The lawyer representing alleged billionaire kidnapper, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, has petitioned the Chief Judge of Lagos State seeking the transfer of his case to a different judge.
Olukoya Ogungbeje, the lawyer, accused Oluwatoyin Taiwo, the judge handling the trial of Mr Onwuamadike, aka Evans, and his co-accused, of bias against his client.
“We do not in any way doubt the judicial capacity and ability of Hon Justice O.A Taiwo as one of the finest judges of our time,” Mr. Ogungbeje said in the petition dated April 18 and made available PREMIUM TIMES.
“His lordship remains our ‘Mother in Law.’ However, from the facts and circumstances of the case, we doubt the ability of his Lordship to dispense justice without fear or favour.”
Evans and Victor Aduba are facing a four-count charge of kidnapping and unlawful possession of firearms before Mrs Taiwo of the Ikeja Division of the Lagos State High Court.
They are accused of kidnapping of Sylvanus Ahamonu and collecting a $420,000 ransom from his family.
The defendants are also being tried for the attempted kidnap of Vincent Obianodo, the Chief Executive Officer of the Young Shall Grow Motors.
Their trial before Mrs Taiwo began last year while the judge was still at the Lagos Division of the Lagos State High Court in Igbosere. But during the reshuffling of judges by the state chief judge in December, Mrs Taiwo was posted to the Ikeja division of the high court.
“During the reshuffling it was stated that judges could only take along with them ‘Part heard’ cases while cases where trial had not begun would be inherited by the incoming judges,” Mr Ogungbeje said.
“For the avoidance of doubt, as at then trial had not begun but his Lordship Hon Justice O.A Taiwo took the case files to the Ikeja Division where his Lordship was posted.
“This undoubtedly raised a flagship of caution in the mind of our client who complained to us but we downplayed our client complaint as a mere irregularity whatever the interest involved.”
Mr Ogungbeje said during a hearing of the case on March 14, the prosecution suddenly wanted to tender a document titled ‘Certificate of Identification’ dated November 15, 2017, that was not front-loaded as part of the proof of evidence before the court.
“As a matter of fact, we were not served with the said document and his Lordship Hon O.A Taiwo also sighted the said document for the first time on the said 14th of March 2018.
“We duly objected to the tendering of the said document and requested for an opportunity and time circumscribed in an adjournment in this regard to enable us have the benefit of perusal of looking at the document properly and form a legal opinion whether to object to the admissibility of the document or not.
“Surprisingly, his Lordship brushed aside our request and admitted the said document.”
The lawyer further accused the judge of allowing a video CD that had been front-loaded as additional proof of evidence to be played in open court when it had not been tendered and admitted in evidence.
The video, which was played by the prosecution on March 14, showed Evans confessing to committing crimes of kidnapping and armed robbery within and outside Lagos.
Mr Ogungbeje also faulted the judge for ignoring the prosecution’s continued inability to include a proof of evidence in one of their charges despite her ruling in November last year ordering them to do so.
“My Lord would agree with us with the greatest respect and humility that the circumstances outlined above are capable of raising a flagship of caution and confidence premised on fair trial in the mind of our client or the mind of any reasonable member of the society.”
Last week, during his ministerial press briefing, Adeniji Kazeem, the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos State, accused Mr Ogungbeje of delay tactics in the trial of the alleged billionaire kidnapper.
“On the Evans’ matter, the cases filed against him are ongoing in court,” Mr Kazeem told journalists, while assuring the public that the suspect will not escape justice.
“The issue is that the lawyer representing him is trying to play some games to delay the matter but in all his games, we have been defeating him in court.”
But Mr Ogungbeje pushed back against the Attorney-General’s claims, accusing him of attempting to prejudice a pending criminal proceeding by commenting on it at a press conference.
The lawyer also insisted he was not stalling the trial of his client by filing notices of appeal at the Appeal Court, adding that one of his appeals against a death sentence handed to one of his clients, Sulaimon Olalekan, by a Lagos judge was quashed by the appellate court.
“It must be noted that it was an appeal fought at the Court of Appeal, Lagos, between Evans defence counsel and the Attorney-General of Lagos State was defeated by Mr Olukoya Ogungbeje.
“From the foregoing as seen in the Sulaimon’s appeal case, the Hon Attorney-General of Lagos State should have known that Evans’ defence train led by Olukoya Ogungbeje Esq is not here to eat ‘Banku’ as far as Evans ongoing criminal charges are concerned.
“We hereby call on the Hon Attorney-General of Lagos State to put his house and art in order in the diligent prosecution of Evans based on legal evidence, rather than misinforming the public, attacking Evans defence counsel and prejudicing the ongoing criminal cases before the courts.”