Ataga: Alleged murderer Chidinma’s audio conversation with security guard heard in court
The Lagos High Court on Tuesday heard an audio recording of a phone conversation between Chidinma Ojukwu and Abubakar Mohammed, a security guard at the apartment Usifo Ataga, the Super TV CEO, was murdered.
Ms Ojukwu is standing trial for Mr Ataga’s murder. She is also charged with stealing and forgery alongside her sister, Chioma Egbuchu, and Adedapo Quadri.
In the audio recording, the court heard Ms Ojukwu saying “hello” while Mr Mohammed responded by saying “hello.”
The guard asked, “Who is this?”
Ms Ojukwu responded, “It is me,” and then asked the security guard about Mr Ataga’s car.
She asked, “Is the car around?”
“Which car?” Mr Mohammed said, and Ms Ojukwu replied, “The Range Rover, that my oga’s car, the black Range Rover.”
The court also heard when Mr Mohammed asked her why she had not returned since Tuesday night that she left, and she said she went for a meeting.
Mr Mohammed then asked her about Mr Ataga, and she said he was fine. He further asked her when she would return. She said, “I am coming.”
While she was saying she was coming, Mr Mohammed asked her to use her phone number to call him so he could have her number. She agreed.
Adenike Oluwafemi, the deputy director of public prosecutions, asked the ninth prosecution witness, DSP Olusegun Bamidele, to confirm his May 9 testimony when he told the court about the security guard’s conversation with Ms Ojukwu.
Mr Bamidele confirmed the evidence and recalled how he testified that Mr Mohammed transferred the audio conversation to his Infinix Hot 4. He said the audio was attached to his office desktop and that with the help of a senior colleague with deep knowledge of information and communication technology, he copied the audio to a CD.
The prosecution tendered the disc in evidence, but the first defendant’s counsel, Onwuka Egwu, objected because Mr Bamidele (PW9) was not the maker of the disc.
He said, “The alleged maker of the CD is Mohammed (PW2).”
He argued that there was no satisfactory reason for the prosecution to request that the court accept a “hearsay document” when the author gave evidence as PW2.
Mr Egwu cited section 83 1 (a) (ii), 2011 of the Evidence Act and said, “The prosecution has not laid any of this foundation for tendering of the document through Segun Bamidele. If the prosecution actually wants to rely on this document, PW2 ought to have been called.”
However, Mr Quadri’s counsel, Babatunde Busari, did not object, but the counsel to Ms Egbuchu, the third defendant, Mr 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, Ms 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, Justice Yetunde Adesanya dismissed the defence’s objection. Ms Adesanya held that, on June 16, 2021, PW2 gave evidence about how he asked Ms Ojukwu some questions, and she answered.
“The maker of the audio recording has already been called to this court, and there is no requirement for the presentation of the gadget. Objection is hereby dismissed, I so hold,’’ she said.
The audio CD was marked as exhibit PW22A, and the certificate of compliance was marked as exhibit PW23B. Ms Adesanya adjourned the case until October 6 to continue the trial.
The three defendants were arraigned on October 12, 2021, on a nine-count charge brought by the Lagos government.
Ms Ojukwu and Mr Quadri are facing the first to eight counts of 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 Mr Ataga.
Ms Ojukwu and Mr Quadri were alleged to have conspired and murdered Mr Ataga on June 15, 2021, by stabbing him with a knife in the neck and chest.
The alleged murder occurred at 19 Adewale Oshin St., Lekki Phase 1, Lagos.
The duo were also accused of committing forgery by procuring and making bank account statements purported to have been made by the deceased.
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