Teju had finally been able to obtain the call records of Mrs Aisha Ujah’s phone records on Sunday night. Peter had gone to considerable lengths to arrange them for him and he had been able to extract all Nigerian numbers in the list. He quickly removed Bruno’s number and was left with about five numbers.
Three of them were not significant; she had called them less than thrice in the last six months and none of the calls were close to Bruno’s death date. The other two numbers were however another kettle of fish. He silently thanked the government of the day in Nigeria. Unlike what he had feared, getting the identity of the owners of the numbers wasn’t as difficult as he had thought it would be. There had recently been a SIM registration exercise mandated by the Nigerian Communications Commission, and critically, the agency had created their own copy of the records. If the records had been safely in the network provider’s custody, it would have been a very tall order to get them out. But with the government agency, it was a different case. A few well placed wads of cash and guarantees that they were safe, the civil servants in the agency provided him with the names. He had been promised the response Monday morning and as he sat in the back of the courtroom and watched anonymous as Olu attempted to destroy Kofo’s credibility as a witness, he received an SMS from his source.
- 08038205231 – Amedu Saranja
- 07023205182 – Ivie Natasha Ovie
There was something familiar about both names that he couldn’t place his hands on. He itched to talk to run them by Kofo, but seeing that she was still in the witness stand, he rubbed his hand on his chin and said to himself
“patience Teju, patience.”
Ivie woke up groggy that Monday morning. She knew it was Tricia’s first day in court but Taju had advised that she should not show up so as not to upset Tricia. So she lay in bed, flipping through channels and wondered what to have for breakfast. There was power from PHCN and the neighborhood was quiet from what would have otherwise been a chorus of overworked generators. She knew that by now, her compound of four flats would be empty as all the neighbors would have gone to work, they were of all those vampire-worker kind of stock that were on the road only in the dark.
She settled on plantain and eggs and got about slicing the plantain when her doorbell rang. She didn’t answer on the first ring, hoping that the person would just leave. She was in no mood to wear anything more than the flimsy t-shirt she was wearing. But when the visitor persisted and rang the bell for a third time, she hissed and went to the door just as she was. She peered through the peephole on her security door and saw no one at her door. She fumed, because she lived in one of those estates that didn’t have a fence and she assumed some kid had come to play with her doorbell until the kid heard her coming and then scampered away. She quickly opened the door, hoping to catch a glimpse of the kid so she could deal with him later. The moment she stepped onto the first of the two stairs in front of her door, she heard a voice say
“look here slowly, Ivie.”
She turned slowly to the right where the big flower pots were and found herself looking straight into the barrel of pistol.
Back in the courtroom, Kofo received a small package containing an MP3 player plus small, earplugs and a pair of small cylindrical rechargeable speakers. There was a note attached to it, and the note said it was from Teju. It instructed her to listen to the only track on it with the earplugs and then share it with Taju. She quickly turned around and scanned the courtroom for Teju, and she saw him seated in the back. He didn’t give any indication that he recognized her and she didn’t either. She knew that sitting somewhere in the courtroom would be Olu’s agents, taking not of such things. She plugged in the earphones and plugged one of her ears so she could listen to it while being aware of the proceedings in court at the same time.
Taju stood up and went to the front of the courtroom again, every illusion of a clean legal fight shaken away from his mind with Olu’s last theatrics. He had begun to speak about doing a re-examination of the witness but a firm shake of Kofo’s head stopped him in his tracks. It was obvious she just wanted to get off the witness stand at that time.
“The defense will now call its second witness,” he said and then turned around and scanned the courtroom before calling him. “Dr. Conrad Obochi, please take the stand.”
The small bespectacled form of Dr Obochi made its way to the front of the courtroom, wearing an oversized cream colored suit and cream colored shoes to match. Taju thought that it was the likes of Dr. Obochi that Nollywood must take its inspiration for how doctors were dressed in their movies from. The clerk administered the oath quickly and Taju began briskly
“Could you introduce yourself to this court?”
The doctor adjusted his spectacles and responded
“I am Dr. Conrad Obochi, chief medical officer and senior consultant of Wintonton Clinic. I had thirty working years as a medical doctor with twenty years of those spent specialized in field of Obstetrics and Gynecology and a further specialization in Maternal Fetal Medicine. I have consulted for the Special Rape and Domestic Violence Squad since its inception and worked with the police force as an expert in rape cases for a combined fifteen years.”
Taju paused to observe the judge. He could see that she had the look of respect in her face that one professional had for another who was equally as accomplished in his field. He allowed himself a brief smile before continuing his questioning
“So would you consider yourself qualified to give an expert opinion on a rape case?”
The doctor’s hand went to his specs again and he answered “Yes I would be. As I mentioned earlier, I have consulted in this capacity for fifteen years now.”
Taju smiled again “What would you consider the standard time lapse between when a rape is reported and when the victim is brought to you?”
“The closer the time of examination is to the time when rape occurred, the more reliable the conclusions we can draw from them can be. So typically, the victim is brought to us within twenty four hours of when a complaint is made,” Dr. Obochi responded.
“So in Tricia’s case, which was brought to you about five days after the complaint was made, would you say standard procedure was not followed?”
The doctor finally took the specs off and placed it on top of the witness stand. His eyes looked tired as he responded “In this case, there was the complication of the murder charge on the victim. That is not typical; hence, I can say that though the victim was not brought in within standard procedure stipulations, it is understandable.”
“But in other to be clear,” Taju reiterated, “please answer in a yes or no manner, was standard procedure followed in this case?”
He half expected to hear Olu raise an objection to his questioning, but none came. Dr Obochi answered after a brief pause as if he was considering his answer “Yes, standard procedure was not followed,” he simply said.
“Obviously, the investigators had reason to delay this examination.” He again expected an objection to fly from Olu’s desk but none came. It seemed that Olu knew that the case would turn once the doctor gave his opinion. He continued
“In your opinion, doctor, did this fact adversely affect your ability to draw a definite conclusion when you eventually examined Miss Tricia?”
“In this case, the time lapse did not impede our ability to make definite diagnosis,” Doctor Obochi responded.
“So tell this court your conclusion upon examination of Miss Tricia, doctor.”
Doctor Obochi seemed to feel uncomfortable with his glasses off and put them on again
“From all our observations, there was definite evidence of recent intercourse. However, there was no trauma consistent with a forced penetration of her vagina as which would be expected if she were not a consensual partner in the intercourse. The only way intercourse could have occurred without such evidence is where the vagina is properly lubricated, once more indicative of consensual intercourse between Miss Tricia and her partner, most likely Mr Bruno on the said night.” He took his spectacles off again and looked at Taju with a straight face “Therefore, my conclusion is that Miss Tricia was not raped but had consensual sex with Mr. Bruno.”
Maro leapt to his feet “Liar! You clearly said she was raped when we were in your hospital” he screamed, before realizing where he was.
The judge banged her gavel and then addressed Taju “you will do well to advise the gentleman in your entourage to get a hold of himself and not interfere with proceedings in my courtroom any further otherwise he will be held in contempt of this court. Do you have any further questions for the witness, attorney?”
Taju was dumbfounded for a few moments, as the courtroom spiraled around him. how could this doctor lie through bare teeth like this? He saw that Olu had a smug smile on his face. The snake, he thought. What irked him though was that Kofo was equally smiling. What was happening? Had the two police officers been working together all along and had they just set him up to look utterly stupid? The doctor had been recommended by Kofo, and he could not help thinking that she was working in concert with Olu to secure a murder conviction in this case. He raced to his desk, and rummaged through the papers to find Dr. Obochi’s initial report. It was not there. The report was somehow lost in his file. That file had not been out of his sight since he got the report delivered to him. He felt the room spiral faster.
The he felt Kofo shoving something into his hand and mouthing the words “listen,” and “evidence” to him. He had enough of his wits on to put one part of the earphones into his left ear and press play on the MP3 player. He only needed to listen for a few seconds to hear that it was Dr. Obochi’s voice coming through loud and clear. He looked at Kofo with questioning eyes again and something in the way she looked back at him convinced him to trust her. He went with that instinct as she mouthed the words “evidence” again.
The judge was saying “Barrister Tajudeen, are you going to tell us if you have further questions for the witness or rummage through your papers all morning?”
Taju turned around dramatically and raised the MP3 player in his hands towards the judge “Apologies for the delay, my lord. I would like the court to adopt this device and its contents as evidence in this case.”
Olu’s eyes filled with suspicion as they darted from Kofo to Taju and for the first time since Dr. Obochi took the stands, he raised an objection “Objection my lord. This court cannot allow itself to be distracted from the matter by the defense’s shenanigans.”
The judge looked from one lawyer to the other and weighed the objection briefly and then responded.
“While I am skeptical as to how whatever is contained on your player will be of effect on this case, I am equally concerned as to the prosecutions sudden objections to evidence he is yet to observe. I will therefore humor you and adopt this device and its content as evidence, but I hope for your own sake that its contents are as important as you make them out to be.”
Taju bowed and said “thank you very much your honor. I have taken the liberty to also provide these portable speakers,” and he held up the rechargeable speakers “to amplify it for the whole court to hear.”
Then he walked over to the clerk’s table and put the player and the speaker on the desk and connected them. The moment he pressed play, a piercing screech filled the courtroom and then a voice, loud and clear. The small speakers were more powerful than they looked.
“Doctor, you are handling a case that is of peculiar importance to us and your testimony will be critical,” the voice said.
The doctor’s wispy voice responded “and which case might this be good sir?”
“How did you get this!” Dr. Obochi shouted, gripping the witness stand as if he would tear the top off.
Taju paused the playback and addressed an ashen faced Dr. Obochi “doctor, as this is a law court and not your examination room, I suggest that you let me ask the questions here. Since you have interrupted the playback, please confirm that the voice we just heard is yours before we resume listening.”
The doctor hesitated and Taju asked with a sarcastic raise of his eyebrow “it would seem the doctor has lost his voice. Let me repeat the question clearly for avoidance of ambiguity. Doctor Conrad Obochi, confirm that the second voice in the playback is yours.”
“Objection my lord, this would be coercion on the prosecutions part,” Olu hollered.
“Overruled!” the judge responded firmly. “The witness will answer the question in a simple yes or no manner.”
“Yes, the voice appears to be mine,” Dr. Obochi responded quietly.
Taju continued the playback as a hush ran over the courtroom
“The accused, Tricia was brought to you for examination as regards her allegations of rape.”
“Oh,” the doctor said “that young lady. Yes, she was truly raped.”
“Ahh, doctor,” the other voice replied “you will not report that. You will report that there was no rape in this case, irrespective of your findings.”
Doctor Obochi’s wispy reply was “but I cannot do such a thing. All the evidence suggests she was indeed raped and I have sent a report saying so to her lawyers. You see,” he paused here and Taju imagined he would have been adjusting his specs “I cannot contradict a report I have sent and that has my hospital’s letterhead and my signature in court.”
There was a ruffling sound and then the other voice said “would you be referring to this report?” Apparently, the person had produced the report because Doctor Obochi screamed in his now characteristic way
“How did you get this?”
The voice chuckled and said “doctor, we have our means. Now that this obstacle to your cooperation is out of the way, we believe you will be willing to cooperate with us? You really do not have a choice in this matter.” The last line was said as coolly as the others, but it seemed to carry a threat that hung in the air. The doctor’s objections were feeble
“I have consulted for the police for fifteen years and I have never told untruths in any case. I will lose my license, my practice and my clinic if I do this and am discovered.”
“Doctor, we will make sure you lose all those things and” there was a pause and then a scuffle before the voice resumed “much more if you do not cooperate.”
And then the courtroom went quiet, as the doctor held his hands in his head.