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Chidinma alleges police forced her to sign statement

Chidinma Ojukwu, the alleged murderer of Usifo Ataga, the chief-executive officer of Super TV, has told a Lagos High Court that the original statement she gave the police was torn up.

At her trial, Ms Ojukwu was giving evidence before the court on Thursday to ascertain whether the statement she made was voluntarily given or whether it was coaxed out of her.

The former 300-level Mass Communication undergraduate of the University of Lagos is standing trial for the alleged murder of Mr Ataga, with whom Chidinma had on several occasions confessed to have been in a love affair.

She, alongside one Adedapo Quadri and her sister, Chioma Egbuchu, is also charged with stealing and forgery.

At Thursday’s resumed trial, Ms Ojukwu said the two statements she wrote had been torn up and she was forced to sign the one written by ASP Olusegun Bamidele.

She said she was also forced to sign the one dictated to her by officer Olufunke Madeyinlo.

The defendant, who testified as defence witness one (DW1), told the court that Mr Bamidele asked her to rehearse the statement and narrate it to the Commissioner of Police (CP).

She also claimed that before she was taken to the CP’s office at Ikeja, her hands were chained to the chair on which she sat, namely from June 23 till the next morning, June 24, 2021.

Ms Ojukwu was led in evidence in the trial within trial by her counsel, Onwunka Egwu.

She told the court that on June 23, 2021, she was in her room at her home, located at No. 47 Akinwunmi Street, Alagomeji, Yaba, Lagos, when her 10-year-old kid sister informed her that there were men in the sitting room asking after her.

The witness said she then went to the sitting room and greeted the men, after which they asked if she was Chidinma, to which she answered “yes”.

According to her, the men asked her the whereabouts of Mr Ataga’s phone and the Range Rover jeep, to which she replied, “I don’t know!”

“My little sister called my father and informed him about the visitors,” she continued.

“My Dad came out and asked the men who they were. They said they were police from the Panti Police Station.

“They said they came to arrest me and to search the house or I should go in and bring the phone.

“One of the policemen slapped me and my father told him not to slap his daughter in his house.”

She said after she was picked up, she was taken to DCP Razak Oseni’s office, where police officers asked her “a lot of questions”.

“At DCP’s office, he asked me questions. I told him that I don’t know anything about the death of Mr Ataga; that was when they made the video that was played in court.

“The DCP said I should make my statement. IPO Bamidele, therefore, took me to the interrogating room with Mr Chris, and gave me a blank statement form and asked me to write what happened.”

Ms Ojukwu explained that while she was writing her statement before the DCP, Mr Bamidele cuffed her left hand to the chair, after which he (Bamidele) took the statement, read out its content and said her version was not the real account of events.

“When he took the statement from me and said “this is not what happened”, I told him, “sir, this is what happened”.

“I received two slaps from the back from Mr Jemiyo.

“Jemiyo and Chris were sitting behind me; the only person facing me was Bamidele. He said “you are going to write the truth”.”

According to the accused, Mr Bamidele then threatened her, saying if she did not comply, her entire family, including her Dad, 10-year-old sister and other relatives “will be charged with this murder case”.

She narrated how officer Bamidele brought out his phone, played the video of the scene at the apartment and showed pictures of Mr Ataga’s body.

Ms Ojukwu said the officer then asked her to write, and while she was writing, he slapped her and said she was slow.

The officer then took the statement form from her and wrote the statement for her, and chained her hands to the chair.

When the statement was read to her, she objected that it was not what happened, but the officer said, “this is what you are going to say or else your family will be charged”.

“He read the statement to me again and told me to rehearse it, that tomorrow (June 24, 2021), I will take it to the CP’s office and say that’s what happened,” she narrated.

According to Ojukwu, this was by midnight.

She said the officers returned in the morning and asked her to sign the statement.

During cross-examination by the prosecution, Ms Ojukwu affirmed that she signed the statements.

The defendant also said the second statement was dictated while the first was written.

After testifying in her trial within trial, the judge gave the prosecution and the defence 14 days each to file their written addresses in the trial within trial.

Justice Adesanya, consequently, adjourned the case until January 11, 2023, for the adoption of final written addresses in the trial within trial.

Writing by Muzha Kucha; Editing by Tony Okerafor