Mr Rotimi Albert, a former classmate of late Super TV CEO Usifo Ataga, testified yesterday in the ongoing trial of Chidinma Ojukwu, the suspected murder suspect Ataga, about how Ataga’s family and friends discovered his body in the mortuary on his birthday.
Albert, the fourth prosecution witness, said this while testifying in front of a Lagos High Court sitting in Tafa Balewa Square TBS.
Ojukwu, a University of Lagos 300-level Mass Communication student, is charged with Ataga’s murder alongside her sister, Chioma Egbuchu, and one Adedapo Quadri.
The witness, who identified himself as a long-time classmate and family friend of the late Ataga, said he planned to call him on his birthday, June 17, 2021, to deliver birthday greetings.
Albert claimed that on the evening of June 16, 2021, another of their mutual acquaintances called him and asked if he had seen or heard from Ataga.
He claimed that a mutual friend told him over the phone that Ataga had not been heard from since Sunday (June 13th).
The witness stated that he attempted to contact the deceased via phone, and that when his phone rang but no one answered, he sent a WhatsApp message, which was delivered.
Mrs Adeyinka Adeyemi, the Lagos State Director of Public Prosecutions, testified that Albert saw the deceased was online, as evidenced by the WhatsApp last seen.
“I was taken aback when he didn’t pick up my calls or respond to my messages.
“I began calling other friends to see if they had seen him, and even his brothers in different countries contacted me to inquire about Ataga’s whereabouts.” I expressed my concern to them.
“His wife and family were also hunting for him because they were scheduled to be in Abuja to celebrate his birthday with him,” he said.
The witness told the court that the deceased’s wife had reported their concerns to the police.
According to him, the deceased’s phone was tracked, and it was discovered that it was last used at the University of Lagos guest house.
According to him, it was already late on June 16th, so he and a mutual acquaintance went to the University of Lagos guest house the next day (June 17th) to look for Ataga’s vehicle, but it was not there.
The phone tracker also showed that the phone was used in the Alagomeji area, he claimed.
Because the movement kept shifting, Albert added, tracking got tough.
“During all of this, we received word that Usifo had passed away and was in the mortuary.”
“As a result, we went to the Panti police station, where we learned that the cops had already been to the murder scene.”
“After arriving at the crime scene, the cops advised us to go to the mortuary to identify the deceased, so we did, and it was Usifo Ataga.”
“At the morgue, I saw that he had many stab wounds on his neck, belly, side, and leg.”
“I also noticed rope marks and large indentations on his wrist.” “That’s how I found out my friend had died,” Albert explained.
After his direct questioning, the witness was cross examined by Mr Onwuka Egwu, the first defendant’s counsel.
The witness claimed that a common acquaintance was the one who checked and tracked the deceased’s phone and bank transactions, not him.
Albert testified that he gave a statement at the police station, which the defense counsel presented and was admitted into evidence.
Mr Babatunde Busari and Mr A. O. Ogunsanya, lawyers for the second and third defendants, said they had no questions for the witness.
The prosecutor, on the other hand, requested an adjournment so that they could present additional evidence.
As a result, Justice Yetunde Adesanya delayed the case until February 14, 2022, to allow for the continuation of the trial.
On October 12, 2021, the three defendants were arraigned on a nine-count accusation brought against them by the Lagos State Government.
Ojukwu and Quadri are accused of conspiracy, murder, stabbing, forgery, falsifying bank records, and stealing, among other charges.
The third defendant, Egbuchu, is charged with taking the late Ataga’s iPhone 7 on the ninth count.
The first and second defendants were accused of plotting and murdering Ataga on June 15, 2021, by stabbing him multiple times in the neck and chest with a knife.
At 19, Adewale Oshin Street, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos, the alleged murder occurred.
The first and second suspects were also charged with forgery for obtaining and fabricating bank account statements purporting to be from the deceased.