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Wednesday, 31 May 2023 05:59

Usifo Ataga: Absence Of Chidinma’s Counsel Stalls Trial

The trial of Chidinma Ojukwu, the key suspect in the murder case of the late Chief Executive Officer of Super TV, Michael Usifo Ataga, failed to proceed on Tuesday, owing to the absence of her lawyer.

Justice Yetunde Adesanya of the Lagos High Court sitting at the Tafawa Balewa Square, subsequently adjourned till June 8 for continuation of trial.

Chidinma, a former 300-level Mass Communication undergraduate of the University of Lagos, is standing trial alongside one Adedapo Quadri and her sister, Chioma Egbuchu, on a nine-count charge bordering on murder, forgery and stealing, preferred against her by the Lagos State Government.

At the resumed hearing of the case, the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Mrs Adenike Oluwafemi, told the court that she got a message from Ojukwu’s counsel, Mr Onwuka Egwu, that he was ill.

She said that the counsel also mentioned that his junior lawyers would not be able to appear in the case, owing to their engagement in other court matters.

Oluwafemi, however, told the court that her own witness who was to give evidence was present in court.

The second and third defendants’ counsels, Mr Babatunde Busari and Miss P. O. Okpagbo, were present in court and raised no objections to the absence of the first defendant’s counsel.

Justice Adesanya subsequently adjourned the case.

At the last adjourned date of May 4, the court had admitted in evidence two handwritten statements made by Chidinma.

While ruling on a trial within trial to determine the voluntariness of the statements, Justice Yetunde Adesanya held that the prosecution proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Chidinma made the statements willingly and without duress.

Chidinma, who was a 300-level Mass Communication student of the University of Lagos at the time of the offence, is standing trial alongside one Adedapo Quadri, for the murder of the Super TV CEO, Usifo Ataga.

Both were arraigned before the court on October 12 last year.

The murder was said to have been committed in a serviced apartment in the Lekki area of Lagos State.

The duo were arraigned by the Lagos State Government alongside a third defendant, Chidinma’s sister, Chioma Egbuchu, on a nine-count charge bordering on conspiracy, murder, forgery, stealing and being in possession of a stolen property.

They all pleaded not guilty.

In count one, Chidinma and Adedapo are charged with conspiring to murder Usifo Ataga contrary to Section 233 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos 2015.

In count two, Chidinma and Adedapo are charged with the murder of Usifo Ataga, an offence said to have been committed by stabbing him several times in the neck and chest with a knife.

In counts three, four, five, six and seven, Chidinma and Adedapo are charged with conspiracy to commit forgery, forgery and making documents without authority. They were specifically alleged to have procured false Access Bank and UBA bank account statements of Usifo Ataga. They also allegedly forged an international passport and a driving licence In Chidinma’s name.

In count eight, Chidinma is charged alone with stealing two iPhones — an iPhone 7 and an iPhone 11 — as well as one Apple MacBook laptop and ATM card of Access and Guaranty Trust Bank belonging to the late Ataga from which the sum of N380,000 was subsequently withdrawn.

In count nine, Egbuchu was charged with being in possession of the stolen property, the iPhone 7 belonging to the late Usifo Ataga.

Usifo was found dead with multiple stab wounds on June 16 at a short-let apartment on Adebowale Oshin Street, Lekki Phase I where he had checked in with his lover, Chidinma.

She was consequently arrested on June 23 in her father’s house in Yaba and paraded at the Lagos State Police Command headquarters in Ikeja.

The deceased, 50, was buried on July 30 in a low-key ceremony attended by his family members, including his wife and friends.

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