The trial began on Friday at a Lagos State High Court, sitting in Igbosere, with a revelation from two witnesses that the abductors allegedly obtained two ransoms worth 15.1 million Naira.
First to fourth defendants Duba Furejo, Ododowo Isaiah, Reuben Anthony and Yerin Fresh were arraigned for the alleged offence before Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo on October 24.
They are facing an eight-count charge bordering on conspiracy, murder, attempted murder, robbery, armed robbery, felony and kidnapping preferred against them by the Lagos State Government.
At the commencement of proceedings, Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice Mr Adeniji Kazeem, who led a team of counsel for the State, obtained leave of court to exclude the public from the trial.
In an oral application, Mr Kazeem alleged that the defendants were likely part of a criminal enterprise and that it would serve the interest of justice as well as the safety of the witnesses for the matter to be closed to the public.
The court granted his request despite the objections of Mr Selowei Baidi.
Shirtless, Heavily Armed Men
Justice Taiwo ruled that there was nothing prejudicial about the application and assured the defence of fair hearing.
She ordered all journalists in court to identify themselves by their official identification cards in order to be allowed to cover the proceedings.
Led in examination by the Attorney-General Mr Kazeem, Oba Oseni, 73, testified as first prosecution witness and narrated how at about 8:00p.m. local time on July 16, he was kidnapped while watching TV in a room at the palace and held in captivity for three weeks in an unknown riverine camp.
He described his abductors – about nine in number – as shirtless, heavily armed men wearing only black trousers and said they accosted him as he went to investigate a noise from his sitting room.
“‘This is the king,’ the gunmen said. I said, ‘what can I do for you?’ Then they grabbed me. I was putting on only a boxer short because I was preparing to take a bath. My Oloris (Queens) came in and asked them where they were taking me to but they fled when the gunmen released bullets into the decking of the room,” Oseni told the court.
He said the gunmen dragged him out of the palace and began shooting sporadically as they left the main gate, killing his security guard and a motorcyclist in the process.They also shot at one of his Oloris, he alleged.
“They started pushing me and shouting ‘trek, trek’, till I fell and injured my arm. My toenail was also forcibly removed, so they carried me,” Oseni said.
The men, he continued, took him to a speed boat where he was driven away to a riverine camp with about 50 militants. The next day he was driven in another boat to a bigger camp with six houses and more of the militants.
He pointed at the first, second and third defendants in the dock as being part of his abductors, but explained that the fourth defendant was one of those that used to visit him at the camp.
Oba Oseni said they demanded for 500 million Naira ransom but his family paid 12 million Naira and then another 3.1 million Naira to younger group within the kidnappers, totalling 15.1 million Naira. He was released after the payment.
The Oba’s son, Prince Kazeem Oseni, who testified as the second prosecution witness, said he delivered both ransom money of N12m and N3.1m to the militants at a canal near Igbehinadun in Iba.
He said they negotiated the ransom from 500 million Naira to 40 million Naira but they couldn’t raise that amount.
The militants, he added, gave him directions to the drop off point on phone after warning him not to tell anyone.
After hearing the witnesses testimonies, Justice Taiwo adjourned the case till November 18, and December 16, 2016.
The defendants and others at large were accused of committing the alleged offences on July 16, at the traditional ruler’s palace in Iba.
They allegedly murdered a security guard, Sunday Eniola Okanlawon and a commercial motorcyclist, Joseph Okeke and also attempted to murder the monarch’s wife, Olori Abosede Oseni.
According to the charge, they also robbed Abosede of her mobile phone while armed with guns.
According to the prosecutor, the offences contravened Sections 233, 230, 299, 297 (2) (b) and 411 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State C17, Vol 3 Laws of Lagos State, 2015.