A story written by INEGBENOISE OSEODION OSAGIE. (07068221839, 08093828575, [email protected])
The courtroom looked smaller. Richard glanced at his sides. Everybody looked smaller than they were before the recess. Her Ladyship riffled through the pages on her desk as though all were okay and there were no hearts on gunpowder, as though nothing had changed since before the recess when the prosecutor had examined Bakare. Bakare was a fool; there was no easy way to say that. It was the way he kept quiet, that silly quietness that shattered it all.
“Have you ever witnessed in any trial?” the prosecuting attorney had asked Bakare, and that was when his quietness began. He kept looking at the attorney through the screen and refused to speak until the attorney asked again.
“Yes,” he finally said, and the prosecuting attorney smiled. Richard knew something was about to shatter.
“One.” His replies became monosyllabic and that was when things became quieter, began shattering quietly with every word that hit the air.
“You’ve ever come across the name, Nkem Ezechukwu?”
“Are you aware of a trial that took place in the Benue State High Court, November 19, 2004, when this man, Nkem Ezechukwu, was charged for co-joining in a bank heist? Zenith bank in Benue State.”
“Mr Bakare, you claim to have witnessed in only one trial. Is this the trial we are talking about?”
“Yes, it is.”
“Mr Bakare, did you testify under oath that you were with Nkem at the time he was said to be in the bank. You were his alibi. Let me make it clearer, did you testify under oath that you were in a restaurant with this young man, Nkem, when he was said to be in the bank serving as an outside-eye during the bank heist.”
“And are you aware that a year later, it was confirmed that Mr Nkem was actually in the bank, and this information was gotten from two of the boys who partook in the operation. They needed to lessen their term in jail, so they had to say a bit of the truth.”
That was when Bakare observed his most quiet moment and then uttered the word that shattered everything the moment it boomed from the speakers. “I’m not aware.”
The prosecutor received a file from his clerk and handed it to Mr Victor. “Here is a file about everything on the 2004 Zenith bank heist.”
There was no objection to the admission of the evidences in the file. Mr Victor made no speech that would have birthed any hope, did no examination but only let the prosecutor savour the stage and enjoy the result of his homework.
“Mr Bakare,” the prosecutor continued with the highest form of complacency in his voice, “I’m sad to announce to you that Mr Nkem was found guilty and is just left jail last two years. I won’t be wrong to say that in the only trial you have witnessed prior to this, you voluntarily swore to what is untrue. It seems perjury is your specialty. I don’t know how you escaped its consequences in the year 2004, but you may not be so lucky this time around. Whatever you stand to gain, I should let you know that it’s nothing compared to the consequences of false swearing.”
And that was when Her Ladyship turned to the screen and stared at Bakare, that stare that made Mr Victor keep a straight face until the call for recess, too straight a face to be convincing, the kind lawyers kept to keep clients encouraged.
Since the return from recess, everyone looked at Her Ladyship, waiting for her to speak. She looked back at them and occasionally riffled through the pad on her desk.
“May the defence call its first witness,” she said. Things were better when she kept mute.
Mr Victor strode to the podium and called Richard into the witness box.
“Your name, please?” the lawyer asked.
“Richard Djebah Fayemi.”
“Where do you live?”
“13th avenue, Lander Close, GRA, Apapa. Lagos.”
“What’s your profession?”
“I’m the CEO of Erneto Aives, a quarry industry.”
“Have you worked or served elsewhere prior to that?”
“I once served as a lieutenant in the Nigeria armed forces.”
The lawyer tilted head. “What qualifies one to serve as a lieutenant?”
“You have to be well trained, well educated, disciplined and most of all, trustworthy.”
The lawyer jotted down something on his pad. “Mr Richard, where were you March 17th, 3:19 P.M.?”
“I was in my sitting room, sitting on my couch.”
“And what happened next?”
“I received a phone call from Ivie Oboh.”
“What was the phone call about?”
“She asked for a DPO’s number. She needed the police to save a friend of hers whom she believed was endangered.”
“And did you give it to her?”
The lawyer scribbled on legal pad. “What led you to the cherry orchard at Burma, Omi Street, the crime scene?”
“My house is closer to it than the nearest police station. I thought I might reach there before the police and salvage the situation, so I picked up my arms and drove to the orchard.”
“And did you reach there before the police?”
“What did you see?”
“I saw two men, one armed, and the other unarmed. Two bags were on the ground. I never saw their contents. The men engaged in talks which I couldn’t hear. I maintained my position and watched. I didn’t see any real threat to life, so I thought of letting the police take control. Shortly, a woman appeared at the scene and shot the armed man, who happened to be the friend of the lady who phoned me. Minutes later, the police arrived. They were late. Those in the orchard had already fled. I was the closest to the scene and was armed, which must have led the police to believe I was the shooter and caused them to arrest me.”
“Did you recognize any of those in the orchard?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Which of them?”
“Do you know her name?”
“Is she related to you in any way?”
“She is my wife.”
“Objection!” the prosecuting attorney shouted and stood up. “My Lady, that is a defamatory statement. The defendant is only trying to capitalize on the victim’s made-up testimony, a testimony made by a man whose specialty is lying before the judge.”
“Overruled.” Her Ladyship aimed at the prosecuting attorney. “You will have your occasion to contend the defendant’s statement, but please, let him speak.” She directed to Mr Victor. “You may continue.”
To Be Continued…