The trial of the alleged killers of Ignatius Odunukwe, a Nigerian billionaire and owner of Firman generator, has begun at the Lagos Division of the Lagos State High Court in Tafawa Balewa Square.
The defendants, Daniel Ibeaji, Uzor Igwe Arinze, and Cletus Solomon were presented before the judge, Yetunde Adesanya, to continue their trial.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the defendants, on January 21, 2020, led the police and journalists to a canal at Ogunbo Forest, off Ajah Road, Lagos, where the decomposed body of the billionaire was recovered.
The deceased, who was into estate development and gold mining, posted on his Facebook page in 2019 that he had a property for sale in Abuja worth N900 million.
Narrating how they murdered Mr Odunukwe, the suspects said they pretended to be real estate buyers and lured Mr Odunukwe into their trap.
Mr Odunukwe left his residence at 14, Maduke Street, Ikoyi, on December 1, 2019, to meet with the suspects at a hotel in Ajah, to conclude the transaction, but never returned home.
According to the police, the prime suspect, Mr Ibeaji, a medical doctor, Fellow of the Royal College of Surgery, and member of the Royal College of Surgeon in Edinburgh, United Kingdom, injected the victim with a lethal substance, after they had collected the signed documents of the property.
They allegedly put his body in a sack and dropped it into the canal at Ogombo Forest.
Their murder trial had suffered many delays, with the last hearing which held on November 4, stalled by the absence of prosecution witnesses.
The Tuesday hearing before Mrs Adesanya’s court was stood down twice due to the absence of Chijike Jiakponna, the lawyer to the first and second defendants.
When the matter was recalled at 12 noon, Mrs Adesanya chastised the lawyer for coming late to a criminal proceeding.
Olayemi Shofolu, the prosecutor, presented his first witness in the matter, Afam Odunukwe, before the court.
Mr Odunukwe, a lawyer with 15 years of experience at the bar, is the nephew of the deceased as well as his lawyer.
Giving evidence before the court, Mr Odunukwe said on November 13, 2019, he was called by the deceased for a transaction but was unable to meet up with the time.
“On the 26th of November, 2019, the deceased called me again that he has not seen me. I left everything I was doing to his office at Iganmu Industrial area.
“He gave me pieces of paper with name and address. Pa Godwin Okereke was written in the piece of paper and address was 29, Trans Ekulu GRA, Enugu.
“He told me about the transaction of property of block of 10 terrace duplexes in Abuja with an empty plot of land and that the buyer, same name wanted to buy the property,” he said.
The lawyer said on seeing the name and the address of the buyer, he asked his uncle whether he knew the buyer because he had his doubts about someone from Enugu spending N900 million on a property.
“He would normally give the name of any buyer to verify for him, but in that case, he said I should not worry that the buyer doesn’t want publicity.
“I asked about the contact number of the buyer, of which he refused to give to me,” he said.
He further said on November 30, 2019, the deceased called him to draft an agreement (deed of assignment) in respect of the property at Abuja, between him and the same Godwin Okereke, which he handed over to him around 9:30 p.m. the same day.
“He told me that he was going to conclude the transaction the next day, December 1, with the purchaser. But he didn’t tell me the venue or any other activity that pertain to the transaction.
“On Monday, (December 2), around 11 a.m., I received a call from one of my brothers, Francis Akaegbusi, asking me if I have heard what is happening, which I told him I didn’t know. He told me they were looking for him (the deceased).”
Mr Odunukwe said he submitted a petition at the SSS office at Ikoyi, where personnel were mobilised and he was asked to follow them for surveillance around Lekki-Ajah.
He also submitted a petition to the police, Zone 2, where the police initiated an investigation into the matter.
He told the court that the police tracked the deceased’s car, to Lekki, with the aid of the car tracker and they continued investigation which led to the arrest of the second defendant, Uzor Igwe Arinze.
He said the police continued their investigation and employed trackers to track the number of contacts the defendants had.
“They failed on different occasions but the police were able to arrest Daniel, the first defendant in Abuja.
“He took them to his house in Abuja and they were able to get the deed of assignment prepared for the deceased, between him and Pa Godwin Okereke and all the original titles of property in Abuja,” he said.
He said the police got information about the third suspect, Cletus Solomon, and were able to arrest him, and on sighting the other two defendants, he opened up about the crime.
“The defendants took the police, members of our family, and the media to where they threw the body of my brother at Ogombo area. When we got to the scene, they acknowledged the bones and were made to pick the bones of my deceased brother from the bush,” he said.
A PREMIUM TIMES’ reporter was part of the media team that the police took to the canal at Ogombo forest, where the body of the deceased was retrieved.
The second witness in the matter, Eugene Odunukwe, said the first defendant called his brother last before his two lines were switched off, which was why he was tracked to Abuja and arrested.
During investigation, the witness said the first defendant confessed to injecting his brother with diazepam after they had hit him with an iron to cease blood flow from his body.
He told the court that he went with the police to deposit the mutilated body of the deceased at the morgue at the Yaba General Hospital.
The witnesses were cross-examined by the lawyers to the defendants.
Mrs Adesanya adjourned the matter till December 6 for the continuation of trial. She ordered that the defendants continue to be remanded in prison.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
TEXT AD: Call Willie - +2348098788999