By Lukman Olabiyi
Nkechi Mogbo, the first prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of a 300-Level Mass Communication student of the University of Lagos, Chidinma Ojukwu, who was alleged to have killed Michael Usifo Ataga, the Super TV’s Chief Executive Officer, has told court how the deceased’s lifeless body was found.
Mogbo is the owner of the short service apartment where Ataga’s lifeless body was found in the Ikoyi area of Lagos State.
Ojukwu, alongside her sister, Chioma Egbuchu, and one Adedapo Quadri, are standing trial for the alleged murder of the deceased before Justice Yetunde Adesanya of the Lagos High Court, Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS).
Testifying before the court, yesterday, Mogbo told the court that she was the one who rented out the apartment where the deceased body was found.
She told Justice Adesanya that Ojukwu left the service apartment before the billed day she was supposed to leave.
The witness, who was led in Evidence-in-Chief by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Mrs Adeyinka Adeyemi, narrated how she got a call from a private number on June 13, 2021, requesting a short let service apartment.
Mogbo said: “On June 13, at about 4pm, a lady (suspect) called me on phone with a private number and requested for the apartment.
“The lady requested to see the apartment to ensure that the facilities were up to the standard she needed. I asked the lady (suspect ) to send a message to me through WhatsApp, so I could forward the address to her, which I did.
“I called my security guard at the apartment and informed him that someone was coming to check the place. Afterwards, the lady, through WhatsApp message, confirmed to me that she would take the apartment for three days.
“She mentioned that her name was Jewel and I forwarded payment details, thereafter, she sent proof of payment of N125,000, to my WhatsApp.
“The payment was made through a Guaranty Trust Bank account from one Mr Michael Usifo, which had a time and date of transfer and my name as recipient. The security guard handed her the keys to the apartment, but two days later (June 15), at 5:30pm, the lady sent message to my WhatsApp stating that her friend would stay for two more days and that he would be making the payment,” she said.
The witness said a second payment of N50, 000 for the two extra days was made from the same GTBank account on June 16, 20201, at 10am.
She said the payment was made from the first initiator, which was Mr Michael, and she confirmed receipt, adding that a couple of hours later, she put a call across to her security guard on another issue upon which he made a remark that they have just noticed a body on the ground of the said apartment.
“I got off the phone and tried to reach the lady; I put a call across to her but she cut the phone. She then sent a message to me that she was in a meeting. I carried on saying the payment which was made in the morning wasn’t credited, so can you kindly make the payment because I need a receipt,” Mogbo said.
“I panicked when my security guard told me about the body. I asked where is the lady, because the guard confirmed that the lady who booked the apartment was with one guy. They said she left a night before at about 7:30 to 8pm.
“I hung the phone and tried to reach out to the lady, but she didn’t pick my call, I sent her a message I didn’t want her to know what I was aware of then, I tried to to initiate a conversation, which I told her the later payment didn’t come through which I confirmed in the morning,” she narrated further.
The witness said that the first defendant told her that she would reach out to her friend to make the payment, adding that few minutes later she got another N50,000, from the same initiator, from the same account of GT Bank from Mr Michael.
“When she made the payment, I was already on my way to the property, so that I can know what really happened, after which I went to the Police Station at Maroko.
“A couple of hours, I sent her a message that I have received the first payment of N50,000 and that I have given the security man the extra N50,000, for her to pick it up from the security.
“It was because I called her and she wasn’t responding that I had to device a means to lure her into the property after the security man told me she left a night before.
“She didn’t come, she sent a message that she would use it to pay for two more days for her friend, I reported the incident at the Maroko Police Station, they followed me to the apartment, they took pictures and I followed them back to make statement on what I know.
“I left the police station at 11pm, but before that the police arranged for the body to be taken out to the morgue, and i reported back the next day”, she added.
Magbo also narrated how she was taken to Panti police station and how she stayed for seven days in custody to help police do proper investigation.
Justice Adesanya, however, adjourned the case until November 15 for continuation of trial.