Ataga’s murder: NLC strike stalls proceeding

A combined picture of the late Ataga and Chidinma

The absence from court of Chidinma Ojukwu, the alleged murder suspect of the Chief Executive Officer of Super TV, Usifo Ataga, on Tuesday stalled the murder trial proceedings.

Ojukwu is standing trial before a Lagos High Court at Tafawa Balewa Square on a nine-count charge bordering on murder, theft and forgery.

She is charged alongside her sister, Chioma Egbuchu, and one Adedapo Quadri.

At the resumed trial on Tuesday, only the third defendant, Egbuchu, was present while Ojukwu and Quadri were not brought to court from the correctional facility.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the defendants were not brought to court due to the industrial action called by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).

Justice Yetunde Adesanya said the correctional facility officials had informed the court that the defendants would not be brought to court for security purposes until the strike is called off.

Counsel to the first defendant, Mr Onwuka Egwu, said: “due to the NLC’s strike, I suggest that tomorrow’s date be vacated and a fresh clear date be given.”

Mr Babatunde Busari, the second defendant’s counsel, expressed displeasure over the slow pace of the trial.

According to Busari, the trail is still taking too long in spite of the court’s efforts.

“There is no trial day that I come to this court without the trial going on. I also suggest that a clear date be given to ensure that substantive justice is done to this matter,” Egwu said.

He also asked the Prosecution Counsel, Mrs Adenike Oluwafemi, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), to mention how many prosecution witnesses were remaining to give evidence.

The DPP had told the court that apart from the ninth prosecution witness, DSP Olusegun Bamidele, who was still giving evidence under cross-examination, “there are two more witnesses”.

The judge consequently vacated tomorrow’s date (Nov. 15) to guide against disruption of the trial by the ongoing NLC strike.

She adjourned the case until Dec. 5 and Dec. 7 for continuation of trial.

NAN reports that the ninth prosecution witness, DSP Bamidele, had at the last proceeding in June, narrated how he examined the body of late Ataga at the mortuary.

The witness was cross-examined by the first defendant’s counsel, Egwu.

The witness had told the court that he visited the mortuary two days after the deceased died to carry out his investigation.

Bamidele had testified that the body bag was opened in his presence for observation.

He had told the court how he saw both body and beck injuries on the deceased.

He narrated how he had instructed the mortuary attendant to turn the body over and he saw marks on the side of the left ribs.

Bamidele also said that there was an injury at the lower centre of the head, adding that it was an open injury that showed signs of stabbing.

When asked to clarify what was written in his report about the deceased drinking a spiked drink before his death and the issue of not tendering any laboratory analysis of the drink or bottle to the court, the officer responded that it was the responsibility of the DNA personnel who did the examination to tender such report.

He also added that during his investigation some knives found at the scene of the crime were examined.

The witness said a bio-data and fingerprint examination were carried out on the items.

“The fingerprints on the knives were taken by fingerprint section of the Force Criminal Investigation Department, Alagbon,” Bamidele narrated.

The witness, however, said he did not mention anything about the fingerprints during his evidence in chief.

The first defendant’s counsel, however, requested that the case be adjourned for continuation of cross examination.

NAN reports that Ojukwu and the two others were arraigned on Oct. 12, 2021 by the Lagos State Government.

Ojukwu and Quadri are facing the first to eight counts bordering on conspiracy, murder, and stabbing while her sister, Egbuchu, is facing the ninth count of stealing an iPhone 7 belonging to the late Ataga.

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