A story written by INEGBENOISE OSEODION OSAGIE. (07068221839, 08093828575, [email protected])
Noise arose in the courtroom. Her Ladyship hit the gavel against her table and the noise subsided. The officers helped in controlling the remainder.
Technicians set up a screen and other electronic equipment at the front of the court. The prosecuting attorney began. “The next witness is the victim of the attempted murder case, Mr Bakare Damijo. He will be testifying from his domain. The State had ensured he is free from any sort of pressure or anything that could prevent effective examination.”
The technicians finished with their set-up, and the victim, on a wheelchair, showed on the screen. He squeezed his jaw with one hand, waiting for the prosecuting attorney to begin.
The prosecuting attorney turned to the screen.
“May you state your name, please.”
“Bakare Damijo.” His bass boomed from the side speakers.
“22, Meji Street, Lagos Mainland.”
“What’s your occupation?”
“I run a computer store.”
The prosecuting attorney glanced at his legal pad. “Does the orchard at Burma Street belong to you?”
“Do you have any issues with it, like a dispute with the land or something else?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Are you in any dispute whatsoever with anyone?”
“None that I can remember.”
“Where were you on the 17th of March, 3 P.M.?”
“I was in my orchard.”
“Were you there alone?”
“There might have been some persons around.”
“And who are they?”
“I don’t know all of them.”
“Can you say the names of those you could recognize?”
“As at 3 P.M., all I saw was a man standing on my turf.”
The folds that were almost formed at the lawyer’s cheeks relaxed. “And what was the man doing?”
“He was standing, gawking at his phone.”
“And who was this man?”
“I don’t know his name.”
“If you see the man anywhere, would you be able to recognize him?”
“I would. I have a good memory.”
The prosecuting attorney fished into the leaves of his pad and brought out a photo of Richard. “Is this the man?”
“No, it isn’t.”
The prosecutor brow furrowed into multiple folds that relaxed as he began speaking. “Did anything suspicious of a crime happen in the orchard?”
“Yes. The man I saw had a bag that I believe contained some money. He was about to sell something to someone, something that couldn’t be sold in the open.”
The prosecutor fixed on his legal pad and scribbled. He raised his head to Bakare. “And what happened next? Did the man you claim to see eventually sell anything to anyone?”
“Did you see the second party?”
“I didn’t see him.”
The prosecutor walked nearer to the screen as though the victim was physically present. “But you just said he sold an item to someone. How would you know that if you didn’t see the second party?”
Bakare formed a smirk, the remaining of his face unmoved. “There was no mirror. I couldn’t have seen myself.”
There was quiet in the courtroom as first, and then murmurs began sliding off people’s mouth. Her Ladyship shouted for order and struck her gavel.
“Mr Damijo, do you understand you are in court, testifying under affirmation, and before the judge? Your words have to be the truth and nothing but that. False witnessing is perjury, and that is a felony with grave consequences.”
“Thanks for the clarification.”
“Mr Damijo, what business were you involved in at the orchard.”
“A heroin deal.”
Noise erupted in the courtroom, people engaged in side talks. Mr Victor pointed his eyes to the victim as though they controlled the victim’s words. Richard used braced palms to cover the lower half of his face, with eyes fixed on the screen. Her Ladyship rapped her gavel and signalled the officers to maintain order.
The prosecuting attorney moved closer to the screen, and the furrows at his brow multiplied. “What did you say?”
“A heroin deal.”
“Mr Damijo, I should repeat. Perjury is a felony very punishable by law.”
“I’ve committed no perjury.”
“Mr Damijo, was there anyone else in the orchard except you and this your supposed dealer?”
“Can you state the name?”
“Ezinne Fayemi. She appeared at a later time.”
Murmurs grew in the courtroom. The officers hovered around with their nightsticks, tapping it against their palms and looking from side to side.
“Are you sure about that?”
He carried a smug face. “I’m sure as I am of the fact I never will be able to walk again.”
The prosecutor pinched the bridge of his nose and returned to his legal pad. “Mr Damijo, did you see who shot you in the orchard?”
“Could you give the name to the court?”
Whispers erupted in every corner of the court. Half of the spectators’ eyes spun to Ezinne. Her countenance was not altered. It was as though nothing was said against her. Her Ladyship hit the gavel on the table. “Anyone caught chattering will be reprimanded,” she said, and order was established.
The prosecuting attorney turned to Her Ladyship. “My Lady, I establish my witness as unfavourable and request the leave of the court to cross-examine.”
“Mr Momoh, before I can grant you a leave to cross-examine, you must present me a valid reason.”
“Yes, My Lady.” He fixed on his legal pad and flipped its pages backwards. “On the first questioning of the witness at 29th of March, 2:16 P.M., he admitted he was shot by the defendant as opposed to his present statement. He thus made a contradicting statement.”
“Is there anything to confirm your claim except the record on your book?”
“I didn’t do the questioning alone. I was with Inspector Babarinsa. You can verify from him.”
Her Ladyship turned to a uniformed officer, who confirmed the attorney’s words were true.
“You may proceed with your cross-examination,” Her Ladyship told the prosecutor.
The prosecutor directed at Bakare. “On the 29th of March this year, were you questioned by me and a fellow officer?”
“I was,” Bakare said. “On a sickbed.”
“And whom did you say shot you?”
“And I believe you meant Richard Fayemi?”
“Now, why the contradicting statement?”
“I was on a sickbed. I would say anything to make the troubling interrogators give me some peace. They were aggravating my headache.”
The prosecutor’s eyes dug into its socket. “Mr Damijo, do you have anything to backup the claim of the defendant not shooting you and to also backup all you claim happened in the orchard?”
The prosecutor fixed on his legal pad. He closed the pad and looked straight at Bakare. “That’ll be all.”
“Mr Victor, any cross examination?” Her Ladyship asked.
“No, My Lady.”
“Thank you,” she said as though Mr Victor did her a favour, and Bakare disappeared from the screen. “Does the State have any more witnesses?”
“No, My Lady.”
Her Ladyship faced the spectators. “The court stands adjourned until 10 A.M. February 9th. The defendant is to remain in police custody. I will have the prosecuting and defending attorneys in my chambers.” She rose and walked into her chambers.
Noise exploded in the courtroom like air gushing from a loosened balloon.
Mr Victor tapped Richard’s back. “It seems God is on our side.”
For the first time, Richard believed that. Nothing else could make the victim testify the truth.
“I’m needed in Her Ladyship’s chambers.” The lawyer rose and started for the chambers.
The prosecuting attorney and other suited men marched forward.
To Be Continued….