Rahman Saliu, the co-founder of Super TV, has told a court how an SMS from the phone of Usifo Ataga, the late media entrepreneur, raised suspicion just around when he died.
Saliu testified on Monday as the fifth prosecution witness during a Lagos state high court sitting at the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) in the ongoing trial of Chidinma Ojukwu, the prime suspect in the Super TV CEO’s murder.
Saliu said the deceased was fluent in English but an SMS sent to him from Ataga’s phone had errors.
The SMS, sent by his suspected killer to Saliu while a search was ongoing for Ataga’s whereabouts, reads: “I saw your missed call; I took some drugs that can made me sleeping.”
Saliu, who is a network engineer, told the court that Ataga was tied up and “killed like a chicken” with multiple stab wounds to the ribs and surgery-like cuts to the neck.
He said Ataga had called him on June 14, 2021, saying he was having stomach pain.
He also disclosed that he had advised the late media entrepreneur to take his drugs and rest.
Saliu said he had a task that needed to be completed urgently, so he didn’t call Ataga back until he was done.
He also said he realised something was amiss after a strange text from Ataga’s phone came through.
“On Tuesday, I wanted him to come to the meeting to give him the completed task,” the co-founder said.
“So I started calling. My first call was at 11 am, on June 15, 2021, I wanted to give him the brief that the task was easy in order to relieve him of his high blood pressure.
“I started calling him, he didn’t pick up his call nor did he return my message. I was surprised because the only thing he wants to hear is the billing App, with MTN, that it was now working.
“Michael didn’t pick his call; everybody started reaching out to me because the only way they could get him was through me.
“And the only way they could reach me was through him. He still did not pick up my call; this was about 3:30 pm on June 15, 2021.
“Then I got a WhatsApp message from him. After reading the message, I said to myself this is not Michael talking to me. The message read ‘I saw your missed call; I took some drugs that can made me sleeping’.
“The construction of that message was not Michael’s because Michael was very fluent in English. I knew that was not Michael’s typing; it was someone else.”
Saliu added that he became suspicious after his message to Ataga on one of their ongoing project didn’t receive the expected response.
“Then I sent him a screenshot of the billing system in the Super TV App, that it was working and his response to me was ‘Ok, great’,” he added.
“That was when I knew something was happening because Michael would have jumped up, picked up his phone and called me immediately.”
Yetunde Adesanya, the judge, adjourned till February 17 for the continuation of the trial.
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