It was the second hearing of the case, probably the last if God wills. I looked around and found Barr. Ade sitting at the far end of the court room. A devilish smiled played on my lips as I called him to the witness box. I watched with a satisfied smile on my face as Chief Collins opened his mouth in surprise, a look of terror on his face. The Barrister walked confidently and took the oath to tell only the truth.
“Please make yourself known to this honourable court” I addressed him as soon as he finished the oath taking.
“I’m Barrister Ade Odukoya. A legal practitioner by profession and the family lawyer of Late Chief Ikem Ojuku when he was still alive.”
“So, you mean you were the one who handled and read his will?” I chipped in.
“That’s correct” he replied, nodding his head.
“Did you encounter any challenge before, during or after the reading of the will?”
“Tell us about it”
“After the will reading, Chief Collins here wanted to contest the authenticity of the will. He believed that the will had been tampered with. He filed litigation to invalidate the will”
“Why wasn’t he satisfied with the will? Was there any problem?” I asked him.
“Well, Chief Collins was excluded from his father’s will because his mother of blessed memory, the first wife of Late Chief Ikem, divorced him and made away with a greater portion of his wealth. These Chief Collins inherited from his mother when she passed away. So, naturally, Late Chief Ikem made his second son from his second wife, Late Mr. Raph Ikem, his only heir ” he replied.
“For how long did the lawsuit last?”
“For 18 years, although, I heard that they finally closed the case”
“Was there any case of violence involved during the litigation?”
“Yes. I always received complaints from Late Mr. Raph Ikem of threats from Chief Collins which were always followed by attempts on his life”
“Judging from what you said, is it possible that Chief Collins might have had a hand in the assassination of his half-brother in order to lay claim to his wealth?”
“Objection my lord” the defence council shouted.
“Objection overruled, the witness may answer the question” the judge intoned.
“It is possible” Barr. Ade answered with a shrug of his shoulder.
“No further questions, your honour” I said and walked back to my seat. I had left a little surprise for the defence counsel.
The defence council stepped up immediately to lunch his missile-like-questions.
“Barr. Ade, you said that my client here” he pointed to Chief Collins who seemed shaken “threatened his own brother. How’s that possible” he asked.
“Well, this is not and will not be the first case of brothers killing themselves over their inheritance, not to talk of half brothers”
“Pardon me sir, but you talk like someone who has been paid to bear false witness. Pray tell, were you the legal rep of Late Mr. Raph Ikem?”
“How is that possible? Since you are the one who read the will, you should be involved somehow in the litigation”
“Well, Late Mr. Raph Ikem decided to try the services of another lawyer after years of unproductive legal proceedings but he made sure to report to me everything that happened during the litigation”
“Ok. You said Late Mr. Raph Ikem reported to you that he was threatened by my client and several attempts were made on his life?”
“Yes” Barr. Ade replied cautiously.
“Well, did he report to the police?” Good. He had taken the bait.
“Of course, he reported to the police and made statements with regard to each threat Chief Collins made to him. These are copies of each of the statements he made when I was still handling the case” He handed the documents over to the jury to be inspected.
“How do we know these documents were not forged, after all, you are a legal practitioner and I presume you know the right places to get these?” he asked sarcastically.
“You can go to the various divisions where he made the statements and enquire from each of the DPOs” Barr. Ade replied him, a tint of mockery in his tone.
“No further questions for this witness” he said and went back to his seat. I observed that his stride lacked the initial gait it came with in the morning.
I took the floor for the last time. This was the perfect time to reveal my trump card.
“Your honour, I would like that this device be adapted to a sound system”
The judge waved his approval and in a matter of seconds, the conversation I had with Chief Collins in the confines of my office blared through the speakers and I watched as Chief Collins got more uncomfortable in his seat.
“Your honour, that was a conversation I had with Chief in my office on 6th April, 2014 where he admitted to have had a hand in the assassination of his own brother and also threatened me. That same day, when I closed from work and was waiting for a cab, I narrowly missed getting hit by a black Sedan which appeared from nowhere. I reported to the police and gave the plate number of the vehicle which was traced to Chief Collins. This is a copy of the statement and, of course, I brought along the Detective in charge that evening to attest to my report if need be” I stated.
The documents were passed to the Jury who affirmed the authenticity of the document by the help of the Detective.
“Objection my lord, my client didn’t state categorically that he had his brother assassinated. That was incidental. Who knows, this may very well be a setup to implicate my client”
“Objection overruled, the prosecution counsel may continue”
“Thank you, your honour. These evidences prove beyond reasonable doubt that Chief Collins is responsible for the assassination of Late Mr. Raph Ikem so he’ll be able to lay claim to the deceased properties and…” All through my well prepared speech, the defence counsel said nothing, not even objection. He knew that the case was as good as lost and his client was done for.
The tentative smile playing on my lips broadened as the judge sentenced Chief Collins to 30 years of imprisonment. There was no concrete evidence against him that could sentence him to life imprisonment but the circumstantial evidences were just enough to put him behind bars for a long time.
My client was all smiles. She thanked me profusely for seeing to the justice of her husband’s death. You know what? I also became the legal rep of Chriskens Company, the only company Late Mr. Raph Ikem inherited from his deceased father. I was still basking in the euphoria of winning my first case when my parents walked up to me. My father had returned from the conference and made it to the court just in time.
“Congrats Sophia, you won your first case. I am so proud of you” my father said and before I could reply, he drew me into an embrace with him. I felt like I was on top of the world.
“Wow! I could hardly recognise you in the courtroom. You did well”
“Thanks dad,” was all I could say. I pecked him on his right cheek and proceeded to hug my mum. Just then, a train of reporters thronged behind me. I had totally forgotten that there’ll be reporters here.
“Excuse me Barrister, how do you feel after winning your first case?” One slim, trim, pretty, fair lady was asking me, holding a mic to my mouth.
“Well, I feel elated. My confidence is boosted to 100%. It is good to know that justice still exists in our country.” Questions after questions flowed, cameras flashed. Just then, Emeka arrived in his car, wearing that charming smile of his.
“Finally an excuse to escape from these reporters,” I muttered to myself. He walked up to me and hugged me, then looking to my father, who gave an approving nod, he guided me through the throng of reporters flanking us all around to the car and off we zoomed.
The next day found me in my father’s office. My father had called me into his office immediately he came.
“Sophia, I know I’ve not been fair to you. I want to apologise for not giving in to your wishes due to my selfish reasons. I’m sorry” I knew he would come around soon enough but I was curious on what made him change his mind. So I asked him.
“Dad, come on. I believe you had my best interest at heart. But then, I would really want to know what made you change your mind”
“After yesterday, I got to understand that I’ve been too self-centered, too engrossed in my problems to consider your well-being. So, I’ve decided not to drag you into my troubles. Sophia, I want you to be happy, and given your performance, I can now rest easy that I have someone to continue my legacy” he said.
Now, that was too emotional and if I know my father well, he is not the emotional type.
“Dad, is there any problem? I don’t like the way you are sounding. It’s totally new to me” I asked him concernedly.
“No, there is no need to worry. I give my consent to your marriage to Emeka. Please ask him to come see me anytime soon”
“Ok dad, but remember you can always lean on me when you are weak” I winked at him. His face creased into a warm smile.
“Very funny. Between you and I who is supposed to lean on the other?” he chuckled “Ok now, you can get back to your office”
“Alright dad, I’ll see you around” I went out from his office. On my way out, in the corridor, I met Chief Etuk, the father of Samuel. I greeted him and he grunted his reply. His face looked grim and unfriendly. I wondered why he was upset. Was my father responsible for his glum mood? Whatever it was didn’t concern me. The only business I had now was to tell my beloved the good news. I was soon to discover how wrong I was.