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Nigeria: How We Found Out About Cynthia Osokogu's Death - Witness

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Cynthia Osokogu.

The trial of the alleged murderers of Cynthia Osokogu began, Friday, with the prosecution, the Lagos State Government calling its first witness.

Okwumo Nwabufo and Olisaeloka Ezike were charged with conspiracy to commit murder, murder, and felony.

Osita Orji, the pharmacist who sold the Ropynol drug to the alleged murderers, was charged with reckless and negligent act; while Nonso Ezike, who sold the deceased's Blackberry phone, was charged with possession of stolen property.

All the accused pleaded not guilty to all six counts.

Enter the witness

With nine state attorneys, led by the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, the Lagos State Government called its first witness.

Ifeyinwa Njebu, a former receptionist at Cosmilla Suites and Hotel, Festac, who was on duty on the day of the incident entered the witness box.

Mrs. Njebu said that at about 12 a.m. on July 21, 2012, she checked in a couple into hotel room C1, where the corpse of Ms. Osokogu, 24, was eventually found.

"On that same day, at about 8 a.m., the same couple I checked in came down with their bags and said they were checking out," said Mrs. Njebu, a Biochemistry graduate from the Federal University of Technology, Minna.

The witness said that, by that time, she had handed over to Vivian Anuonye, who had taken over duty; so she asked her to check them out.

"When I resumed by July 22nd, Vivian handed over to me and gave me details about room C1. She said that the couple that left, his brother came to take over the room," Mrs. Njebu said.

"The room that I checked in the couple was to expire July 22nd, 12 noon. So I noted that. And that the brother of the man is still occupying the room.

"While I was seated at the reception, a man in long sleeve shirt went into the bar with a brown bag," she added.

After describing the man, Mrs. Njebu pointed at Olisaeloka, who was standing in the dock.

"He was making calls. And then he stepped out through the reception door. When he was coming back inside, I stopped him and asked him if he was waiting for somebody.

"He said he was waiting for his brother upstairs. He went back to his seat at the bar. He was drinking."

Mrs. Njebu said that she called all the rooms in the hotel - a normal routine - to ascertain those who are still in and those about to check out.

"The occupant of (room) C1 told me that he would be staying behind but that I'll permit him to get money from ATM machine to pay for the day.

"After sometime, I saw a man, he is fair in complexion, with a dark glasses, coming down the stairs. He has a slightly big head," she said.

Mrs. Njebu, again, pointed at Mr. Nwabufo to confirm his identity.

"When he reached down the stairs, the second person in the bar came out and they were going outside through the reception door."

Mrs. Njebu said that part of her duties as a receptionist is to find out from "strange faces" if they were staying at the hotel.

"I asked the first defendant (Mr. Nwabufo) if he was lodging here and he said yes. That I have already called his room and he said he's staying.

"But that he'll go to the ATM machine to get some money to pay for the day. That his girlfriend is still upstairs with his (room) key," she added.

Mrs. Njebu said that she told Mr. Nwabufo to return to the hotel before 12 noon, when the payment for room C1 would expire.

She said she never saw him again.

At about 3 p.m. the same day, someone rang the hotel.

"I don't know the person. He said that he's the occupant of C1 and that he's not going to be coming back. That I should remove the idiot out of the room. That the girl is an idiot.

"I replied, 'sir, you promised to come back and pay for the day.' He said he's not coming back and dropped the call."

Mrs. Njebu said that she informed the hotel's manager about the development and he assured her that since the caller's girlfriend is still in; she would pay for the room.

"So he (the manager) told me to call the room through the intercom. I called severally but no response. The manager went upstairs, knocked severally but no response," she said.

The hotel manager then suggested that the master key be used to open the room, according to Mrs. Njebu.

"So I went upstairs, knocked again, severally, no response. So I used the master key to open the door.

"And from the door, I saw her (the deceased) lying naked on the bed. She was lying horizontal with her legs touching the ground.

"I was shocked and I shouted 'Jesus'. So the cleaners came in and said 'she don go' (she's dead). I was still by the door."

Mrs. Njebu said that she rushed downstairs to inform the manager, who alerted the police.

From the CCTV footage played to her by the police, Mrs. Njebu said that she identified Messrs Nwabufo and Olisaeloka.

She said that she recognized the duo when the police brought them to the Area E police station in Festac Town, Lagos.

During her cross examination by Victor Opara, counsel to first defendant, Mrs. Njebu admitted that she did not see Mr. Nwabufo checking into the hotel.

"Naturally, I'll not be able to say if he checked in alone or with the deceased. My first contact with him was when I saw him alighting from the stairs," she said.

"When he told me his girlfriend was upstairs, I did not go to check. I'm not supposed to," she added, responding to a question whether she checked room C1 immediately after Mr. Nwabufor left.

"The first defendant is not a regular guest at the hotel. He assured me that the girlfriend was there with the key. He didn't submit the key to me," Mrs. Njebu added.

Bail applications

Counsels for Messrs Orji and Nonso requested for bail for their clients.

Olabisi Akinlade, the trial judge, granted bail to Mr. Orji with two sureties who must deposit N500,000 each. One of the sureties must be a serving director at Ecobank plc and the other a licensed pharmacist.

For Mr. Nonso, Olisaeloka's younger brother, the judge granted bail of N2 million, with two sureties. One surety must be a civil servant not less than Grade Level 14 while the other must be a property owner with a genuine Certificate of Occupancy. The sureties must be resident in Lagos and with evidence of tax payment dating back to three years.

While adjourning till February 22 for continuation of trial, the judge ordered that Mr. Orji be remanded in prison until he meets his bail conditions.

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