A Fleet operational manager at the Lagos Bus Services Limited, Kayode Aluko, has testified as the second prosecution witness in the murder trial of Andrew Ominnikoron.
Mr Ominnikoron is facing a four-count charge bordering on rape, conspiracy and murder of his passenger, 22-year-old fashion designer, Bamise Ayanwola.
At the proceedings on Tuesday, the witness, Aluko told Justice Sherifat Sonaike, of the Lagos High Court, TBS, how Ominnikoron, a driver of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), fled and didn’t respond to complaints by the family of the late Bamise Ayanwola that their daughter, who boarded his bus had gone missing.
While answering questions from Dr. Babajide Martins, the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP, the witness, Mr Aluko said the allegations of rape and sexual assault made against the defendant on three separate days were never reported by the victims, until February 28, after the Ayanwola family reported the case to them.
“The incidents of November 25, 2021; December 29, 2021 and February 28, 2022, were never reported by the defendants and the model of bus he drove on the three occasions is Ashok Layland,” Mr Aluko said.
Mr Aluko also testified that on February 28, at about 3pm, the elder brother of the then missing Bamise was at their gate to report and he was having some arguments with the security guards at the gate.
He said, “When I heard the argument I asked the security to let him in and when I listened to him, they showed me a voice note and a video from the elder brother’s phone.
“In the video that I saw, it displayed my bus with number 240257 and the other voice were of two ladies and in their conversation there was an expression of fear from the lady inside the bus to the other friend.
“This was on a Monday and the incident occurred on Saturday. I said I will do whatever I can to help them. That night I took my car with four other personnel from the outsourcing company and went to Ogolonto at Ikorodu where he(defendant) said he lives.
“On getting there we didn’t see him; we called him several times, he didn’t respond but suddenly he called back the outsourcing representative that brought him and said that he was in an hospital. But we couldn’t locate him at his residence or hospital.”
The witness also gave details of how the defendant was employed by the Lagos Bus Services limited, from an outsourcing company called Excel, in September 2021.
“The employment process of BRT drivers is outsourced to an Excel Outsourcing company and once the drivers are fully engaged they are sent to a driving school for a test.
“Depending on their commitment and readiness to be engaged after the test, they will pass through induction and during that, the successful ones among them are given the company policy to go through,” he said.
“The company policy contains various infractions and the remedial consequences if you violate them. After going through, they (employees) sign.”
He said the operational administrative department put them on two-week probation before they are finally engaged to pick up the bus and given the company’s uniform.
He noted that before the buses are driven out of their stations, “the code of the bus is written down, the time you are driving out, the fuel level and also the odometer. And you have been allocated to a specific route.”
The witness further testified that, “On November 25, 2021, Andrew Ominnikoron, was the driver that drove Bus no. 240271 and he was on a pm shift. Pm shifts starts at one pm and ends at 10pm. On December, 29, 2021, the same bus was also allotted to the defendant and he was also on a pm shift and he was number 19 that was allotted that day and his route was Ajah- Oshodi.
“On February, 26, 2022, Andrew Ominnikoron, was allotted a bus with number 240257; he was equally on a pm shift, from 1pm to 10pm; he was number eight on the allotted bus. The procedure is the same for am and pm. Am starts at 5am.
“We have two captains (drivers) for each bus. Once a driver resumes in the morning, he will write down his name, and the allotted bus; the following details will be documented before moving out – the fuel level, the odometer and then sign.
The DPP then sought to tender a signed copy of the suspect’s employment document as evidence but the defence counsel, Abayomi Omotubora objected to the move. He said the evidence sought to be tendered was not specifically listed as part of the evidence to be presented by the prosecution.
But in her ruling, Justice Sonaike, who relied on the Evidence Act, admitted the document in evidence.
Before the testimony of the fleet manager, an alleged rape victim, Nneka Maryjane Odezulu, who had testified on Monday was cross-examined by the defence counsel, Mr Omotubora.
“How long have you been in Lagos?” The lawyer asked.
2014, she responded.
“You are very conversant with the operations of BRT?” The lawyer asked.
“No. I do not enter the BRT bus, that night was my first day,” the witness responded.
“You would also agree with me that the BRT buses do not operate like the Danfo?”
“I don’t know that one. I normally see them on the road.”
“But you know that BRT have their designated bus stops?”
“I don’t know.”
“Are you saying that you have been in Lagos since 2014, you have not seen BRT buses loading point since 2014?”
“The only place that I normally see BRT is at Ajah.”
“Do you know that the Alex hotel bus stop is not the designated bus stop?”
“Yes, but they normally pick passengers there.”
The witness explained that she never knew that BRT buses use cards, neither was she aware that every cash payment comes with a receipt.
She said that she boarded the bus around 8pm and had never met the driver until that night.
She noted that the suspect parked around Lekki Conservation Centre and raped her. She said the area was dark at the time.
“You said that the driver attacked you and dragged you?” The lawyer probed.
“After he ended his phone call, I noticed that my life was in danger and his manhood had risen. I brought my big phone. That was when he locked the door and the light went off and he dragged me to the back seat,” the witness said.
“While this was going on, you didn’t raise any alarm?” The lawyer asked.
“He held my neck and raised a knife, how do I raise an alarm?” The witness said.
“Please, tell the court how you were dressed?”
“I dressed normally. I wore that gown with my tummy belt.”
The lawyer brought out the gown. “This cloth is just a blouse,” he told the court.
But the witness insisted that it was a gown.
“I didn’t wear the gown with any trousers because it almost touched my knee,” she added.
“I want to make an application that the court directs the witness to wear these clothes,” the lawyer said.
But the judge frowned at his request. “No. Why should I ask her to wear it in the courtroom?” The judge asked.
“I will apply for that, my lord,” the lawyer replied.
The witness said she gave her account number and phone number to the driver when he requested because he refused to let her go.
“And you received the money with thanks and gratitude. Yes or no?”
“I said thanks to him because I wanted him to free me,” she responded.
She, however, said she discussed the incident with her male friend.
The witness added that the money sent to her by the suspect was withdrawn and given to some beggars in Ajah.
Further hearing in the trial has been fixed for June 1, 7 and 9, 2022.