Lagos court hears audio conversation of Chidinma, security guard in Ataga’s murder trial
Justice Yetunde Adesanya of a Lagos High Court sitting at Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), yesterday, played an audio recording of phone conversation between Chidinma Ojukwu and the security guard Abubakar Mohammed at the rented short-let service apartment, where Michael Usifo Ataga, the Chief Executive Officer of Super TV was allegedly murdered.
The trial judge played the audio conversation in an ongoing trial of Ojukwu alongside her sister, Chioma Egbuchu, and one Adedapo Quadri, for alleged stealing, forgery and murder of Ataga.
At the resumed hearing, the Lagos State Deputy Director for Public Prosecutions (DDPP), Mrs. Adenike Oluwafemi, asked the witness, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) 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, the ninth prosecution witness had in his evidence, told the court that the security guard transferred the audio conversation to his Hot 4 Infinix smart phone.
He testified that the audio was attached to their office desktop and with the help of one of his senior colleagues, who is very conversant with information communication technology (ICT), it was burned into a Compact Disc.
The witness identified the CD and also told the court that he attached a certificate of compliance to the CD. The prosecution counsel sought to tender the CD in evidence, but the first defendant’s counsel, Onwuka Egwu, objected to the tendering of the CD, on grounds that Bamidele (PW9) was not the maker of the CD.
Egwu argued that the alleged maker of the CD is Mohammed (PW2), and cited Section 83 1 (a) (ii), 2011 of the Evidence Act to buttress his argument.
He said the prosecution has not laid proper foundation to tender the document through Bamidele. Counsel to the second defendant (Quadri), Mr. Babatunde Busari, said he had no objection as the document does not relate to the second defendant, but the counsel to the third defendant (Egbuchu), C. J. Jiakponna aligned himself with the first defendant’s counsel.
Jiakponna submitted that due process must be followed, noting that the prosecution did not lay the foundation as to the author of document. He argued that the author ought to appear before the court if it will not amount to hearsay.
The prosecution counsel submitted that, ‘it is trite law that whatever the investigating Police Officer gathered as evidence is a direct evidence and not hearsay’. Adding that admissibility is based on relevance.
In a bench ruling, the trial judge dismissed the defendants’ objection and admitted the document. The court stressed that on June 16, 2021, PW2, gave evidence of how he asked the first defendant some questions and she answered.
“ The maker of the audio recording has already been called to this court and there is no requirement of the presentation of the gadget, the evidence sought to be tendered stays and the objection is misconceived and is hereby dismissed, I so hold,” she ruled.
The audio CD was marked as exhibit PW22(A) and the certificate of compliance marked as exhibit PW23(B). In the audio recording, Ojukwu was heard saying hello while Mohammed also responded by saying hello, who is this? The first defendant (Ojukwu) said its me, and then she asked the security guard about Ataga’s car.
“Is the car around? Mohammed answered, Which car? She said the Range Rover, that is my oga car ,the black Range Rover.
“Mohammed asked her why she hasn’t returned since on Tuesday night that she left, but she responded by saying that she went for a meeting, then he asked her how about the man, she said he was fine.”
In the conversation the court also heard where Mohammed told the first defendant that since she was not around he could not go and knock on the man’s door, he then asked her if the man was alive, she told him that Ataga was alive.
He (Mohammed) 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, she said ok.
However, when the prosecution also sought to tender the pictures made from video recordings, which was transferred into the Infinix Hot 4, smart phone, of the witness, by the IPO from Maroko Police Station, the first defendant’s counsel also objected that he was not the one that made the documents.
The trial Justice Adesanya subsequently adjourned the case to October, 6, 2022, for continuation of trial. Recall that the 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, while Ojukwu and Quadri are alleged to have conspired to murder 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.
The duo were also accused of committing forgery by procuring and making bank account statements purported to have been made by the deceased.