Crime and Metro

Ataga’s Murder: Chidinma To Face Trial Within Trial

The Lagos State High Court sitting at the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) has fixed November 8 for a trial within trial to determine whether it should admit the confessional statement allegedly made by Miss Chidinma Ojukwu, prime suspect in the murder of the Chief Executive Officer of Super Tv, Usifo Michael Ataga.

Justice Yetunde Adesanya made the decision following Ojukwu’s contention that she didn’t make the statements voluntarily, rather that they were obtained from her by the police under duress and inducement.

Ojukwu, a 300-level Mass Communication student at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), is standing trial for the alleged offence alongside her sister and third defendant Chioma Egbuchu, and second defendant Adedapo Quadri.

The trio is also charged with stealing and forgery. The defendants have been on trial since October 12, 2021, following their arraignment before Justice Adesanya.

According to the Lagos State Government which is prosecuting them, the murder took place on June 15, 2021, at a short-let apartment on No. 19, Adewale Oshin Street, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos.

The defendants denied the charge.

At the resumed hearing, of the case yesterday, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions (DDPP) Mrs. Adenike Oluwafemi led ninth prosecution witness Mr. Olusegun Bamidele, in evidence.

Bamidele, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), testified that Ojukwu allegedly transferred N5million from Ataga’s account on June 15, 2021, the same day she stabbed him to death for demanding more sex – according to her alleged confession as recorded on video by the police while interrogating her.

The witness said while seeking the killer’s motive for the murder, the police obtained the deceased’s Access Bank statement of account.

He said the statement revealed how Ojukwu, who was allegedly in possession of Ataga’s phone, carried out transactions on his bank account.

Bamidele said that on June 15, the first defendant used the deceased’s phone to transfer N5m from his account to another bank.

He said the transactions included transfers to herself, Nkechi Mogbo as payment for the short-let apartment, and airtime purchases, among others.

“On June 16, 2021, four transactions of N20,000 were made from the deceased’s account, on June 17, another withdrawal of N20,000 was made five times and the remarks were “transfer between customers.”

“On the same June 16, N50,000 was transferred to Nkechi Mogbo, another N11,200 was also transferred to Caprical Capital, on the same June 16, another N50,000 was transferred from Ataga’s account to Mogbo and another N93,000 transferred from Ataga’s GTBank account to his Access Bank account.

“A transfer of N110,000.75 kobo was debited from the deceased’s account on June 18, 2021.

“On June 19, 2021, a transfer of N20,000 was made four times, on that same day another transfer of N20,000 was made five times and it was through the USSD code,” Bamidele said.

He added that on June 13, 2021, there was an internet transfer of N10,000 to Ojukwu, another N105,000 was also transferred to her as payment to Mogbo, the owner of the apartment.

When the prosecution sought to tender the written statements of the defendants, Chidinma’s counsel Onwuka Egwu, objected to the admissibility of the document.

He argued that she didn’t make the statements voluntarily, rather that they were obtained by “oppression, inducement intimidation and under duress”.

Egwu prayed the court to “test the veracity of the voluntariness of the statements.”

The second defendant’s counsel Babatunde Busari did not object, neither did the third defendant’s counsel Miss M. A. Abia-Bassey.

Responding, the prosecutor prayed the court to settle the argument by evaluating the statements and Chidinma via a trial within trial.

Granting his application, Justice Adesanya adjourned till November 8.

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