Court adjourns trial of undergraduate to enable prosecution put house in order

 A Lagos High Court  on Monday adjourned until April 26, trial of an undergraduate, Chidinma Ojukwu, charged with the alleged murder of  Mr Usifo Ataga, Chief Executive Officer of Super TV to enable the prosecution put its house in order.

Ojukwu is charged with murder, theft and forgery alongside her sister, Chioma Egbuchu, and one Adedapo Quadri.

The  Prosecution Counsel, Mrs A. O. Oluwafemi, told the court that the prosecution obtained a subpoena from the court and served the document on Access Bank and Guaranty Trust Bank.

Oluwafemi, also the Deputy Director of Lagos State Directorate Public Prosecutions, said that the subpoena was served on the two banks simply for the statement of accounts of the deceased (Ataga) be tendered in court.

She therefore called a representative of Access Bank, Mr Toafeek Lawal, to the witness box to present and tender the statement.

Lawal, the account officer of the deceased, told the court that a subpoena was served on the bank and the legal department advised that he should present the bank statements to the court.

“I was asked by the legal department of my bank to present both the Naira and Dollar accounts of the deceased to the court,” Lawal said.

The prosecution counsel, however, sought to tender the accounts statements but the first defendant counsel, Mr Onwuka Egwu, objected.

According to Egwu, Section 36 (6) (b) and (d) of the Constitution provides that the prosecution must make available materials they intend to use for prosecution before trial to avoid springing up surprises.

He said “before today, the prosecution has already front loaded documents they intended to rely upon.

“Apart from the Naira accounts, the domiciliary account was never mentioned in the proof of evidence given to us.

“The opening balance for each of the two statements of accounts initially given to us did not tally with this one.

“We urge the court to strike out the document. We are not supposed to be taken unawares”.

The second defendant counsel, Mr Babatunde Busari, in his reaction, said that the account numbers contained in the document was materially different from the earlier accounts given to him.

Busari, however, said that he did not have any objection “since the witness is a witness of the court and is here to tender a document”.

The third defendant counsel, Mr A. O. Ogunsanya, did not object to the tendering of the account statements.

But the prosecution counsel in her reply, said that the prosecution would not join issues with the defence counsel.

“We apply to withdraw the documents. We need to put our house in order, with regard to the bank statements.

“We have a witness is in court but we request for an adjournment till tomorrow to enable us put our house in order,” Oluwafemi said.

Justice Yetunde Adesanya, consequently, adjourned until April 26 for continuation of trial.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that at the last proceeding, trial did not go on due to absence of prosecution witness.

The prosecution had prayed that earlier dates for continuation of hearing be vacated to enable prosecution to get toxicology and Deoxyribonucleic Acid  results needed for the trial.

NAN reports that the three defendants were arraigned on Oct. 12, 2021, on a nine-count charge preferred 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.

The alleged murder took place at No. 19, Adewale Oshin St., 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. (NAN)