Posted by News Express | 15 February 2022 | 823 times
. . . Details of how he tracked Chidinma, leading to her arrest
By YEJIDE GBENGA-OGUNDARE
Mr Raman Obiorah Saliu, the business partner of late Super TV Chief Executive Officer, Usifo Ataga and co-founder of Super Network Ltd., on Monday told the Lagos High Court, sitting at Tafa Balewa Square (TBS), that there were a total of seven multiple stabs on Ataga’s neck, adding that he was killed like a chicken.
Saliu who broke down in tears while testifying before Justice Yetunde Adesanya said apart from the seven multiple stabs on Ataga’s neck, there was one on his stomach, there were stabs on the two sides of Ataga’s ribs, the left vendicular to the chest, adding that he was tied up on both his hands and legs like a ram waiting to be slaughtered.
Saliu, who is the fifth prosecution witness and was led in Evidence-in-Chief by the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Mrs A. O. Oluwafemi, said that he saw a very big cut at back of the two sides of Ataga’s neck, from his back to his neck as if they were going to perform surgery when he visited the mortuary.
Saliu, a network engineer, programe and a developer, informed the court that he met the late Michael Usifo Ataga 10 years ago in the course of building the Super TV App.
He said he was introduced to Ataga by a friend he identified as Mr Bisi Osuneye, who is also late, explaining that he usually held meeting with Ataga, the Chief Executive Officer of Super TV. He emphasised that they usually had management meetings on Mondays and Executive meetings on Tuesdays and they met virtually by Microsoft link.
He said that he got a call from him on Monday June 14, 2021, that he was having stomach pain, and he then told him to go and take his drugs, adding that because he knew Ataga had high blood pressure issues, he told him to take medication and rest.
Saliu said he needed to provide Ataga with a task that needed to be completed by him before the management meeting, so didn’t bother to call him back as he needed to complete the task.
He explained further: “On Tuesday, I wanted him (the deceased) to come to the meeting to give him the completed task, so I started calling, my first call was at 11am, on June 15, 2021, I wanted to give him the brief that the task was easy in order to relief him of the blood pressure.
“I started calling him, he didn’t pick his call neither did he return my messages, I was surprised because the only thing he wants to hear is the billing App, with MTN, that it is working now. Michael didn’t pick his call, everybody started reaching out to him because the only way they can get him is through me and the only way they can reach me is through him, he still did not pick my call, this was about 3:30pm, on June 15, 2021.
“Then I got a WhatsApp message from him, after reading the message, I said to myself this is not Michael talking to me. The message read, ‘I saw your missed call, I took some drugs that made me sleeping’. The construction of that message was not Michael, because Michael was very fluent in English.
“I knew that was not Michael typing, it’s someone else, then I sent him a screenshot of the billing system in the Super TV App that it’s working and his response to me was ‘okay, great’. That was when I knew something was happening because Michael will jump up, pick up his phone and call me immediately. So I went outside to take fresh air and I started thinking where he could have been now that he is not picking my calls.
“I called Gambo, he’s a driver and personal assistant (PA) to Michael. I asked him, ‘did you receive any call from Michael?’ He said no, that he has also been calling him too because he needed to pick up his clothes from the laundry because he was traveling with him to Abuja.
“Gambo said he got a WhatsApp message, that was between 5 to 6pm, on June 15, 2021, then we started thinking of what could have happened to him, then his (Micheal’s) friend, Okwuedo, who lives with us at Victoria Garden City (VGC), asked, ‘where is Usifo?’ I told him I got a WhatsApp message from Michael so Okwuedo said I should let him see the message. Immediately he saw it, he said, ‘this is not Michael’.
“Okwuedo and Gambo went to few places where they thought he could be, so I went back to the office and on Wednesday 16, June 2021, I asked Gambo if they found him; he said no. So I now called his cook at Banana Island, that was when I knew that he left home since Sunday, June 13, 2021.
“I kept calm because he was going to Abuja on Thursday for his 50th birthday, wherever he was, I knew that he would come and meet me and we would go to the airport, stay with the girls (Michael’s daughters) and his wife for his 50th birthday. They were actually waiting for him; they were planning a surprise birthday party for him.
“So, I started suspecting something was wrong because he was supposed to come to VGC on the 15th, so I had to raise alarm that I don’t know where Michael was. My last WhatsApp message to Michael on June 16, 2021, was at 10:30am and the message reads, ‘Bro where are you? I am worried my BP is rising’. The message was read, no response. I started getting calls from his family wanting to wish him happy 50th birthday.
“Calls started coming in; I did not really know what to say – how can I say I’m looking for a 50 years old man? To me it didn’t make any sense. I wanted to go and make a complaint at the VGC Police Station of a missing person, when at about 6:33 to 6:35 a.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021, I got a call from Mrs Brenda Ataga, who happens to be his wife and the wife said, ‘where is Usifo?’
“I had to tell her the truth that I have been looking for Michael since Tuesday. She was a bit upset with me that I was looking for someone since Tuesday and I did nothing about it. I tried to explain to her that I was trying to make a complaint. Ten minutes later she called back and said Michael’s phones was traced to the University of Lagos Guest House.
“I didn’t take my bath, I just grabbed my car key and I started driving to UNILAG. A friend called me and I told him I was driving to UNILAG. He said how did I know that he was in UNILAG? I said Brenda called me and said they traced the phone to UNILAG.
“Mrs Brenda Ataga, also called me and said there is a team of police men that I will meet at UNILAG, to conduct the search. I got to UNILAG, before them so I went to the security and told them I was looking for a black Range Rover, so they directed me to the guest house.
“The police joined me with two of his friends and a staff from my office. Mrs Ataga called me and was giving me the GPS coordinate from where the direction of the phone is. While going through Yaba, I got a call from our GTBank account officer, whom I asked to help me trace Michael’s transactions, so that I can know where exactly he is.
“While we were on the field I got a call from him that Michael made transaction on Sunday and Monday and the Sunday transaction was to a lady, Mrs Nkechi Mogbo, the owner of the service apartment (where the deceased was murdered).
“The account officer also said that the transaction that was made on Monday was to a Sterling Bank account with the name Chidinma Ojukwu Adora. The account officer asked me what’s happening; I said today is his birthday and I have been looking for him since Tuesday.
“So I told him that since the owner of the service apartment uses GTB, that he should send me her number, so after searching through Yaba, the account officer sent me her number, so the police said I should give the number to Brenda so that it will not distract our search for Michael.
“Only for Brenda to call and told me that Michael is dead. I fainted; it took the police to resuscitate me. When I was a bit OK, I called her and asked how; she is in Abuja and we are in Lagos, so she said she called the number I sent to her and the owner of the apartment said somebody was murdered that she should show his means of identification if it was the person we were looking for.
“So Brenda shared her husband’s picture to the woman and the owner of the service apartment said this person was murdered here and she is on her way to the police station at Maroko. So Brenda asked me to meet Mrs Nkechi Mogbo at Panti. I met her with some Michael’s friends at Panti, we went to the scene of incident at Lekki where Michael was murdered,” he said.
Saliu added: “I didn’t want to believe that Michael was dead, I saw Michael’s belongings that the police brought out we were not allowed inside. When I got to the mortuary, I saw Michael’s body. Michael was killed like a chicken. I saw a very big cut at the back of his neck. The wickedness for me is that the day I was with Michael’s corpse, they were still taking money from his account; that was June 17, 2021, exactly the day he was 50 years old.
“There were subsequent USSD transactions on his account until Brenda and I decided to close the account. I started tracking Chidinma, I started looking at Michael’s calls from 9mobile and MTN, Chidinma was calling him with WhatsApp number.
“I traced the money that was transferred by Michael to Chidinma’s Sterling Bank account and I supplied all the information to the Police at Panti. Around 1am, on June 23, 2021, on a Wednesday I got a message from Panti, that Chidinma had been arrested.
“Michael’s iPhone came with an original Apple pouch; when the police recovered the iPhone from Chidinma, it was replaced with a N1,000, pouch. Michael’s laptop was also recovered. There were two iPhones, one iPhone 11 and iPhone 7 or 8, was also recovered; I was told by the police that she gave the other iPhone to her sister,” he added.
The witness further stated that there is a restaurant at Lekki, Angle Villa Restaurant, that the deceased made a transaction on June 13. “I shared the information with Michael’s friends and they proceeded to Angie Villa, to confirm if a transaction was actually made.
“They confirmed that Michael came, so we requested for CCTV footage to know if he went alone, but we discovered that he came with Chidinma. The police at Panti took the video and I was surprised to see the CCTV footage all over the social media,” Saliu said.
During cross examination by the counsel to Chidinma, Mr Onwuka Egwu, the witness said he had no idea of who handed the CCTV footage video to the Police.
He said that the CCTV footage was trending prior to the arrest of Chidinma.
The counsel to the second and third defendants, Mr Babatunde Busari and Mrs J. I. Osigede, did not cross examine the witness.
The case was adjourned till February 17, 2022 for continuation of trial.
Ojukwu, a 300-level, Mass Communication student of the University of Lagos, is facing trial alongside her sister, Chioma Egbuchu and one Adedapo Quadri, for Ataga’s murder.
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