The businessman who was ready to testify as the fifth prosecution witness in the circumstances leading to the death of the former student of Dowen College, however could not be cross-examined on the statements and other evidence he presented before Magistrate Kadiri as exhibits.
Further proceedings was adjourned till February 14, 2022 because counsel to the deceased family, Mr. Andrew Efole had not front-loaded all defence counsel with some of the documentary evidence, which could enable them to cross-examine the witness.
However, shortly after the deceased’s father, Mr. Oromoni was sworn on oath, he tendered some statements, a flash drive and the deceased’s box claimed to have been destroyed in the school.
All defence counsel objected to admissibility of the materials on the ground that they were not provided two audios and a video ahead of the proceeding.
According to Godwin Omoaka, SAN, counsel to one of the students accused of bullying and assualt on Oromoni Jnr., the counsel said,“I do not object to tendering the documents but we are being blind-sided. We are just seeing those documents for the first time. My learned friend ought to have made them available before now. He had them in possession before now.
“My learned friend has said he seeks to tender some videos, we have not seen those videos and we acknowledged and appreciated the nature and flexibility of tendering documents.
“We need to see those videos or else, we will not be able to cross examine. While we do not object to the admissibility, we want those videos be played in open court before we begin to cross-examine the witness, otherwise, we will be groping in the dark. I will be leaving this proceeding for today, I told the court last week that I would be travelling.”
Counsel to Dowen College, Mr. Anthony Kpokpo also aligned with earlier submission of the senior advocate.
“It is obvious, it is deliberate, because the normal practice is to frontload, even though this court is not bound by the normal practice.
“The inexplicable conclusion when you do otherwise is that you intend to ambush the other side.
“All these documents were not referred to in the statement of oath.
He urged that the material be provided so that the proceedings will not be delayed. In his words, “We don’t mind the avalanche of documents coming in from other side, but we asked that the video be played before the honourable court admits them.
“We don’t have copies of the documents to view them.”
The Coroner responded that there is no way he would admit a flash drive without counsel watching them.
Another lawyer, Mr. Ayi Ekpenyong Imah argued that the document tendered are secondary document.
Mr. Bernard Oniga watching brief for the Nigerian Bar Association,NBA, in his view observed: “I think there is a mindset he is urging for, but the Evidence Act does not apply here.
Magistrate Kadiri joined his voice to the submissions of defending parties saying: “They ought to have been served.”
He thereafte asked the prosecution if he needed time to do that.
Ayi Ekpenyong Imah also accused the deceased family of bringing up surprises and called for the video to be played.
But the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Efole would have none of the defence submissions. He informed the court thus, “The documents we are talking about here were given to all the counsel by the police except one or two. And one was only handed to us on Friday here after several demands.
Efole countered that his colleagues were trying to paint him black saying, “If they want to have the documents, they have been with Mr. A. A George of the Ministry of Justice and he has provided us with them, we are not against it.”
The State counsel Mr. George explained that virtually all the documents have been made available but he also noted, “As for video, flash drive and the box, it will not be out of place if other counsel now see it in a nature of an ambush
“I wish to pinch the court, so that the antenna will be up. I do not want to lose sight of one infuriating application.”
“I am now hearing from Efole that if all counsel need time! We have come a long way to be trapped with that cheap trick.
“This court is indeed up and doing and I commend the energy, the everything, the court is inquest, there is need to get value for every time we assemble in court, so we don’t get hooked up with technicalities as with regular court.
“We will not object to these documents coming in. I submit that rather than adjourn, we should watch. The stage is already set like a cinema house. To give value, let’s watch whatever is in the flash drive.
Meanwhile as the content of the flash drive was being played, Mr. Oromoni was asked by the Coroner whose voice are we hearing?
The witness responded that, “It is the audio conversation between me and the father of the son of a JSS 3 boy of Dowen College.
He also identified series of videos showing the laboratory where his son was taken to for X-ray of his leg. Also a voice was heard from the video, claimed to have been recorded on Tuesday 23rd November, 2021 showing where a relative of the Oromoni went to pick his brother from a school.
Other part of the video also showed where the boy was being aided and carried for X-ray, and he was seen limping and groaning as he was being put into a waiting black pick-up van.
In addition to the video played, Mr. Efole also presented a grey/silver coloured box claimed to have been damaged in the school.
Mr. Kpokpo further said, “The very content of this
flash was deliberately kept away from us.
“The videos we just washed and the managed audio has always been in the custody of the deceased family.
“This box that my learned friend sought to tender, there was no reference of it in the statement of oath for shock value.
He added, “Your honour, I confess my frailties. I am not a genius. We are constraint to review the materials and ask that my learned friend is kind enough to please extend the courtesy to us of serving copies of documents to be tender like we did to them, so that we will be appropriately prepared to cross examine the witness enough.
“We are not in a position to assist the Coroner without going through the document to be tendered by them.
George also added, “After viewing the documents sought to be tendered we need to review each piece of evidence. We also request that counsel oblige us so that we can cross examine appropriately.
Akinini in his submission said that, “We acknowledge the role of flexibility of the rules of admissibility in this kind of proceeding.
Another counsel Mr. Izuchukwu
said, “I aligned with my learned friends. In view of the sensitive nature of the video and audio that we have seen and heard, we will humbly ask for an adjournment to enable us view the content of the audios and the video.
The prosecution be ready to provide the source of the CCTV video and who can speak to it.
“Also we need the full names of the said Afolabi he spoke with. It’s still unclear to me why the box was brought in
Beyond the surprise, the shock event, we want time so we can be prepared for a cross-examination. We need a bit of time to go through.
According to him, “Mr. Efole has email of all the parties he should ensure that these materials are provided to us today.
However, the Coroner said that he has not seen any depositions from the prosecuting firm in compliance with his earlier orders to all counsel.
He also asked whether the pathologist from Warri has seen his summon.
Efole replied that, “One of the witnesses we intend to call has left the school and we are trying to get the consent of the parent.
The Magistrate urged that if the prosecuting counsel has any challenge with presenting any witness he should tell the court, according to him, “I will summon the witness.”
Also enquiring if the letter got to the pathologist,
Efole replied,”I can not confirm that. He probed further “Can you supply the details of the pathologist so I can issue a summon and Mr. Efole replied, “We will do that.”
Meanwhile all the parties have notified the Coroner that
the Officer in Charge of the Police Legal Unit,
Mrs. Yetunde Cardoso has been uncooperative as they said they applied for documents crucial to the case and yet they are not getting them.
Earlier, the coroner has heard the evidence of the deceased’s sister from the earshot of journalists in compliance with the provision of the Child Rights Act, stating that the protection of the privacy of the child be upheld.
Conclusively, the Coroner ruled , “On the observations of counsel which the honourable court also agreed with, this inquest as regards PW5 is adjourned to Monday in order for counsel to study and be able to cross-examine