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Appeal Court dismisses Evans’ N200m suit against police over seized trucks

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[FILE PHOTO] Evans

The Court of Appeal, Lagos Division has dismissed an appeal filed by suspected notorious kidnapper, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike (popularly known as Evans), against the judgment of Justice Hadizat Rabiu-Shagari of the Federal High Court, Lagos over his seized 25 trucks by the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).

The three judges of the appellate, yester day, struck out the application for lacking in merit.

Delivering the verdict, Justice Joseph Ikyegh, in his lead judgment, held that there was a search warrant issued and executed in line with Section 144 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of Nigeria, 2015, empowering the police to recover the trucks.

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The judge added that Section 153 of Administration of Criminal Justice of Nigeria, 2015 permits the force to retain proceeds of crime until a case is disposed of.

He also held that the cited sections were consistent with Section 44(1)(k) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which permits the temporary seizure of property for the purposes of investigation or restitution.

Justice Ikyegh maintained that since the trial was pending, the word ‘Confiscate’ used by counsel to the appellant was not appropriate in the circumstance.

He, consequently, upheld the decision of Justice Rabiu-Shagari and dismissed Evans’ appeal for lacking in merit.

Other members of the panel, Justices Abubakar Sadiq Umar and Onyekachi Aja Otisi, agreed with the lead judgment.

Onwuamadike, through his counsel, Olukoya Ogungbeje, in a suit marked FHC/L/CS/1515/17, had accused the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and four others of unlawfully seizing the vehicles and converting them to their own.

Besides the IGP and the NPF, the other respondents were the IGP Response Team (IRT), Lagos State Commissioner of Police and the (disbanded) Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

Evans had alleged that the police forcibly confiscated the trucks without a court order on June 15, 2017.

He had asked the court to award N200 million as general and exemplary damages against the force for the alleged violation of his rights under Sections 36, 43 and 44 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

But the police, through its lawyer, Emmanuel Eze, attached to the State CID, Panti, Yaba, Lagos, prayed the court to dismiss the suit, arguing that the automobiles were proceeds of crime and exhibits.

The force, in a counter-affidavit deposed to by Inspector Haruna Idowu, said the suspect acquired 11 trucks with proceeds of crime, adding that 10 of them were recovered by the establishment.

He explained that the trucks were listed as exhibits in the criminal charges filed against Onwuamadike at the Lagos State High Court.

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Idowu swore: “The applicant is the notorious and most dreaded armed robber and kidnapper known as Evans, who defied police arrest for over 10 years and who had terrorised many states of Nigeria with his various gang members. The applicant has no other source of livelihood except armed robbery and kidnapping, as so many arms and ammunition were recovered from the applicant during his arrest.

“The applicant had purchased various properties with proceeds of armed robbery and kidnapping. He purchased 11 trucks with proceeds of crime. The police recovered 10 in Lagos, while they were not able to tow the remaining one from Anambra State to Lagos due to the fact that the applicant’s brother-in-law, Mr. Okwuchukwu Obiechina and his wife had tampered with the brain box of the truck in a bid to pervert the course of justice.”

Justice Rabiu-Shagari, had on April 19, 2019, dismissed Evans’ suit for being unmeritorious.

Dissatisfied with the ruling, the claimant approached the Appeal Court in an appeal numbered CA/L/1105/2018.

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