned himself with the first defendant’s counsel.
He said, “Due process must be followed, this is a court of law. They did not lay the foundation. The author of this document is supposed to appear before your lordship. This is hearsay.”
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 counsels, Justice Yetunde Adesanya dismissed the objection of the defence.
Consequently, Justice Adesanya 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, who was absent and applied to the court to vacate the date as he was stuck in Anambra State due to a flight delay.
The three defendants were arraigned on October 12, 2021, on a nine-count charge preferred against them by the 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 an 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.
The alleged murder took place at 19, Adewale Oshin Street, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos State.
The duo were also accused of committing forgery by procuring and making bank account statements purported to have been made by the deceased.