The trial of Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike a.k.a Evans, and his alleged accomplices, was on Friday adjourned until March 2 by an Ikeja High Court.
The trial was adjourned due partly to the fact that Okwuchukwu Nwachukwu, a co-defendant, had yet to secure legal representation.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Anselm Dunu, the brother of Donatius Dunu, a victim, was scheduled to be cross-examined on Friday by the defence counsel.
He was, however, not fully cross-examined by the defence because of the absence of Mr. Nwachukwu’s lawyer.
Messrs. Evans and Nwachukwu are standing trial alongside Uche Amadi, Ogechi Uchechukwu, Chilaka Ifeanyi and Victor Aduba on a two-count charge of conspiracy and kidnapping.
During Friday’s proceedings, Justice Hakeem Oshodi inquired from Mr. Nwachukwu (the fourth defendant), why he did not have a legal representation.
“My Lord, we are still making arrangements for a lawyer,” he said.
Registering her displeasure, Titilayo Shitta-Bey, the State Director of Public Prosecutions, urged the court to proceed with the trial, noting that it was a ploy by the defence to delay proceedings.
She said: “On the last adjourned date which was November 17, 2017, this court inquired from the fourth defendant on how long it will take for him to engage a counsel to represent him in this matter and he requested for two weeks.
“Here we are in January 19, 2018, still no legal representation.
“My learned friend, Mr. Olukoya Ogungbeje, who appeared for the first and second defendants, had previously announced his appearance for the fourth defendant.
“He thereafter withdrew his appearance on the grounds that the fourth defendant was yet to perfect his brief.
“Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution provides that a defendant is entitled to counsel of his choice and he can also represent himself if he so wishes.”
According to Ms. Shitta-Bey, there is a Supreme Court pronouncement on the matter of delays or where there is a deliberate attempt to delay proceedings in court.
“The duty of the court is to assert its control over proceedings and not to permit either of the parties to impose a state of helplessness on the court.
“Where a party has been given ample opportunity by the court to secure representation, the court cannot wait forever or delay proceedings forever.
“The court can assign a counsel to take up the defence of the defendant,” she told the court.
The DPP also submitted that a speedy trial is fundamental in the speedy dispensation of justice and noted that Mr. Ogungbeje could represent Mr. Nwachukwu and commence the cross-examination of Mr. Dunu.
Mr. Ogungbeje, however denied trying to delay the trial, saying “the family of Nwachukwu met us and they promised that they will perfect our brief in a week or two.
“In the circumstance, I will like to say that it is not the fourth defendant’s (Nwachukwu) fault that he did not have a counsel; his new counsel, Mr Olanrewaju Ajanaku, withdrew from the case.”
Justice Hakeem Oshodi ordered that the defence counsel present in court should cross-examine Mr. Dunu.
Mr. Dunu, while being cross-examined by Ogungbeje, told the court that he did not know the persons who were given the N100 million ransom for his brother’s release.
“I spoke to some unknown voices, I don’t know if the voices belong to the first and second defendants (Evans and Amadi).
“I did not hand over the ransom, I did not know the persons the ransom was given to, but I know the person who gave the instructions of whom the money should be given to.
“The strange voices told me what to do in order to release my brother, I only met the first and second defendants for the first time in the office of the Inspector-General of Police.
“I made my statement to the police sometime in June but I did not mention the names of the first and second defendant because I did not know their names then.
“In my statement, I said I did not suspect anyone in the kidnap of my brother. The voices I spoke to during the ransom negotiations were muffled,” he said.
On November 3, 2017, Mr. Dunu had in his examination-in-chief told the court that the defendants had demanded one million Euros as ransom for the release of his younger brother, Donatius Dunu.
Donatius was kidnapped on February 14, 2017 along Obokun Road, Ilupeju, Lagos and his family reportedly paid N100 million ransom to secure his release.
After Mr. Dunu left the witness box, Emmanuel Uchai, a defence counsel for Mr. Aduba, one of Evan’s co-defendants, applied orally for his bail.
“I am seeking an order for the bail for the sixth defendant (Aduba). The bedrock of the criminal justice system is the assumption of innocence subject to the discretionary powers of the court.
“There is nothing linking the sixth defendant to the kidnap of Donatius Dunu, he has no prior criminal record.
“The prosecution argued that some members of the gang are still at large but there is nothing in the charge before the court that suggests it.
“I wish to appeal that the sixth defendant be granted bail on liberal terms which can allow him attend trial and not punish him,” he said.
Objecting to the application, Ms. Shitta-Bey told the court that she had a 15-page counter-affidavit and a written address to that effect.
Citing the Supreme Court case of Asari Dokubo Vs the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the DPP said that Mr. Aduba should be denied bail in the interest of the public.
“This is a serious offence and it is not going to guarantee the peace and tranquillity of the society and there is no material evidence before the court guaranteeing this.
“I pray the court to refuse the defendant’s bail and dismiss this bail application,” she said.
Justice Oshodi adjourned the case until March 2 for ruling on the bail application and the cross-examination of Mr. Dunu.