By Simeon OSAJIE
The legal battle to unravel the killers of Sunny Etchie, the Okaeghele of Kolokolo Community, in Ologbo Dukedom, Ikpoba Okha Local Government Area, Edo State, Nigeria has been adjourned to 4th February, 2022 for trial within trial ruling.
Chief Johnson Atselege, the Iyasere of Warri and 8 Others are currently being arraigned in the Edo State High Court Criminal Court 4 for alleged conspiracy, kidnapping and murder of Sunny Etchie, the Okaeghele of Kolokolo Community in Ologbo Dukedom, Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area, Edo State.
At today’s hearing, the State Counsel, Mrs Osasu Ewemande closed her case, while the 1st defendant counsel, O. T. Okeke opened his defense.
At the last hearing, the first defendant, Oluwa Esimijie has objected to his statement tendered by the 3rd witness, PW 3, Police Sargent Marvelous Otoide attach to Cyber Crime Unit, Edo State Police Command.
The 1st defendant objected to the statement, saying that he was made to sign under duress. The 1st defendant Counsel, 0. T. Okeke objected to the admissibility of the statement.
PW. 3 in his testimony told the court that the statement of the 1st defendant was recorded in a conducive and serene environment.
Objecting to the statement, O. T. Okeke counsel to the 1st defendant asked the court to discard the said statement, saying that his client was made to sign under duress.
The 1st defendant Counsel, 0. T. Okeke objected to the admissibility of the statement.
Haven listen to both counsel. Her Lordship, Justice Mary Ituseli thereafter admitted it as exhibit T1, waiting for the court to hear trial within trial in the next adjournment date which came up today.
Meanwhile, at today’s trail the 1st defendant, Oluwa Esimijie narrated how he was tortured by the police before his statement was taken at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and made to sign under duress.
“I was tortured by the Police and passed out until I regained consciousness after three days. A police man wrote my name, signed my signature and thumb-print everything in the statement.
His counsel, O.T Okeke along the line sought to tender another statement his client made before officers from the Police Headquarters in Abuja on the 19th of August 2020 on the grounds that it is relevant to strengthen the case that the statement before the Court from the state CID on the June 8, 2020 be thrown away as it was made under duress. He sited Section 4 of the Evidence Act 2011 more so as the fresh statement forms part of Police documentation of the case.
The State Counsel Mrs. Osasu Ewemade objected. She argued that the sole reason for the trial within trial was for the court to determine if the statement before it was made under duress and the defendant has told the court in person what transpired. She said that tendering another statement in a trail within trial is new to law.
Haven listen to both counsels,
His Lordship, Justice Mary Ituseli thereafter adjourned to February 4, 2022 for ruling on the trial within trial.
Chief Johnson Atselege and 11 Others are currently being arraigned for alleged conspiracy, kidnapping and murder of Mr. Sunny Etchie, the Okaighele of Kolokolo Community in Ologbo Dukedom, Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area, Edo State.
All the 8 Accused Persons including, The Iyatsere of Warri, Chief Johnson Atsetuleghe, Felicia Otikpere, female – 55; Oluwa Esimije – 38; Monday Iluwa – 58; Ayokotse Robinson – 54; Nosa Omoregie – 54; Mofe Samuel – 40; Magnanimous Omawumi – 40; Ayuwa Mofe – 65, Amerete Ejiro – 25, Onyeburutan Jeffrey – 25 and Benjamin Erewa – 39 were in Court.
The Defendants’ offence contravened Sections 516, 327 and 316 (1) punishable under Section 319 (1) of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C38, Laws of Federation of Nigeria 2004 and Section 2 (2) punishable under Section 3 of the Kidnapping Prohibition (Amendment) Law, 2013 of Edo State.