Mr. Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike popularly referred to as Evans was today arraigned before Justice Akintoye of the High Court of Lagos sitting at Igbosere on a two-count charge of conspiracy and kidnapping along with three others. His co-defendants are Joseph Emeka, Ugochukwu Nwachukwu and Victor Aduba. They are alleged to have conspired to kidnap and to have kidnapped a Mr. Uche Okereafor in Festac Town sometime in May 2014 and demanded the sum of USD 2 million as ransom from his family. They all pleaded not guilty to the charge. The defendants are facing other charges bordering on kidnapping and attempted murder before Justice Oshodi and Justice Taiwo also in the High Court of Lagos.
The court had earlier dismissed an application filed by counsel to Mr. Onwamadike seeking to dismiss the charge. When the charge was called before Justice Akintoye today, there was a letter from Mr. Ogungbeje, counsel to Mr. Onwamadike asking for a stand down of the charge on the ground that he was engaged at the Federal High Court. The director of public prosecutions, Lagos State, Mrs. Titi Shitta-Bey who led the team for the prosecution informed the court that she had seen the letter but considered it a ploy by Mr. Ogungbeje to delay the charge. She stated that the Federal High Court and State High Court are courts of coordinate jurisdiction and this being a criminal case should have been accorded priority by Mr. Ogungbeje. She also stated that Mr. Ogungbeje was fond of writing such letters and referred to a letter he had written for an adjournment of the charge on the 22nd of March 2018 on the ground that he was at the Court of Appeal. She stated that the prosecution did some investigation and found out that Mr. Ogungbeje’s case at the Court of Appeal was on the 20th of March 2018 and not the 22nd of March 2018 as he had stated. She concluded that Mr. Ogungbeje was fond of applying for adjournments with such falsehoods to deliberately stall the case.
Mr. Onwuamadike also indicated to the court that he would like to speak and upon given the opportunity, he complained of ill-treatment in the hands of the prison authorities. He accused the prison authorities of starving him and refusing to allow him to see his visitors. The prison warder in court denied the allegations and stated that Mr. Onwuamadike was not maltreated in any way and had in fact complained of ill-health and was taken to see a doctor both yesterday and today. Mrs. Shitta-Bey also informed the court that upon receiving similar complaints made by Mr. Onwuamadike in another criminal charge, the Ministry of Justice had written to the prison authorities asking them to accord Mr. Onwuamadike his full rights and privileges and that the Nigerian Prisons had responded denying any allegation of maltreatment. She confirmed that she was aware that Mr. Onwuamadike was treated by a doctor yesterday as well as this morning who certified that he was healthy and could attend the court proceedings. She stated that she was also aware that he was allowed to see his visitors within the prison-regulated time. Justice Akintoye stressed the need for the defendants to be treated as other prisoners were in the prison as they were innocent until proven guilty. She stood down the charge till 11 am for counsel to Mr. Onwuamadike.
When the charge was recalled at 11 am, Mr. Ogungbeje apologized for his late arrival and thanked the court for granting his application for a stand-down. He denied the allegations against him by Mrs. Shitta-Bey that he had sought adjournment of the charge on the ground of a falsehood on the 22nd of March 2018 and stated that the case at the Court of Appeal came up on the 20th of March 2018 and was adjourned to the 22nd of March 2018. He promised to respond formally and furnish the court with proof since Mrs. Shitta-Bey had written a formal letter.
The defendants were then arraigned, and the case adjourned to the 25th of May 2018 for trial.
Section 271 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2011 provides:
(1) Any person who unlawfully captures and detains another against his will commits a felony and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for ten (10) years.
(2) For the purpose of subsection (1) of this section a person is detained against his will when he is detained in such a manner as to prevent him from applying to a court for his release or from revealing to any other person the place where he is imprisoned, or in such a manner as to prevent any person entitled to have access to him from discovering the place where he is imprisoned.
(3)Where a person charged with an offence under subsection (1) of this section demands a ransom for the release of the person detained, the offender commits a felony and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for twenty-one (21) years.