The notorious kidnap kingpin, Chukwudubem Onwuamadike, alias Evans and five others on Wednesday were arraigned before a Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja.
Evans and his accomplices, Uche Amadi, Okwuchukwu Nwachukwu, Chilaka Ifeanyi, Victor Aduba and one female, Ogechi Uchechukwu, were arraigned before Justice Hakeem Oshodi on two counts bordering on kidnapping and conspiracy.
While Evans and two others pleaded guilty to the charges, the remaining defendants pleaded not guilty.
According to the lead counsel for the prosecuting team, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, Evans and his accomplices committed the offence of conspiracy on February 14, 2017 around 7.45pm along Obokun Street, Ilupeju, Lagos.
Kazeem said that the defendants between February 14 and April 12 along Obokun Street, Ilupeju, Lagos, while armed with guns and other dangerous weapons, captured and detained one Mr. Duru Donatus.
According to the prosecutor, the defendants collected a ransom of 223,000 Euros for the release of Donatus.
After the plea was taken, Kazeem, the Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General of Lagos State, urged the court to remand the defendants in Kirikiri Maximum Prison and to take trial date for those who pleaded not guilty.
“My Lord, we are following this arraignment and we would like to apply that the defendants be remanded in prison custody and to take trial date for the ones that have pleaded not guilty.
“While for those who have pleaded guilty, we would like to lay our statement of fact following which your Lordship would adjourn for sentencing,” Kazeem said.
Responding to the application, Evans’ counsel, Mr. Olukoya Ogungbeje, informed the court that he had not been able to meet his client prior to today’s arraignment and that they were just served on Wednesday morning.
“With respect to the application from the learned Attorney General, we shall not be opposing same.
“However, the defence team just had the opportunity of meeting our clients this morning in court for the first time; we were just served with documents in the open court this morning.
“All the defendants have been in the custody of the police and we have not had the opportunity of conferring with them regarding the offences which are capital in nature,” Ogungbeje said.
The judge granted the prayer of the Attorney General ordering that the male defendants should be remanded in Kirikiri Maximum Prison and the female defendant should be remanded in the female wing of the prison and further adjourned till October 19 for trial.
Before Evans was brought into the court, there was tight security around the court premises as litigants and lawyers were screened before coming into the court.
Evans, who was dressed in a stripped pink shirt on black trousers and bathroom slippers, was brought onto the court premises with his accomplices amidst tight convoy.
There was a mild drama as journalists struggled to take his picture. Evans, however, remained calm inside the court as he stared straight into the lens of dozens of cameras.
However, people present in court expressed their surprise as the notorious kidnapper pleaded guilty to the charges preferred against him.
As people struggled outside the court to take Evans and his accomplices’ picture after the arraignment, the police blocked them and the defendants were whisked away in a Black Maria to Kirikiri prison.
But Evans’ lawyer, later issued a statement where he claimed that the police coerced his client to plead guilty to the kidnapping charges.
Describing the plea as police-motivated, Ogungbeje said the police threatened to kill Evans if he failed to plead guilty.
Ogungbeje, in the statement on the letter head of his law firm, Lawflex Chambers, which was e-mailed to our correspondent after the Wednesday proceedings, said his client would change his plea to “not guilty” at the next court sitting.
The lawyer stated that since June 10, 2017, when the suspect was remanded in custody, the police had not allowed family members and lawyers to have access to him.
The lawyer stated that the guilty plea of the defendants on Wednesday was of no effect as the suspects were not given the opportunity to be guided by lawyers before the charges were read to them.
Ogungbeje said, “It is settled Law that plea of guilty must be made voluntary and direct devoid of any influence, coercion and manipulation.
“In the meantime, after conferring with our client in open court, he made it known to us that he would change his police-motivated guilty plea to ‘not guilty’ at the next adjourned date.”
The police had on June 10,2017, arrested the kidnap kingpin in Lagos after five years of trailing him.
Evans, a native of Anambra State, was arrested in his Magodo residence by the operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team.
The suspect was said to have run to the roof of the house for emergency exit but the police caught up with him.
Security forces said Evans had been responsible for many high profile armed robberies in the South-West and South-East parts of the country.
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