Four men accused of complicity in the murder of Miss Cynthia Osukogu last year appeared in a Lagos High Court, Ikeja.
Okwumo Nwabufo, Ezike Olisaeloka, Orji Osita and Ezike Nonso were arraigned before Justice Olabisi Akinlade on a six-count charge of conspiracy, murder, stealing and negligence .
Nwabufo and Olisaeloka allegedly tricked the lady they met on the social network, Facebook from Nasarawa Stateto Lagos and strangled her in a hotel room.
They pleaded not guilty when the charge was read to them.
Their trial commenced immediately, with the prosecution led by the state Attorney General, Ade Ipaye, calling its first witness, Mrs Ifenyinwa Njegbu, a receptionist at the hotel where the alleged murder took place.
Mrs Njegbu told the court how the first two defendants – Nwabufo and Olisaeloka – who brought the victim to the hotel escaped after allegedly killing her, by using the excuse that they wanted to withdraw money from a nearby ATM.
She said that while she was on duty on Saturday 21, July 2012, she checked in two guests, a man and a woman, who claimed to be a couple into room C1 of the hotel at about 12am.
At about 8am while she was preparing to hand over to one of her colleagues, Vivian Amule, the first two defendants informed her through the 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,” he said.
Mrs Njegbu said when she resumed duty the next day, her colleague told her that the couple had left, but 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.
She said she noticed 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 (Olisaeloka) as dark in complexion, tall, young. She also identified him as the second person in the dock who had on a pink polo T-shirt.
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 (Olisaeloka) in the bar met with the first defendant (Nwabufor) 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 lodge in the hotel.
The witness said they didn’t return 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.”
Mrs 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 didn’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 upstairs 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 upstairs to the room and knocked severally and there was no response, so I used the masters 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 upstair to identify the corpse.
She added that the next thing was that she saw policemen 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 defendants 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.
She said it was not in the practice in the hotel to disclose details of their customers.
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.
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 driver’s licence belonging to Cynthia after they strangled her to death.
Orji Osita, the third suspect, was charged for negligently of selling the Rohypnol Flunitrazepan tablets to Ezike, the second defendant, without a doctor’s 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.
Lawyers 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.
In her 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.