Cynthia Osokogu was murdered in Lagos by men she met on Facebook.
The trial of the alleged murderers of 24-year-old Cynthia Osokogu continued on Friday with the prosecution calling its second witness.
Okwumo Nwabufo and Olisaeloka Ezike are charged with conspiracy to commit felony and murder of Ms. Osokogu.
Osita Orji, the pharmacist who sold the Ropynol drug to the alleged murderers, is charged with reckless and negligent act; while Nonso Ezike, who sold the deceased’s Blackberry phone, is charged with possession of stolen property.
Vivian Amuneke, a former receptionist at Cosmilla Suites and Hotel, Festac, entered the witness box to narrate her version of the incident on July 21, 2012, while she was on duty.
However, her evidence was dogged with inconsistencies and “outright lies” and the defendants’ lawyers, realizing that she is a key prosecution witness, went for her jugular.
During cross examination, Mrs. Amuneke admitted that of the three different statements she made at the police station during investigation, the first two were “all lies.”
One of the defendant’s lawyer told her that she occupied the position of a receptionist at the hotel as well as a liar; another counsel described her as “more of a liability than an asset.”
Chris Obiaka, counsel to Mr. Orji, “observed that she is not a witness of truth.”
At a point during her testimony, a visibly unimpressed Olabisi Akinlade, the trial judge, stopped short of calling her a thief.
While testifying, Mrs. Amuneke, a graduate of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the Imo State University, said that she worked at the hotel between June and August 2012.
She also said that she checked in a total of 13 guests on July 21 and had never set eyes on Mr. Nwabufo and Olisaeloka before that day.
“When I got to work at 7.40 a.m. that day, my colleague (Ifeyinwa Njebu) did the normal hand over.
“While she was doing that, I saw a couple going out. She told me it was an early check.”
According to Mrs. Amuneke, an ‘early check’ in their parlance describes lodgers who come in as early as 12 a.m.
“At the hand over, she (Mrs. Njebu) told me the number of people she checked in and how many nights they paid. And this particular early check was to expire on Sunday by 12 p.m.,” said Mrs. Amuneke.
The early check was for room C1 and Mrs. Amuneke told the court that the lodgers left during the day.
“At around 9 – 10 p.m., two guys walked in. One is fair, short, and one is dark, tall.”
She turned and pointed to the first and second defendants (Mr. Nwabufo and Olisaeloka respectively) sitting in the dock
The witness said that the two men (Mr. Nwabufo was carrying a laptop bag) requested for an empty room and the hotel porter took them to the first floor.
“The first defendant later came down and said the second defendant is coming to make payment. That he is going to get his guest.”
After the second defendant – who lodged in as John – paid, Mrs. Amuneke said that she issued him a “used receipt;” the room had already been paid for by the initial lodgers.
While admitting that it was not normal hotel procedure, the witness stated that she and the hotel porter shared the proceeds of payment for room C1.
“The first defendant later came back with a guest. She’s tall and slim. I didn’t see her face. She was pinging (on her Blackberry) while she was passing.
“The porter collected her bags and took them upstairs,” Mrs. Amuneke said.
“The next day, being Sunday, at around after 8 o’clock in the morning, I left.”
At about 2 p.m., the witness said that she received a phone call and quickly dashed back to the hotel.
“When I got there, the police came, they took us to the station for statement.
“I wrote three different statements. Initially, I didn’t tell the police the truth. I told them that the first and second defendants walked up to me and requested for the key card of room C1,” she said.
During her testimony two weeks ago, Mrs. Njebu, the prosecution’s first witness, had said that Mrs. Amuneke informed her that the brother of the couple who earlier lodged in C1 had taken over the room.
“The room that I checked in the couple was to expire July 22nd, 12 noon. So I noted that. And that the brother of the man is still occupying the room,” Mrs. Njebu, who resumed duty on the morning of July 22, had said.
Mrs. Amuneke said that she lied in her statements because she “was scared.”
“The truth is that I resold the room, since it’s still open till 12 p.m. on Sunday,” she said.
During their cross examinations, Victor Opara and Olukayode Dada, counsels to the first and second defendants respectively, latched onto the discrepancies in the witness’s testimony; especially, Mrs. Amuneke’s initial denial that she never told her colleague that the brother of the couple, who originally lodged in C1, had occupied the room.
Also, Mrs. Amuneke said that she was never shown a CCTV footage by the police, a direct contravention to the first prosecution’s witness who stated that they identified the accused via the video clip.
The witness also admitted that she did not see the deceased’s face when she entered the hotel, but “saw her from the back when she was standing on the stairs.”
“How many lies have you told the court today,” Mr. Dada taunted her.
‘Trial must continue’
Earlier, Mr. Dada had applied for a stay of proceedings on the trial pending the outcome of his application at the Court of Appeal.
The second defendant’s counsel had, on February 5, requested that his arraignment and trial be suspended indefinitely pending when he will have a fair hearing.
Mrs. Akinlade had dismissed the application stating that “it lacked merit.”
Mr. Dada’s application on Friday was also dismissed by the trial judge who insisted that all criminal matters brought before the court must be dispatched without delay.
“Where an appeal will unnecessarily delay trial, it will not be granted. I am of the view that the stay of proceedings will unnecessarily delay the case,” Mrs. Akinlade said.
“This court is not rushing to adjudicate this matter, as concluded by Mr. Dada, it is only doing its job,” she added.
Mrs. Akinlade adjourned till March 22 for continuation of trial.