The ongoing trial of an alleged kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike alias Evans before an Ikeja Special Offences Court, Lagos has suffered several setbacks following the continued absence of lawyers defending him.
The trial of the alleged kidnap kingpin was again stalled yesterday following the absence of his lawyer, Mr Olanrewaju Ajanaoku, who had on three consecutive occasions avoided proceedings.
Evans, who is standing trial alongside three of his gang members: Joseph Ikenna Emeka, 29, Chiemeka Arinze, 39, Udeme Frank Upong, 43, was arraigned on a seven count charge of murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to kidnap and selling of firearms.
Mr Ajanaoku, who skipped the last proceedings over issues of unpaid legal fees, had earlier informed the court, through a letter, that Evans’ family is yet to perfect their brief, in terms of financial commitment.
However, securing a stable counsel to defend Evans has been a tough journey for the alleged kidnap kingpin, who has in the past one year and four months, engaged the legal services of three lawyers since his arraignment sometime in November 2017.
While his first counsel Olukoya Ogungbeje discontinued on claims that his life was under threat, Mr Neol Brown (2nd Counsel) abandoned him over unknown reasons.
The continued absence of his recent counsel, Ajanaoku, however prompted the court to order Evans to defend himself or seek the representation of a legal aid.
Earlier during yesterday’s proceedings, the Chief State prosecuting Counsel, Adebayo Haroun, urged the court to invoke Sections 233 (3) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) which empowers the court to appoint a counsel for the defendant.
Haroun said, “Where the defendant fails to secure a legal representation, the court has the discretion to order the legal aid counsel to provide a representation for the 1st defendant, Evans.
“This is the third adjournment taken on the instance of the 1st defendant. So we urge the Lordship to invoke section 233 of the ACJL if the defendant fails to provide a counsel on the next adjournment,” he said.
The prosecutor also informed the court that his witness, a police officer, inspector Idowu Haruna, attached to the Inspector General of Police Intelligence Response Team, was present to continue his evidence before the court.
Following the submission of the prosecutor, Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo ordered Evans to defend himself or seek a new counsel.
Justice Taiwo said, “I have told you (referring to Evans) the options; defend yourself, get a new counsel or I’ll appoint a legal aid counsel for you.
“This case is not just for you, there are other defendants involved. Therefore, the liberty of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th defendants, who also demand justice, is also at stake. And justice delayed is justice denied.
“On the circumstances, I’ll adjourn this matter till May 10 and the 1st defendant must provide a counsel.
“However, in the absence of the Counsel for the 1st defendant, on the next adjourned date, this court will invoke Section 233 (3) of the ACJL and order the representation of the legal aid counsel for him,” the judge said.
Meanwhile, the police officer, who had previously began his evidence in chief, testified that Evans and his gang members shot the Young Shall Grow Motors chairman (YSG), Chief Obianuju Vincent and killed two of his escorts.
According to him, “The incident occurred on August 27, 2013 at Third Avenue Festac Town when the YSG chairman was returning from a game house with his convoy and was attacked by heavily armed men led by Evans.
“During the attack, the YSG chairman WA shot on his right arm while his driver, one Mr Peter Nweke was shot dead. One of his escorts, Chijoke Ngozi (female) was also shot dead.