June 28, 2021

Usifo Ataga: He must have been tricked to visit where he was killed – Douglas, childhood friend

Usifo Ataga, Chidinma Adaora Ojukwu

Michael Ataga

*’Ataga had a place in VGC,  friends who own hotels’

*He was a private person

*Media should ensure police conduct proper investigation 

In this exclusive chat with Vanguard,  Douglas  Aniemena, a childhood friend of the late CEO of SuperTV, Usifo Ataga,  who was killed last week in Lagos,  speaks on the man,  Ataga, raising germane questions that may assist the police in their investigation. 

By Charles Kumolu 

Who was Usifo and what was your relationship with him? 

Usifo Ataga was a childhood friend, and brother.

Apart from his kind of death,  what particularly did you find  shocking about the incident? 

There are quite a few shocking aspects of this heinous incident. The brutal and gory nature of his body; the amount of stab wounds, bruises, bound marks and other inevitable torture marks on his body. The salacious stories, rumours, and false narratives were particularly shocking also, in a most distasteful way. The way the public was so quick to accept the initial false narratives irrespective of the fact that no evidence had been offered and they had not heard the full story. The speed at which a reputation built over a lifetime could be so easily tarnished based on mere conjectures, was frightening. These are just a few, off the top of my head.

The fact that he had a female company at the time of his death  has given rise to all sorts of stories about him… 

I try to be as honest and objective in this matter as possible given my current emotional state. It is now an established fact that he was in female company, however, what he was doing with her is still in the realms of conjecture. The girl in question, I do not know her, and none of his other friends that I have asked, know of her. Usifo had a place in the VGC that he could have used apart from his home in Banana Island, Ikoyi. He has multiple friends who own hotels and short let apartments in the very same Lekki Phase 1 estate and neighbouring Ikoyi, that would avail him of their facilities if he so needed or asked. So, why would he allow and agree to meet up with someone in a short-let apartment that the person had booked? The only reason that makes remote sense to me, the only one I can fathom, and I will probably fall for as well, is, if it was set up as a place where some people or person I need to meet, perhaps investors, business I do not know, will come to meet and perhaps, do not want the publicity of hotel foyers or restaurants. I do not really know.  I am struggling with that one. One thing is clear to me, he was set up to go there.  

Did the Usifo Ataga you knew fit  the narrative of a drug user and careless man who could go the extent of revealing his ATM password to Chidinma? 

Usifo Ataga, a drug user? The Usifo Ataga that I knew, was certainly not! The narrative introduced by the suspect, that he willingly gave her his ATM card and pin number, is as laughable as it is preposterous, especially with the proliferation of mobile banking. What would be the reason to give her his bank card and pin number and according to her, ask her to go and withdraw whatever amount she wanted? This is so absurd on so many fronts. Those who knew Usifo, will attest, that he would not talk and act like that; that is so unlike him. That notwithstanding, does it make any sense to you that he wanted to give her so much money, mind you, within the ATM withdrawal limit, and could not just transfer whatever amount via his mobile app! Come on, withdrawals via ATM have daily withdrawal limits far less than the amount that can be transferred via mobile banking app which we know he had and was used to make payments, why would he not simply transfer the sums she claimed he was freely offering? Does it not make sense that if this his supposed free will offering was to give you as much cash as you wanted, would he not have offered to transfer money to you as opposed to giving you his ATM card and pin number, (apart from the risk associated from divulging such, which is contrary to the behaviour of a person who was neither gullible nor naïve) would mean taking an Uber from the comforts of the apartment, to the ATM gallery, with the potential of standing in the queue and then needing multiple withdrawals to satiate your Naira thirst!  That is simply the lie of a suspect against the ropes trying to wriggle her way out; a drowning culprit clutching at straws. Pathetic! I am convinced that in time, her stories will change yet again, because this one, just like a lot of what she said in her now infamous interview/press conference, makes no sense.

ALSO READ: Chidinma’s arrest not enough, Ataga family tells police

Unfortunately,  Ataga isn’t alive to state his side of the story,  how do you feel seeing so many things being said about him? 

I am gutted! Usifo was such a private person, a true gentleman, who never tried to malign anyone. To see his character so publicly, wilfully, and thoroughly besmirched, was quite gut wrenching to behold all these in real time even as we were all stunned and emotionally numbed and devastated coming to terms with the manner of his death and his final, no doubt, gruesome hours on earth. There appeared to be a concerted effort to mess my guy up and this felt so unfair, most especially the ferocity, multi-varied nature, and the deluge of these false narratives, became overbearingly unsettling. It still amazes me how people could make up blatant lies and weave spurious tales about a dead person they did not know and do these so quickly with such broad dissemination and finality.

How do you think the puzzles surrounding the murder of Ataga can be solved?

Well, it will take the combined efforts of all of us. The police and all the investigating authorities doing their job professionally without partiality, heed, or hindrance. The press being more responsible with their reporting, to eschew the urge to pander to unverified and often irrelevant salacious narratives, that unfortunately, however good these are in pushing up sales may inadvertently be enabling the perpetrators throw us all off their tracks. Furthermore, the press’s role in ensuring that those tasked with investigating this heinous crime do their job by keeping them on their toes and asking pertinent questions and keeping this on the front burner till all the culprits are brought to book, can never be over emphasized. The public having a bit more patience and resisting the urge to speculate and irresponsibly spread all and every salacious conspiracy theory and conjecture on social media as these will hamper the investigation. Finally, anyone with relevant information should kindly make it available to the police.

Some are insinuating that he may not have had  a stable marriage. To them,  that might have pushed him into having an affair with Chidinma… 

Frankly, this is irrelevant to the investigation at hand, and it is speculations such as this that does more harm to this investigation than good. Usifo Ataga was a very private individual, his family is not under investigation here and it is fundamentally wrong to heap more emotional burden on his grieving family. If you are unable to help them at this time, the least you can do, the barest minimum required from all of us, is adding no obstacles in their paths or making the load they are carrying any heavier. I humbly ask that we all respect the privacy of the Ataga family and allow them to grieve and mourn their loved one with some dignity. They are undoubtedly going through the most horrific and devastating time of their lives, there are children involved, these are actual, young fledging human beings who have lost a doting father, and if we still possess any modicum of compassion, any ounce of real humanity in us, then it should not be too much trouble in these times we live in, to actually pray for them instead. 

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