The trial of four men arraigned by the Lagos State government for the adoption of the traditional ruler of Iba Town, Oba Goriola Oseni commenced yesterday at a Lagos State High Court, Igbosere, with the Monarch revealing that his abductors allegedly obtained N15.1 million from him in two instalments.
The men: Duba Furejo, Ododomo Isaiah, Reuben Anthony and Yerin Fresh be kept in prison after they were arraigned by the state government on an eight count charge of conspiracy, murder, attempted murder, robbery, armed robbery , felony and kidnapping.
The defendants, who allegedly carried out the crime on July 16, 2016 at the palace of the monarch, were said to have murdered a security detail attached to the palace, Sunday Eniola Okanlawon, and a commercial motorcycle rider, Joseph Okeke.
They were also said to have attempted to kill the monarch’s wife, Olori Abosede Oseni while making efforts to dispossess her of her property at gun point.
When the case was called on Friday, the Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice Adeniji Kazeem (SAN), who led a team of counsel for the state, sought the leave of the court to conduct the trial in secret.
The AG in an oral application, argued that the defendants were part of a criminal enterprise and that it would serve the interest of justice as well as the safety of the witnesses for the matter to be closed to the public.
The Trial judge, Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo granted the application despite the objections from the defence counsel, made up of Chief Selowei Baidi for the first and second defendants, John Egwuaroje for the third defendant and fourth defendant counsel, Anthony Onwueze
Justice Taiwo held that there was nothing prejudicial about the application and assured the defence of fair hearing. She ordered all journalists in court to identify themselves by their official Identification cards in order to be allowed to cover the proceedings.
While being led in evidence, Oba Oseni, 73, narrated how at about 8pm on July 16, he was kidnapped while watching TV in a room at the palace and held in captivity for three weeks in an unknown riverine camp.
The first prosecution witness described his abductors – about nine in number – as shirtless, heavily armed men wearing only black trousers and said they accosted him as he went to investigate a noise from his sitting room.
“‘This is the king,’ the gunmen said. I said, ‘what can I do for you?’ Then they grabbed me. I was putting on only a boxer short because I was preparing to take a bath. My Oloris (Queens) came in and asked them where they were taking me to but they fled when the gunmen released bullets into the decking of the room,” Oseni told the court.
He said the gunmen dragged him out of the palace and began shooting sporadically as they left the main gate, killing his security guard and a motorcyclist in the process. They also shot at one of his Oloris, he alleged.
“They started pushing me and shouting ‘trek, trek’, till I fell and injured my arm. My toe nail was also forcibly removed, so they carried me,” Oseni said.
The men, he continued, took him to a speedboat where he was driven away to a riverine camp with about 50 militants. The next day he was driven in another boat to a bigger camp with six houses and more of the militants.
He pointed at the first, second and third defendants in the dock as being part of his alleged abductors, but explained that the fourth defendant was one those that used to visit the camp.
He said they demanded N500million ransom but his family paid N12million and then another N3.1million to younger group within the kidnappers, totalling N15.1million following which he was released.
Skso during Friday’s proceedings, the Oba’s son Prince Kazeem, who testified as the second prosecution witness, said he delivered both ransom money of N12m and N3.1m to the militants at a canal near Igbehinadun in Iba.
He said they negotiated the ransom from N500m to N40m but they couldn’t raise that amount, especially after the government refused to pay any ransom.
The militants, he added, gave him directions to the drop off point on phone after warning him not to tell anyone.
Justice Taiwo adjourned the case till November 18, following a request by the prosecution for time to present more witnesses.
The defendants, according to the charge also robbed Abosede of her mobile phone while armed with guns.
According to the prosecutor, the offences contravened Sections 233, 230, 299, 297 (2) (b) and 411 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State C17, Vol 3 Laws of Lagos State, 2015.