A witness in the murder trial against Chidinma Ojukwu, the 23-year-old alleged killer of Michael Usifo, the chief executive officer of Super TV, has narrated how different leads point to the defendant as the prime suspect.
Nkechi Mogbo, the witness, is the owner of the short-let apartment at 19, Adewale Oshin Street, Lekki Phase 1, where Mr Usifo was murdered.
Ms Ojukwu and another defendant, Adedapo Quadri, were earlier arraigned on an eight-count charge at the Lagos High Court over the murder of Mr Usifo.
Mrs Mogbo, who was sworn on oath, was presented by Olayinka Adeyemi, the director of Public Prosecution, to assist in the murder trial.
She told the court that because she was new to the property business, she advertises her apartment on property websites like Airbnb for a short stay and have agents on the market that advertise for her.
“It is a self-serviced apartment, fully furnished with TV, DSTV subscription, internet, kitchen alliances, 24 hours power supply, and others.
“The only time we come to clean is just to take out trash, that happens every two or three days,” she said.
Mrs Mogbo said when clients get access through the agents or via the websites, they get direct access to her for booking and possible negotiation.
“On June 13, it was on a Sunday, I was at home. About 4 p.m., I got a phone call from a private number, the first I ignored and the second I picked up. Then there was a lady who said she saw the apartment online and enquired as to whether we have the necessary facilities, which I responded yes.
“She said she would like to have a look at it and I said she could. She sent a message on WhatsApp with the picture of the apartment obviously indicating where she got it from. I sent her the address and she confirmed she would be on her way to the place.”
The apartment owner said she put a call through to the security, Abubakar, explaining that the lady would be coming to see the place.
Upon checking, the lady, who identified herself with the name ‘Jewel’, said she would take the apartment for three days.
“She asked for payment details, which I forwarded across to her, within a couple of minutes, she sent the proof of payment of N125,000. It contained the initiator of the payment, Michael Usifo, from a GTB account, the time and date of the transaction, and my name as the recipient,” she said.
The owner said following the payment, the security man handed her the key to the apartment on the same day.
“Two days after, at about 5:30 p.m. – June 15, she was due to check out on June 16, I got a message from the lady that her friend would like to extend for three more days, and that he would be making the payment the next day, which would be on the 16th.
She said at 10 a.m. on June 16, she received a credit notification from the same GTBank account, confirming payment of N50, 000 for two additional days by the same Michael Usifo.
“Hours later, I put a call across to my security man on a different issue, upon which he made a remark that they had noticed a body on the ground of the said apartment.
She told the court she immediately started panicking but asked the whereabouts of the lady because the security man confirmed the deceased was a guy.
“He said she left the night before at about 7:30 to 8 p.m. and didn’t return. I got off the phone and tried to reach the lady. I put a call across to her but she cut the call, she then sent a message saying she was in a meeting. I didn’t want to alert her as to what I was aware of.
“I carried on saying the payment which you sent in the morning, unfortunately, wasn’t credited, so can you make the payment again because I made a mistake to acknowledge receipt.
“She said she would reach her friend for him to make the payment. Couple of minutes after, I got another initiation of payment for the same sum of N50, 000, from the same initiator, the person of Mr Michael.
“When she made the payment, I was already on my way to the property to get a proper understanding of what had happened, after which I went straight to the police station,” she narrated.
The apartment owner said she sent a message to the lady that she had received the initial N50, 000 which she claimed she didn’t receive, and that she had given the security man the cash of the extra N50 000, so she should pick it from him.
“I devised the means to lure her to come to the property, after the security had confirmed she left the day before. She sent a message that would like to use the N50, 000 for another two days.
Mrs Mogbo further narrated that she filed a report at the Maroko police station, and police officers followed her back to the apartment to get photographs and a better understanding of what happened.
“I wrote a statement and left around 11 p.m. The police arranged for the body to be taken out to the morgue and took his personal items, car as evidence.”
She said she reported back to the police station the next morning, and they went to state CID, Yaba, where she met with the Deputy Commissioner of Police.
“I was made to write more statements and was detained for seven days, to assist with the case. During this time, I was interviewed, they collected different evidence.
“On the sixth night, I was called by the DCP to his office, there was a young lady present, two older ladies, and a couple of officers. He asked me if I could recognise the young lady and I said no.”
She said it was at that point she remembered she had a picture saved on her phone, and that she pulled out her phone and asked the lady if it was her, to which she confirmed yes.
“The security man, whom she was in contact with and always calling to put in the generator or pump the water said one day, she mistakenly called him with her number around 2:30 a.m., after which she hung up and called with a private number telling the security man to turn on the generator.
“During the investigation, the security man passed the phone number as a possible lead. He saved the number and was able to get the photograph used as the profile picture.
“During police investigation, when my phone record was printed, the same number also matched my incoming call number on Sunday 13th June, which the caller tried to hide, but couldn’t hide from the network providers,” she narrated.
The apartment owner told the court that the suspect, who has now been identified as Chidinma Ojukwu, avoided calling with her phone number as the Whatsapp chat history between them was with a foreign phone number, registered as an American number.
She told the court that she provided all the chats between them and sent to the police by email and also printed a copy while in custody.
Mrs Adeyemi, who led her in evidence, requested to tender the WhatsApp records as evidence in the matter. This was, however, met with objections from the lawyers to the defendants.
Onwuka Egwu, the lawyer to Ms Ojukwu, opposed the admissibility of the document as evidence in the matter.
“The document offends Section 102 subsection B of the Evidence Act. In her evidence, she went to the police to complain and during the investigation, records were printed from her phone. This document has traversed from Maroko to Panti, to the DPP, by virtue of that movement, it has become a public document.
“It is not coming from her, it came from the custody. It is a document subject to certification for admissibility purpose,” he said, citing the case of FRN vs Danladi.
The lawyer to the second defendant, Babatunde Busari, also aligned himself to the position of the first defendant’s counsel
He said the document flouted section 84, subsection 2 of the Evidence Act as there was “no endorsement from the Commissioner for oath.”
The lawyer to the third defendant, A.O Odunsanya, said he had no objection to the documents being admitted as evidence.
Mrs Adesanya, from the DPP, further argued that the documents are relevant to the case and original to the witness because she printed the documents herself from her phone using the printer of the police.
In her ruling, the judge, Yetunde Adesanya, said the objections of the lawyers to the defendants failed and are accordingly overruled.
Mrs Adesanya said the Evidence Act was clear as to what a public document is and the documents before the court are owned by the witness, who was tendering them and not the police or the DPP.
She admitted the documents as exhibits E1.
The lawyer to the first defendant sought an adjournment to cross-examine the witness, saying Ms Ojukwu has not had the opportunity of looking at the documents as they received them on Tuesday in the open court.
The lawyers to the second and third defendants said they have no cross-examination for the witness, as the totality of the evidence does not touch on their clients.
Mrs Adesanya adjourned the matter till November 15 for further hearing.