LAGOS â€” THERE was a mild drama at the Magistrate Court 19, Ikeja in the Lagos Judicial Division yesterday when Master Muyideen Alayande, son of defendant No 2 in the state vs. Chinuwa-Ogwu & Co who was allegedly murdered for ritual purposes surfaced in court in company of his mother, Alhaja Ashabe Alayande.
Muyideen is the teenage son of Alhaji Alayande (the second defendant) who claimed he was told by his father to come for some home video shots in what has turned out to be a conspiracy to extort money from Mrs. Oyindamola Amuka, wife of the Publisher of Vanguard Newspapers.
The make-belief shots from that event, allegedly taken by Steve Chinuwa-Ogwu, had been generously published by pointblanknews.com as evidence of murder of Muyideen Alayande for ritual purposes.
Although the magistrate declined the prosecutorâ€™s plea to put the boy in the dock â€œto once and for all clear the false allegation of ritual murder being canvassed in the public space and outside the courtroom by Steve Chinuwa-Ogwu, his lawyer Giwa-Amu and pointblanknews.comâ€ because it affects the rest of the case, the prosecutor, nonetheless pleaded passionately with the magistrate to restrain pointblanknews.com and their agents from continued publication of falsehood concerning the on-going trial as that constitute a slap on the face of the court.
The court had on May 25th, 2009 restrained Steve Chinuwa-Ogwu, his counsel Giwa-Amu and their medium www.pointblanknews.com from inputting extraneous matters while reporting the court proceedings.
The presiding Magistrate in the case involving the state and two persons, Mrs Badejo Okusanya, however told the Police prosecutor, Mr Romanus Inuigbe who brought the presence of the teenager to the attention of the court that presenting him (alleged ritual victim) would translate to conducting trial.
She therefore objected to the plea by the prosecutor to record the presence of the boy in court.
The drama started immediately after the prosecutor called the attention of the court to a publication in pointblanknews.com which the prosecutor claimed distorted the last proceeding in court against an earlier order urging all parties concerned in the case to report only what was said in court.
At the resumed hearing of the case, the prosecutor had told the court that three out of his five witnesses were in court, indicating his readiness to start the trial. He told the court that in spite of the court order earlier made, restraining parties from publishing anything outside the courtâ€™s proceedings, Steve Ogwu was still publishing extraneous stories indicating that there was indeed an act of murder committed by the complainants.
He drew the attention of the court to Section 133 (4)(9) of the Criminal Code which gave the court the power to restrain parties to conduct themselves only within the ambit of the court.
According to him, the publication by pointblanknews.com was meant to dent the image of the court and also prejudice the case pending before the court. He noted that the accused persons were charged for conspiracy, stealing and obtaining money under false pretense, wondering why the online publication, which he said Steve Ogwu was their agent, was alleging murder.
At this juncture, the prosecutor called the attention of the court to reference of the publication over ritual murder and stated to the bewildered court, â€œeven the alleged victim of the so-called ritual murder is here, physically present in court.
With the permission of this honorable court, I will ask the boy to come out to the court.â€
He cautioned that if the court allowed further publication of extraneous stories, it would rubbish the case before the court. He urged the court to make a definite order restraining the repeat of such publication.
In his response, counsel to Steve Ogwu, Giwa-Amu denied that his client was responsible for the publications. He also alleged that Vanguard had equally published stories which cast him and his client in bad light.
Also, Mr Okunniyi representing Alayande denied the involvement of his client in the publication in pointblanknews.com
At this stage, the presiding Magistrate queried whether the prosecutor investigated that indeed the first accused person was behind the publication.
Earlier, Mr. Okuniyi had apologised for the absence of his client in court, stating that he was indisposed and that he had to travel abroad for treatment. Magistrate Okusanya however frowned at the absence of the suspect without informing the court.
Reacting to the controversies over the publications, the Magistrate in her short ruling held that further publications on the case must be limited to the proceedings of the day.
The Magistrate adjourned further hearing in the case till July 23, 2009.
The charges against the accused persons reads-
*â€œThat you Steve Chinua, â€˜mâ€™, Alhaji Rasheed Alayande â€˜mâ€™ and others now at large on the same date, time and place in the aforesaid magisterial district did with intent to defraud obtain from one Oyindamola Amuka â€˜fâ€™, the sum of N4 million on the pretext that you are treating her child that was sick, a fact you know to be false and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 419 of the Criminal Code Cap c17, Vol II, Laws of Lagos state of Nigeria, 2003.
* That you Steve Chinua, â€˜mâ€™, Alhaji Rasheed Alayande â€˜mâ€™ and others now at large on the same date, time and place in the aforesaid magisterial district did steal the sum of N4 million, property of one Oyindamola Amuka â€˜fâ€™ and thereby committed an offence publishable under section 390 (9) of the Criminal Code Cap C.17, Vol II, Laws of Lagos State of Nigeria, 2003.
* That you Steve Chinua, â€˜mâ€™, Alhaji Rasheed Alayande â€˜mâ€™ and others now at large on the same date, time and place in the aforesaid magisterial district did with intent to extort money from one Oyindimola Amuka, cause a publication of a defamatory matter on pointblanknews website, dated Sunday, December 21, 2008 and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 376 of the Criminal Code Cap C.17, Vol II, Laws of Lagos State of Nigeria.