Bogged by the incessant excuses of defence counsel, the Lagos High Court has warned it would no longer tolerate requests for adjournments in the celebrated case of kidnap suspect, Chukwudumem Onwuamadike, popularly known as Evans.
The trial of the suspected kidnap kingpin resumed on Tuesday at the Lagos State High Court with a new counsel representing the accuse person.
Mr. Chino Obiagwu, the new counsel requested for a short adjournment to enable him study the case file, but Justice Hakeem Oshodi refused the request.
He turned down the request because he would no longer accept further delays.
The fifth and sixth defendants counsel, Mr Agwulanna Uzoukwu and Mr Emmanuel Ochai, opposed Mr Obiagwu’s prayer, pointing out that the several adjournments were affecting the liberty of their clients.
On his part, the state counsel, Mr Haaron Adebayo, also opposed the adjournment request, saying the state was ready for trial.
The trial had been put on hold, with the last hearing on June 26 because of changes in defence counsels.
After the various parties had made their cases at the hearing on Tuesday it was then adjourned till October 26 for further hearing.
Evans in August 2017 pleaded guilty to conspiracy and kidnapping before a judge of the Ikeja High Court.
Evans and five others were arraigned on a two-count charge of conspiracy and kidnapping.
The judge ordered that all the male defendants be remanded at Kirikiri Maximum Prison while the female defendant, who pleaded not guilty to all the charges, be kept at the Kirikiri Female Prison.
The case continued to drag apparently to stall proceedings by defence who continuously sought adjournments and in some cases withdrawal of defence counsel.
A trial judge had also hands off the case
Justice Abdulazeez Anka of the Federal High Court, Lagos declined to hear a fundamental rights suit filed by suspected kidnapper, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, alias Evans.
Evans is seeking N300 million damages for his illegal detention.
Anka returned the case file to the Administrative Judge for further directive.
The judge had earlier heard the case during the court’s long vacation and had adjourned until Aug. 29 for judgment after parties argued it and adopted their addresses on Aug.16.
But the police through its counsel Mr David Igbodo said another lawyer, Mr Henry Obiazi, who represented the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and the Nigeria Police when the case was heard did so without authorisation.
The police prayed the court to set aside all the purported arguments made by Obiazi and to set aside the ruling it delivered on Aug. 16 in which he adjourned for judgment.
When the case came up before another judge, Justice Chuka Obiozor during the long vacation, he held that the case was no longer urgent.
Obizor, then returned the file to the Chief Judge, Justice Adamu Kafarati for re-assignment to another judge.
The case was subsequently re-assigned to Justice Babs Kuewemi.
However, Evans’ lawyer, Olukoya Ogungbeje wrote the chief judge informing him that Anka had already adjourned the case for judgment.
Based on the letter, the case was again returned to Anka.
When the case came up before Anka, he expressed displeasure that the case was returned to him when the issue of judgment had been overtaken by events.
The judge said that since the police had filed other applications, the earlier adjournment for judgment had become void.
Anka added that even if he had written the judgment earlier, it meant that a new one would be written.
Police Counsel Chukwu Agwu accused Ogungbeje of “smuggling” the case file back to Anka’s court.
“The case was re-assigned to Justice Kuewumi. How my learned colleague smuggled this case to this court is baffling.
“He did not avail us with a copy of his letter to the chief judge, otherwise we would have reacted,” he said.
But Ogungbeje said his letter was on the premise that since a judgment had already been fixed, it could be delivered by Anka after entertaining the late applications filed by the police.
Anka held that it was not factual to say that judgment had been reserved “when it’s not’’.
He said that the court was obliged to hear the fresh applications by the police.
The judge said the case was not adjourned for judgment but for hearing, adding that Ogungbeje’s claim that the case was for judgment was not the true position.
Ruling, he said: “the case was made for hearing of the motion of first and second respondents.
“The court shall therefore cause a letter to be written to the Administrative Judge to explain the true position of the case, which is for further hearing and not judgment.
“Parties shall therefore await the decision of the Admin Judge, either to re-assign the case or for this court to maintain the case in its cause list.”
Evans had also been arraigned before Justice Hakeem Oshodi of the Lagos State High Court.
While Evans and two others pleaded guilty to the charges, the remaining defendants pleaded not guilty.
In his fundamental rights suit, Evans is claiming N300 million against the police as damages for alleged illegal detention and rights violation.