Billionaire kidnapper, Evans arraigned, pleads guilty
It’s police-induced, will change plea, says his lawyer
After 82 days in detention, suspected billionaire kidnapper, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, also known as Evans has pleaded guilty on a two-count charge of conspiracy and kidnapping.
This follows his arraignment yesterday before Justice Hakeem Oshodi at the Lagos High Court, Ikeja. Evans was arraigned alongside his five accomplices:
Uche Amadi, Ogechi Uchechukwu, Okwuchukwu Nwachukwu, Chilaka Ifeanyi and Victor Aduba by the Lagos State Government.
Evans, Amadi and Nwachukwu pleaded guilty to the charges, while Uchechukwu, the only female defendant, Ifeanyi and Aduba pleaded not guilty to the charges. They were brought to the court amidst tight security within and outside the court premises.
The trial judge, Oshodi ordered that the male defendants be remanded at Kirikiri Maximum Prison while the female defendant, should be kept at the Kirikiri Female Prison.
The judge subsequently adjourned the matter to October 19, for review of facts for those who pleaded guilty and commencement of trial for those who claimed innocence.
This followed the prayers of the prosecution team led by Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem for an adjournment.
Evans had raked in millions of dollars as ransoms paid to him by his victims’ families before his arrest on June 10, 2017, in one of his mansions at Magodo, Lagos State.
But Evans counsel, Olukoya Ogungbeje told The Guardian that the police induced the guilty plea and affirmed that his client would change his plea by the next adjourned date.
He said: “I can tell you categorically and unequivocally that it was motivated, influenced, forced on him by the police. I assure you, by the next adjourned date, that guilty plea would be changed to not guilty.
“He told me personally that the police told him if he doesn’t plead guilty, they would kill him. This morning, they did not allow me to see him. That is why I was telling the judge to grant us an adjournment to enable us confer with our client in line with provisions of section 36 (6) (2) of the constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“After he pleaded guilty, I struggled to get to him and ask him: ‘Why did you do so’? He told me the police asked him to do so and added that he is ready to change his plea.”
The Second Vice President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Monday Ubani, described it as a welcomed development for the young man not to waste the time of the government in persecuting the case.
He said Evans has done himself good by not trying to deny which is common with almost all the defendants in criminal cases and urged the court not to give him a ridiculous sentence on account of that.
Director, Access to Justice, Mr. Joseph Otteh, also said it is a positive development. He noted that from the very beginning, Evans has been singing like a canary, granting press interviews, admitting to the crime and made confessions.
He said: “May be, he wants to come clean because he has seen the strength of the case against him or out of the generousity of heart, he wants to make peace with himself and face the punishment. But on a broader level, it is a good thing.
Otteh, however, added that it is important for the court to establish if his plea of guilt was voluntarily made.
“Once the court establishes that he elected to plead guilty voluntarily, it should reward that gesture by not giving him the maximum sentence so that other people can emulate that and come forward with the truth as quickly as possible.”
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, who declined to have his name mentioned, stated that if a suspect admits committing a crime, then, such an accused person has to face the consequences as provided by the provisions of the Act upon which he would have been found guilty. “He can equally be lenient, using his discretion as to what sentence to pass on him.
Former National Secretary of the NBA, Mazi Afam Osigwe said: “The essence of his pleading guilty is that the state will not have to waste its time trying to probe him. The prosecutor will just provide the summary of evidence and then, the court will convict.
“Pleading guilty does not mean he will go free. It only means that he will not go through the trial to establish his guilt again.”
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