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Ataga: Stop Calling Chidinma Criminal—Lawmaker Warns

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By Dipo Olowookere

A lawmaker in the House of Representatives, Mrs Tolulope Akande-Sadipe, has warned members of the public against labelling Miss Chidinma Ojukwu as a criminal until the court convicts her of the murder of the CEO of Super TV, Mr Usifo Ataga.

On June 24, 2021, Miss Ojukwu, a 300 Level student of the University of Lagos, Akoka, was paraded in public by the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr Hakeem Odumosu, in connection with the gruesome killing of Mr Ataga in Lagos earlier in the month.

When she was paraded by the police, she admitted sniffing the life out of the victim but a few weeks later, she claimed in an interview that she did not murder the media practitioner.

According to her, someone else must have murdered the married 50-year-old amateur boxer when she went out of the short-let she rented to buy food outside.

Her U-turn spurred reactions from different quarters and days after the interview, the police said more suspects were apprehended after establishing a case of conspiracy in the killing.

For Mrs Akande-Sadipe, who represents Oluyole Federal Constituency of Oyo State at the lower chamber of the National Assembly, allowing the key suspect in the murder case and parading her before the media would likely jeopardise the investigation.

In a motion moved last Tuesday, the lawmaker frowned at this practice of parading suspects in public when investigations are yet to be concluded. She also said the police was merely doing a media trial, which allows members of the public to label Miss Ojukwu as a criminal when she has not been found guilty of the offence.

The House of Reps member, therefore, called on the police to ensure that the accused person “does not die in custody or commit suicide while awaiting trial as in some past cases.”

She also asked the parliament to prevail of the Nigeria Police to stop the ongoing media trial of Ms Ojukwu, emphasising that, “This motion is not about Chidinma, her ethnicity, gender or her background, it’s is about doing things right and following due process of the law, it is about the broader issues of police violation of Human rights.”

The Chairman of the House Committee on Diaspora Affairs stressed that if Ms Ojukwu continues to be paraded about for a social media trial, it could affect the determination and outcome of the case, as well as amounts to a breach of her fundamental right to a fair hearing, especially where she is labelled or treated as one guilty of a crime.

“Cognizant that Section 36(5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) provides that every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty.

“Thus, so long as Ms Ojukwu has not been proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction, she is not to be labelled a criminal or paraded about to conduct series of interviews on a case currently under investigation.

“Rather, the police are to conduct a proper investigation and allow the court to consider the matter and make an informed judgment,” a part of her motion read.

She said the police should rather conclude its investigation in her matter and charge her to court for trial rather than the ongoing media trial the suspect is being made to go through.

Mrs Akande-Sadipe, therefore, called on the Inspector-General of Police to call all police personnel to order and ensure that there is no repeat of violation of human rights and media access to arrested persons in the future to avoid compromising the case in a court of law.

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