Kidnapping: Evans’ arraignment stalled again

The trial of alleged kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike (a.k.a Evans) and three others on fresh kidnapping charges was stalled on Thursday at an Ikeja High Court.

Joseph Emeka, Chiemeka Arinze and Udeme Upong, were to be arraigned alongside Evans for the attempted kidnap of Chief Vincent Obianodo, the chairman of the Young Shall Grow Motors.

The arraignment was stalled due to multiple filing of the seven-count charge of murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, attempt to kidnap and sales and transfer of firearms by the State Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

The DPP’s error was pointed out during the proceedings by Mr Olukoya Ogungbeje, Evans’ defence counsel.

According to Ogungbeje, the DPP had initially filed the seven-count charge on August 25, 2017 and amended the August 2017 charge by filing another charge on October 26, 2017 but failed to file the proof of evidence with the October charge.

Evan’s lawyer claimed that there was another seven-count charge dated January 15 before the court.

Ogungbeje also brought to the court’s attention that Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo had in a ruling on November. 10, 2017, noted that the charges in the case were “irregularly filed” by the prosecution.

“We are urging Your Lordship to strike out that application, Your Lordship can do so `suo motu’ (on its own motion).

“There is another amended charge before Your Lordship dated October 25, 2017, they made copies of it and dated it January 15, the DPP should withdraw one of the charges and file fresh charges.

“If the DPP files without withdrawing, I will file a motion for dismissal of the case.”

Mrs Titilayo Shitta-Bey, the Director of the DPP -disputed Ogungbeje’s claim, saying:“There is nothing wrong with the charge before the court, we can proceed with our amended information dated Ocober 26, 2017.

“The argument of my learned friend has no basis in law.”

Justice Taiwo, in a ruling, agreed with Ogungbeje’s submission, saying “I agree with Mr Ogungbeje on this, the DPP must file fresh, clean and unadulterated charges.

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“This case shall be adjourned to enable the DPP file in fresh new charges in accordance with Section 155 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL).

 “The DPP is advised to withdraw all other charges at the next adjourned date, ”Justice Taiwo said.

The defendants had allegedly committed the offences on August 27, 2013 at Third Avenue, Festac Town, Lagos.

Evans and his accomplices allegedly killed Mr. Chijioke Ngozi and attempted to kill and kidnap Mr Vincent Obianodo, the chairman of the Young Shall Grow Motors.

It was also alleged that in 2008, Upong sold and transferred two AK47 rifles and 70 rounds of live ammunition to Evans.

Earlier during proceedings, Mr O. Ogu, counsel to Emeka and Arinze, two of Evan’s co-defendants in an application dated December 13, 2017 had asked the court to quash the five-count charges pertaining to Emeka the second defendant.

According to him, the prosecution had put Emeka’s confessional statement in their proof of evidence in a separate criminal case.

“The information contained in the charges does not prove a prima facie case against the second defendant.

“The statement of the second defendant is same, attached to another charge in another matter.

“What the DPP disputed was to use the same confessional statement that is before a different judge.

 “That purported confessional statement has nothing to do with that charge.

“In that particular charge it was alleged that the victim was James Oduchi, and not  the chairman of Young Shall Grow.

“We submit that to us, the prosecution has no other reason to place the second defendant on this charge other than to paint him as a serial offender.

“We urge Your Lordship to quash the application.”

The DPP, however countered Ogu’s claims, replying:“We particularly want to draw the attention of this honourable court to the proof of evidence particularly the statement of the second defendant marked Exhibit B3.

“The second defendant had written, `I also followed Evans to another operation in Festac but he did not succeed in kidnapping the victim.

“The second defendant has also written in his statement that, I decided to join Evans in kidnapping because I no longer made money in my internet fraud business.

“There is nothing preventing the prosecution from using the same confessional statement against the second defendant before different judges where he had confessed to a series of offences in the statement.

“We submit that the proof of evidence proves a prima facie case against the second defendant and we urge the court to dismiss the application of the second defendant,” Shitta-Bey said.

Justice Taiwo adjourned the case till March 21March 22 and March 23 for trial.