Vanguard (Lagos)

9 February 2013

Nigeria: Cynthia - 'Defendants Escaped Under Pretext of Withdrawing From ATM' - Witness

Photo: Leadership
Cynthia Osokogu.

Trial of the four men who allegedly murdered Cynthia Osokogu, a Nasarawa born lady they met through the social network, facebook commenced yesterday after they were arraigned before an Ikeja High Court for murder.

Okwumo Nwabufo, Ezike Olisaeloka, Orji Osita and Ezike Nonso are facing a six-count charge of conspiracy, murder, stealing and negligence before Justice Olabisi Akinlade.

At the resumed trial, the prosecution team led by the state Attorney-General, Mr Ade Ipaye presented their first witness, Mrs Ifenyinwa Njegbu, a receptionist at the hotel where Cynthia was allegedly killed who told the court how the first two defendants, who brought the lady to the hotel bolted after killing her, under the pretence that they want to withdraw money from ATM.

Before the commencement of the trial, the six-count charge were read to them and they all pleaded not guilty.

Okwumo Echezona Nwabufo and Ezike Ilechukwu Olisaeloka, suspected murderers of Late Miss Cynthia Osokogu Udoka covering their faces at the Yaba Magistrate Court, Lagos. Photo: Lamidi Bamidele.

The state alleged that two of the defendants Okwumo and Ezike on or about 22 July, 2012 at Cosmilla Hotel, Amuwo-Odofin, Festac Town, conspired to murder Cynthia Osokogu.

The state also alleged that the defendants murdered Cynthia by administering Rohypnol Flunitrazepan tablet into her drink, chained her hands and legs and strangled her to death.

The duo were also alleged to have stolen three blackberry phones valued at N150,000, Jewelries, an international passport and a drivers licence belonging to Cynthia after they strangled her to death.

Orji Osita, the third suspect was charged for negligently selling the Rohypnol Flunitrazepan tablets to Ezike, the second defendant without a doctors prescription and without showing due care.

Ezike Nonso, the man who allegedly bought Cynthia's stolen blackberry Bold 5 was charged for being in possession of a stolen phone.

In her evidence, Mrs Njegbu told the court that while on duty on Saturday 21, July 2012, she checked in two guests, a man and a woman who claimed to be couples into room C1 of the hotel at about 12am.

She disclosed that at about 8am while she was preparing to hand over to one of her colleagues, Vivian Amule, the couple informed her through phone that they were checking out.

"After I had handed over to my colleague, I asked her to check out the couple since they had told me that they were leaving that morning."

Njegbu noted that when she resumed duty the next day,she was briefed that the couple had left and that a brother of the man had taken over the room because the room was not going to expire until 12pm of July 22, 2012. So she noted that the brother of the man who had booked the room, was still occupying the room.

She said while sitting at the reception, a man in brown long sleeve shirt went straight into the bar with a brown bag and he was drinking, when asked to describe the person she saw, she described the second defendant as dark in complexion, tall, young and also identified him as the second person in the dock on a pink Polo T shirt.

According to her, she asked the first defendant if he lodged in the hotel and he said yes and that she had earlier called his room and but said he was staying but will only went out to made a withdrawal at the ATM machine to pay for the next day, adding that his his girl friend was still up stairs with the key. She said she responded by informing him to come back before 12noon, when their rent will expire.

She told the court that after sometime she saw a man who is fair in complexion that wore a dark sun glasses coming down from the upstairs towards her, where the second defendant (Ezike Eloka) in the bar met with the first defendant (Nwabufor Okwumo) at the reception and they went out together before she stopped him, because it is the normal thing to do, especially when the person did not officially lodged in the hotel.

The witness, said they didn't show up until around 3pm, when someone called the intercom phone of the hotel and identified himself as the occupant of room C1, revealing that he is not going to return to the hotel, saying " you people should remove the Idiot from the room."

Nejgbu said she replied that sir "but you promised to come back and pay for the room", the only thing he did was to drop the phone.

"Immediately I called the manager and explained what had happened. So he told me that if he doesn't come back the girl will pay for the C1 room, so he told me to call the room through the company's intercom phone and I called but there was no response, "

"The manager, Mr Victor went up stairs and said he knocked at the door and there was no response, so he told me to take the master key since am a lady like her that I should go and open the door, so I went up stairs to the room and knocked severally and there was no response. So I used the master key to open the door and I met the deceased Cynthia naked on the bed, with one of her legs touching the ground in room C1 and I was shocked and shouted Jesus."

She added that she rushed down to inform the manager, who went upstairs to identify the corpse.

She added that the next thing was that she saw police men who called all of them on duty to identify those they saw through the CCtv in the hotel.

She further said that she was able to identify the first and second defendant and the police took them to "Area E" police station where their statements were taken.

She said two weeks later someone called the hotel and asked for the details of Cynthia the deceased if she lodged in the hotel, identifying himself as the deceased's brother.

However, she responded that it wasn't in the practice of the hotel to disclose details of their customers.

Shortly after the trial, counsel to the third and fourth defendants, Orji Osita and Ezike Nonso, the pharmacist and the man who bought Cynthia phone respectively applied for their bail.

Ruling on the bail, Justice Akinlade ordered that third defendant should continue with the N1million bail granted him at the lower court.

The Judge also granted the fourth defendant bail in the sum of N2million with two sureties.

She ordered that one of the sureties must be a grade level 14 civil servant resident in Lagos with proof of three years tax payment.

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