The trial of alleged billionaire kidnapper, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, popularly known as Evans, before a Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos, has suffered another setback.
Concise News reports that the trial was again stalled on Friday following the absence of Evans’ lawyer, Olanrewaju Ajanaku, who has been absent from three consecutive court proceedings.
At an earlier proceeding, Ajanaku, through a letter, informed the court that Evans’ family was yet to perfect their brief with him, in terms of financial commitment.
The defendant is standing trial alongside three others – Joseph Ikenna Emeka, 29, Chiemeka Arinze, 39, and Udeme Frank Upong, 43.
They were all arraigned on seven counts of murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to kidnap, and selling of firearms.
Since his arraignment in 2017, the suspected billionaire kidnapper has so far engaged the legal services of three lawyers – Olukoya Ogungbeje, Noel Brown, and recently, Ajanaku.
While Ogungbeje discontinued on claims that his life was under threat, it is not clear why Brown abandoned him.
The continued absence of a defence counsel prompted the court to order Evans to defend himself or seek the services of legal assistance.
At Friday’s proceedings, the Chief State Prosecuting Counsel, Adebayo Haroun, asked the court to invoke Sections 233 (3) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) which empowers the court to appoint a counsel for the defendant.
“Where the defendant fails to secure a legal representation, the court has the discretion to order the legal aid counsel to provide a representation for the first defendant, Evans,” he said.
“This is the third adjournment taken on the instance of the first defendant. So, we urge the Lordship to invoke section 233 of the ACJL if the defendant fails to provide a counsel on the next adjournment.”
Also, the prosecutor informed the court that his witness who is a police officer, Inspector Idowu Haruna, attached to the Inspector General of Police Intelligence Response Team was in court to continue his evidence.
Following the submission of the prosecutor, Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo ordered Evans to defend himself or seek a new counsel.
The judge said, “I have told you (referring to Evans) the options; defend yourself, get a new counsel or I’ll appoint a legal aid counsel for you.
“This case is not just for you, there are other defendants involved. Therefore, the liberty of the second, third, and fourth defendants, who also demand justice, is also at stake and justice delayed is justice denied.”
“I’ll adjourn this matter till May 10 and by then, the must defendant must provide a counsel.
“However, in the absence of the counsel for the first defendant on the next adjourned date, this court will invoke Section 233 (3) of the ACJL and order the representation of the legal aid counsel for him,” Justice Taiwo added.