By Onozure Dania – Lagos
The owner of the short service apartment Nkechi Mogbo, where Michael Usifo Ataga the Super TV’s Chief Executive Officer, was allegedly murdered by Chidinma Ojukwu a 300-level Mass Communication student of the University of Lagos, yesterday narrated to the court how Ataga’s lifeless body was found.
Mogbo made the revelation while giving evidence as the first prosecution witness (PW1) in the ongoing trial of Chidinma Ojukwu and two others.
Ojukwu, alongside her sister, Chioma Egbuchu and one Adedapo Quadri, are standing trial for the alleged murder of the CEO, of Super TV.
Mogbo, while testifying told the court that she dealt on female shoes and has a self service apartment, rented out for short service accommodation.
According to her, the apartment is fully furnished like a normal house with cable TV subscription, 24-hour power services and a well-equipped kitchen.
She said couples, workers, students and people from out of town who come in for weddings were categories of people who book for the apartment, adding that the apartment could be booked online or through referrals from agents.
She told Justice Yetunde Adesanya of a Lagos High Court, sitting at Tafawa Balewa Square TBS, that Chidinma left the service apartment before the billed day she was to leave.
The witness who was led in evidence in chief by the Director of Public Prosecution DPP, Mrs Adeyinka Adeyemi, narrated how she got a call from a private number on June 13, 2021, requesting a short let service apartment.
Mogbo said “on June 13, at about 4:00 p.m, a lady (suspect) called me on phone with a private number and requested for the apartment.
“The lady requested to see the apartment to ensure that the facilities were up to the standard she needed.
“I asked the lady (suspect) to send a message to me through WhatsApp so I could forward the address to her, which I did.
“I called my security guard at the apartment and informed him that someone was coming to check the place
“Afterwards, the lady through WhatsApp message confirmed to me that she would take the apartment for three days.
“She mentioned that her name was Jewel and I forwarded payment details, thereafter, she sent proof of payment of N125,000, to my WhatsApp.
“The payment was made through a commercial bank account from one Mr Micheal Usifo, which had a time and date of transfer and my name as recipient.
“The security guard handed her the key to the apartment but two days later (June 15th) at 5:30 pm, the lady sent message to my WhatsApp stating that her friend would stay for two more days and that he would be making the payment.”
The witness said the second payment of N50,000 for the two extra days was made from the same GTb, account on June 16, 20201, at 10 am.
She said the payment was made from the first initiator which was Mr Michael and she confirmed receipt adding that a couple of hours later she put a call across to her security guard on another issue upon which he made a remark that they have just noticed a body on the ground of the said apartment.
“I got off the phone and tried to reach the lady, I put a call across to her but she cut the phone. She then sent a message to me that she was in a meeting, I carried on saying the payment which was made in the morning, wasn’t credited so can you kindly make the payment because I need a receipt,” Mogbo said.
“I panicked when my security guard told me about the body. I asked where is the lady, because the guard confirmed that the lady who booked the apartment was with one guy. They said she left the night before at about 7:30 pm to 8 pm.
“I hung the phone and tried to reach out to the lady but she didn’t pick my call, I sent her a message I didn’t want her to know what I was aware of then I tried to do something, to initiate conversation, which I told her the later payment didn’t come through which I confirmed in the morning,” she said.
The witness said that the first defendant told her that she would reach out to her friend to make the payment adding that a few minutes later she got another N50,000, from the same initiator, from the same account of Mr Michael.
“When she made the payment, I was already on my way to the property so that I can get what really happened after which I went to the Police at Maroko Police Station.
“A couple of hours I sent her a message that I have received the first payment of N50,000 and that I have given the security man the extra N50,000, for her to pick it up
from the security.
“It was because I called her and she wasn’t responding that I had to devise a means to lure her into the property after the security man told me she left a night before.
“She didn’t come, she sent a message that she would use it to pay for two more days for her friend, I reported the incident at the Maroko Police Station, they followed me to the apartment, they took pictures and I followed them back to make a statement on what I know.
“I left the Police Station at 11 pm, but before that the Police arranged for the body to be taken out to the morgue, his personal items and after that, I left the Police Sation at 11 pm and reported back the next day”.
She narrated how she was taken to Panti police station and how she stayed for seven days in custody in a view to help police do a proper investigation.
She also narrated how she could not identify Chidinma Ojukwu when she was brought to the station, adding that it was through the aid of a picture she got from her phone that enabled her to identify the suspect.
The witness said her conversations with the suspect was done through WhatsApp so she printed out the conversations and also sent them as email to the police.
The Prosecutor, Mrs Adeyinka Adeyemi, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), who led the witness in evidence, however, tendered the printed copy of the WhatsApp conversation as evidence.
Counsel to the first defendant, Mr Onwuka Egbu, objected to the admissibility of such document, saying “it is a public document which must be certified before it can be used as evidence”.
After the argument of counsels, Justice Yetunde Adesanya, overruled the argument of the defendant counsel and admitted the document as evidence.
However, Egbu, asked for an adjournment to enable him to study the documents recently served on him.
Egbu requested more time to enable him to prepare for cross-examination of the witness.
Justice Adesanya, however, adjourned the case until November, 15 for continuation of trial.