The short-stay apartment where Michael Ataga, the chief executive officer of Super TV, was murdered in Lagos has no closed-circuit television (CCTV), the defence lawyer has found out.
Nkechi Mogbo, the owner of the apartment at 19, Adewale Oshin Street, Lekki Phase 1, where Mr Ataga was murdered confirmed this during her cross-examination at the Lagos State High Court on Monday.
Mrs Mogbo, during her evidence, narrated how a lady named ‘Jewel’ called her to inquire about the apartment which she later took for an initial three days for herself and the deceased.
‘Jewel’ was later found to be Chidinma Ojukwu following the investigation of the police.
Mr Ataga was found in his own pool of blood at the aforementioned address after being stabbed several times, the police had said.
Ms Ojukwu, who was apprehended by the police on June 23, earlier told the press that she stabbed the deceased with a kitchen knife after he allegedly made advances on her.
No video surveillance
On Tuesday, the Lagos State High Court resumed trial proceedings over the murder of Mr Ataga.
Mrs Mogbo, the apartment owner, was cross-examined by the lawyer to Ms Ojukwu, Onwka Egwu.
During the questioning, Mr Egwu asked whether there was any CCTV, also known as video surveillance, within the premise, as at the time the crime was committed.
“At the time of the incident, the installer hadn’t completed the installation of the CCTV,” Mrs Mogbo answered.
When further queried on the safety measure provided in the facility for guests, the apartment owner said there is “24 hours security and adequate monitoring of the facility as to who enters and when they enter.”
Mrs Mogbo, who studied at Coventry University, United Kingdom, said aside from the apartment being registered as a business location with the Corporate Affairs Commission, she didn’t require a licence from the Lagos state government to run the apartment for the purpose for which it was used.
“It is not a body which I should register under,” she said.
Also, during the questioning, Mrs Mogbo explained that she leased the property from the owner in December 2019, but only started using it for business in March/April 2021.
Mr Egwu asked further whether there is a physical lodgers’ register in the facility to show the name, address, time of arrival and departure of guests, and whether she availed the police of the ledger in the cause of investigation.
Mrs Mogbo, who explained that she was not asked by the police to provide a ledger, said the record book she has was for her own record keeping, and she inputs data on clients from conversations had with them.
“When ‘Jewel’ called you and you answered go see the property and you handed over the key to the property, did you ask her to sign into any ledger?,” Mr Egwu asked.
“She said she was a student and had just returned from travel and need to be in self-isolation for three days and that her international passport was held at the immigration,” the apartment owner explained.
Mrs Mogbo said it was on this explanation that she gave ‘Jewel’ a waiver on the use of her passport for identification.
“The waiver on the use of her international passport for identification equally extended to ‘Jewel’ not entering her name in the physical ledger you said you have on the property,” Mr Egwu further queried.
“The ledger that I have is for my documentation and record keeping as to when a client comes in, how long they come to stay, and when they leave. Lodgers are not required to fill out their names and other details.
“We usually have protocols before granting access to guests, ” she said.
Mrs Mogbo further explained that she did not bother to ask for other means of identification from Ms Ojukwu because her name and phone at the time were foreign, she didn’t know she was Nigerian.
Mr Egwu also asked the witness to provide the names of other lodgers on the premises between June 11 and 17.
The question, which was objected to on privacy grounds by Olayinka Adeyemi, the Director of Public Prosecution, was allowed by the judge, Yetunde Adesanya, after the defence lawyer argued that anyone loses their privacy in the event of a crime.
Mrs Mogbo identified the other lodgers as Babatunde, Omolara, and Jewel and friend.
“The identity of the clients and IDs were handed over to the police to aid their investigation. The Babatunde left June 17, Omolara, one month after the incident,” she said.
The lawyer also asked how regularly Mrs Mogbo takes inventory of the utensils provided in the apartment such as teacups, big spoons, table knives, blender, electric stove, a set of multipurpose knives, pots and other cooking utensils.
The apartment owner said they go over all the utensils and equipment after clients leave.
“I put it to you that the multipurpose knife you left in the apartment was for a predestined purpose that eventually occurred,” the lawyer said.
“That’s wrong, that’s false. I had no idea who the lady was, never met her in my life. I had no idea as to the reason she came besides what I was told. I was only running business, just like any other hardworking Nigerian,” Mrs Mogbo replied.
Mr Egwu also asked why Mrs Mogbo did not raise any alarm after receiving the sum of N105, 000 payment from a different name.
“Anybody could make payment, nothing to arouse suspicion as to foul play as she sent the proof of payment herself,” she replied.
“I put it to you that you did not raise an eyebrow when you received the payment because you already knew the deceased,” the lawyer said.
“False, I have no knowledge of who the initiator of the payment was, if I did as he claimed, I would have called the person because it would make me believe that the person would give more clarification about the lady herself,” she replied.
Mr Egwu also said Babalola Disu, the occupant of the apartment closest to where Mr Ataga was murdered, required a carpenter before the incident and that the property owner knew about the nature of the carpentry job.
Mrs Mogbo denied being aware of this, saying she was not at the property around the time of the incident.
The Lagos State government earlier arraigned Mr Disu, Onoh Ojukwu, Chidinma’s father, and three others, at the magistrate court, in connection with the case.
Messrs Disu and Ojukwu were to face trial on charges of obstructing the police from performing their duties and failing to report a crime to the police.
Mrs Mogbo, however, said during the period the crime was committed, only herself, her brother, the security man at the premises, and the police were aware of what had happened.
Following a series of questions directed at the witness, Mrs Adesanya adjourned the matter till November 16 for the continuation of trial.
WATCH: Governor Yahaya Bello's Roadmap to Hope 2023