• “…I am unjustly suspended” Barr. Ujiagbe
By OKOSUN DENNIS
THE ongoing probe of some judges in the country seems to mean nothing to some members of the Bar and the Bench as a lawyer in the Edo State Ministry of Justice, allegedly collected N1m from the families of four dismissed policemen who murdered a boy to subvert cause of justice.
Barr. Kenneth Ujiagbe, a counsel in the Edo state Ministry of Justice was said to have demanded N1 million from the family of the accused persons, dismissed Cpls Adedeji Adeleke, Abena John, Henry Shobowale and Oniyo Musa who are presently standing trial in the murder of one Benson Obodeh in May 21, 2015 at the State Police Command, Benin City.
It was further gathered that the family members in connivance with their defence counsel, Barr Goke Olakunlelin authorised the transfer of the money by instalment into Barr. Ujiagbe’s account.
In a petition made available to National Daily entitled: “Conspiracy to subvert the cause of justice by Barrister Kenneth Ujiabge of the Edo State Ministry of Justice in charge No B/CD/48c/15: the need to urgently query and punish him accordingly,” to the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Edo state and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Benin City, one of the Solicitors to Benson Obedeh’s family, Barr. Abraham Oviawe said he was constrained to call the attention of the ministry to “the criminal tendencies and activities of Barr. Kenneth Ujiagbe.”
Speaking with National Daily on the premises of Aguobasimwim Customary Court of Appeal in Benin City, where the case is being heard, Barr. Oviawe alleged said, “We recently got wind of Barr Ujiabge’s visit to the Benin Prison, Sapele Road, through the connivance of some prison warders to discuss with the accused persons with a view to frustrating the prosecution of the charge against the accused persons through the Ministry of Justice, since he works there.
It was gathered that the bribe was to help the family “infiltrate the judge and compromise him to grant bail to Adedeji Adeleke” but during the sitting of 22nd September, 2016, (as alleged), “the 1st accused person was denied bail.”
As a result, the family members were infuriated by the development prompting them to join Barr. Goke Olakunelin to “immediately demanded for the refund of N1m having failed to secure the granting of bail to the accused persons.
In order to douse the tension, Barr Ujiagbe was said to have refunded about N500,000 in two instalment to the accused persons’ families with a plea to refund the balance as soon as practicable.
Meanwhile, it was gathered that the lawyer, following the damning allegations, has been suspended by the ministry while operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS) are currently investigating the matter.
When confronted with the alleged bribe collection, Defence Counsel to the family of the 1st accused person, Barr Goke Olakunlelin told National Daily that he has no knowledge of such transaction saying “that is unfounded, it cannot be substantiated.
Before I came into the matter this year, the accused persons had sought for bail, and was not forthcoming and they briefed the counsel whom they knew and has the connections in Benin City that he can get a lawyer to assist them and that is the basis of contacting the lawyer.
Nobody collected money and whoever might have authored your information must have goofed.”
When National Daily visited the office of the Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Edo state, he was said to have closed for the day but through one of the staff, he was contacted and he gave an appointment for Monday but when National Daily visited again, he was also not in the office.
However, a source revealed that the ministry was aware of the matter and was being handled.
When contacted on phone, Barr. Ujiagbe denied taking N1m bribe to subvert cause of justice. “I was contacted this year by my brother who lives in Lagos, and said his neighbour’s friend has a case of murder.
I only suggested to them that they needed a good lawyer to stand for them.
“Later, I introduced the accused family to a lawyer who said he was going to take N500,000 each from the four accused persons to defend the murder charge against them.
“The lawyer later demanded N1,000,000 to start with. Mr Ken, later demanded for my account number to ferry the money to the lawyer which I refused initially and told them to pay to the lawyer direct instead. They eventually said I should assist them so that they can gather the money until it reaches N1m. Based on my brother’s pressure, I gave my account number to Mr Ken in Lagos who paid in N200,000 and they later paid in N100,000, and a week later another N100,000.
“In less than a month, Ken called back to say they can’t pay the bill and I should refund N200,000 out of the N500, 000 they paid to my account. Since then, I have not heard from the family of the accused person, Mr Oniyo. He eventually came to my office on the 22nd September, 2016 and demanded for the balance and I took them to the bank and gave them.
“I have been suspended by the Ministry. I was given query to respond to, and was never given the opportunity to respond before the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Justice suspended me indefinitely without allowing me to answer the query. The allegation of taking N1m bribe is a lie. The DSS has invited me. It is not what anybody can cover. I got to know about the matter after the case was charged to court,” Barr. Ugiagbe told National Daily.
However, when our reporter visited the Ezoti Street, office of the Department of State Security in Benin City, the spokesperson was said not to be around. However, an insider told National Daily that they are investigating the matter.
Meanwhile, the cross examination of witnesses continued as Mrs Izehi Osawaru, elder sister to the late Benson Obedeh, testified before the Presiding Judge Ohimai Oviagele how his late brother was tortured and brutalised to death by the five policemen at the State Police Command.
She explained how her younger brother was arrested by the accused persons, tortured at the police station; her intervention and how she was derided by the policemen who threatened to shoot her and her baby strapped to her back if she did not leave the station.
Mrs Osaruwu told the court that Benson was not attacked by any mob as alleged by the police before they killed him at the police station on the 21 May, 2015, an act supervised by the SARS OC Solomon Omoseye.
She further told the court presided over by Oviagele that after her brother was arrested the police Oniyo Musa, Adeleke Adedeji, Henry Shobowale and Abena George handcuffed his hands to the back, collected his car key, pushed him into their highlander jeep and drove away with one of the policemen driving his brother’s car behind them.
Explaining how she knew about the death, Mrs Izehi added “that the 1st accused person told her that she would go round everywhere looking for him and would get tired and would never find him.”
With tears wailing down her eyes, she recounted that after the family was tossed around trying to locate the brother, they eventually got to know about Benson’s death 63 days later when a journalist and a human right activist went to SARS office in Lagos where the former spokesperson of the Lagos State Police Command, DSP now a Superintendent Kenneth Nwosu disclosed that Benson, his younger brother was dead.
Further hearing of the case has been adjourned to the 10 November, 2016.