By Emma Nnadozie, Abdulwahab Abdulah & Tosin Adejuwon
PUBLISHER of Vanguard Newspapers, Mr. Sam Amuka, yesterday told an Ikeja Magistrate’s Court how one Steve Chinua-Ogwu, blackmailed and threatened him to part with some money to kill an alleged ritual murder story he (Chinua-Ogwu) intended to publish against Mrs. Oyindamola Amuka, the Publisherâ€™s wife.
Mr. Amuka, who was led in evidence by a police prosecutor, Mr. Romanus Inuigbe, gave a vivid account of several calls made to him by the accused and how the accused visited him in his office at Apapa to blackmail and demand money.
Chinua-Ogwu and one Alhaji Rasheed Alayande were in court on a four-count charge of conspiracy, stealing, extortion and obtaining money under false pretence from Mrs. Oyindamola Amuka.
Mr. Amuka disclosed that Chinua-Ogwu had called him, requesting to discuss some issues with him and he granted him an audience.
According to him, while in his office, the accused showed him some horrible made-up pictures which he alleged he took at a shrine where his wife was handcuffed.
The publisher said when he realised that Ogwu was out to blackmail him, he called in the police who arrested him.
Narrating his story, he said: â€œOn July 20, 2008, the first defendant came to see me in Vanguard and showed me horrible pictures of my wife where she was handcuffed and her Jeep in a shrine. A couple of weeks earlier, he had called me that he had story about my wife.
“I gave him appointment, he did not come until July 20. He introduced himself as a crime reporter and brought three pictures and in one of them, I saw my wife handcuffed and he said he took the pictures himself and there were more horrible ones that he was keeping.
â€œWhen I saw the pictures, I was terrified and shocked. I asked him what he wanted to do now and he said that I should know what he wanted. That those pictures were embarrassing, so I should pay, he demanded money. Then, I put him in one room beside my office, and I called the police. He indeed, demanded N2 million.â€
Asked why he called in the police, he said: â€œI had to call the police because it was blackmail and when the police from Kirikiri came, I told them what happened, because I believed it was a blackmail. They asked me to come along with them for me to write my statement, which I did.â€
Following this, the prosecutor asked Amuka what he did to establish the truth about the pictures paraded by Ogwu.
He then told the court that one of his wifeâ€™s friends, named Sally had earlier called him on phone that his wife was in distress in London and that she showed her some horrible pictures about her taken in a shrine. He said further that the woman (Sally) disclosed that Mrs Amukaâ€™s life was being threatened and that if she reveal what allegedly transpired in the shrine, she would be killed.
Following this, Amuka said he called his wife in London and inquired about the whole story, which she denied. However, he said the woman later started crying that her life was at stake since those involved in the whole saga had threatened to kill her if she told anybody.
At this juncture, he said he asked her to come to Nigeria and tell her story to the police. â€œI asked her to return home. She came back and I took her to the police to state her case.â€
Narrating how Chinua-Ogwu and his accomplices carried out their threat to publish story against his wife and himself, Amuka said: â€œdefinitely, the photographs were published in an online news website, www.pointblanknews.com that I and my wife were involved in ritual murder. The story went worldwide that I and my wife are murderers.â€ He identified the printed copies of the news stories.
Asked about his experiences about the publications, Amuka said: â€œpeople who know me started calling from everywhere across the world. I was scandalised because it was on the internet. I was down, my reputation was dragged in the mud. I was scandalised, my reputation and that of my wife were at stake.â€
Under cross-examination from the defence counsel, Messrs A.G. Giwa Amu and Olu Okuniyi, representing Chinua-Ogwu and Alayande, the second defendant, Mr. Amuka established that he and his wife were indeed, blackmailed by the publications which he said was arranged by Chinua-Ogwu. He said there was no murder at all.
He admitted that though, the accused persons, especially Ogwu, who was in his office to demand money did not collect any money from him, he said, however, that he connived with other persons, including some policemen to swindle his wife of N4 million, while his wifeâ€™s life was threatened.
Mr. Amuka also denied ever meeting the 2nd defendant, Alayande and he never made any telephone call to him or published anything against him.
Shortly before the court adjourned the matter, Mrs. Amuka was briefly put into the witness box, however, the matter was adjourned till Monday, July 27, 2009 for continuation of the trial.