Emmanuel Thomas l Friday, August 26, 2022
IKEJA, Lagos, Nigeria – Defense counsels, representing kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike alias Evans and Victor Chukwunonso Aduba have called for inquiry into the death of three witnesses in police custody during the trial of the kidnap kinpin.
They told the court that the three witnesses which were standing trial with the two died in police custody and that no autopsy was done to reveal the circumstances surrounding their deaths and that the fact that they died in custody whereas they were hale and hearty when they were arrested by the police raises serious questions into the confessional statements obtained from leader of the gang.
The two defence counsels, Emmanuel Ochai and his colleague made the observation in their written address before Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo of the Special Offences Court Ikeja. They told the court that the prosecution has failed in several areas to prove the case against Evans and his colleague beyond reasonable doubt and urged the court to discharge and acquit them.
Ochai noted that It is a criminal trial and therefore the duty of the court to interrogate evidence of prosecution since the allegations are weighty, and carries either death or life imprisonment hence the need to interrogate prosecution along with evidence.
According to him, four witnesses testified during the entire gamut of trial. “There are doubts in evidence proffered by prosecution. In the first place, the trial started on a wrong footing”, he said, adding that the provision of the constitution which makes it mandatory for suspects to be arraigned in 24 hours was brushed aside.
Besides, he argued that there are discordant notes, moreso when the defendants were arrested in 2014 but arraigned in 2017.
“Justice is two ways, the accused and the accuser. Onyebuchi who had contact with kidnappers was not brought before this court as evidence”, he said, and that others have no contact with the so-called kidnapers.
He also questioned testimonies . According to him, two venues have been stated in evidence as the location the kidnap act took place, one at Amuwo Odofin, while another said the incident took place at Isolo, and wondered if the statement is actually true when venue of the kidnap has become a subject of doubt.
He explained that no telephone numbers were provided as evidence by the police, when they could have obtained the call logs from the telecommunications companies.
“Five suspects were arrested, 3 were picked by police and they told us that 3 people died, I want inquest into why the 3 people died in police custody”, he told the court.
On the alleged confessional statements, he said out of the five suspects, 3 were killed and he asked: “Do you expect them to make statement not induced out of them?”, he queried. He averred that prosecution induced confessions from his client in breach of the constitution and that the prosecution handled mater in such a manner that left much to be desired, “so they should be discharged. It is better to discharge 1000 criminals than to allow one innocent person to die. As a Pentecostal pastor, do justice by setting them free. Police wasted 3 lives”, he told the court.
Arguing for Chukwunonso Aduba, the second defence counsel urged court to discharge the accused for reasonable doubts in their case.
According to him, section 36 of constitution made it very clear that the accused is innocent until proven guilty, and that the accused is entitled to presumption of innocent.
According to him, four witnesses testified that the kidnaping took place in Amuwo Odofin, while the second defendant made confessional statement.
“Only video recording of the first accused was taken, that of the second not done. The Second defendant allegedly confessed to kidnaping in Amuwo Odofin, the victim testified that he never met the first defendant, and 3 people died and no autopsy was done, they made statements 59 days after arrest”, he said.
“The victim said he never knew the second defendant but the first defendant, he has no reason to lie”, he told the court and called for his acquittal in the case, adding that while one account said the incident took place at Amuwo Odofin another mentioned Kara Street, Osolo way and that it is not possible to be in two places at the same time.
He said that it is in line with this submission that Justice Hakeem Oshodi discharged the 2nd defendant who was then the 6th defendant and urged Justice Taiwo to act likewise.
“Don’t hastily jump into conviction when the situation is that somebody else would have probably committed the offence more so when prosecution has not proved case beyond doubt”, he told the court.
The EFCC prosecution, Yusuf Sule however prayed that the first and second defendants be convicted. He said that a defendant need not be seen at scene of the crime to be convicted, stressing that though the confession of one person cannot be used against another person, there are exemptions, where the nexus correlate and interwoven, quoting a Supreme Court judgement.
He said there is nothing before the court that showed they were tortured or killed. “No evidence to suggest that. No evidence before the court that they were hail and hearty at time of arrest. The victim pointed to the first defendant and described his attire on that day.
“The submissions of my learned brothers no matter how brilliant do not vitiate from the evidence before the court. The victim said he was wearing a shirt and 3 quarter shot. A victim will actually know his assailant, especially spending 9 weeks in their custody”, he said.
“As for the second, he said circumstantial statement is needed. As the first defendant said they went there together. He called him and transferred 1 million to him. Coming here to say it is not like that anymore is an afterthought”, he said and urged the court to sentence them”.
Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo has fixed 19th September 2022 for judgement.
Evans is standing trial alongside Aduba, an ex-soldier, for kidnapping a businessman, Sylvanus Ahamonu and collecting 420,000 dollars ransom from his family. They are facing a four-count charge bordering on kidnapping and unlawful possession of firearms.
Aduba told the court that he was a Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSCE) holder and lived in Ojo Military Cantonment. He said he was arrested in respect of the alleged kidnap cases on June 24, 2017 and vehemently denied knowing Evans prior to his arrest.
“My lord, I have never been involved in any kidnapping. I saw the defendant, (Evans) for the first time at a police station. I have never conspired with anyone to kidnap my entire life,” he said.
“After Christmas, while waiting to board a car to Lagos, I was on my military camouflage when one Mr Chukwuma Nwosu met me and offered to give me a lift to Lagos because of the military regalia. He told me he was also going to Lagos. On our way, we passed through many check-points but we were not stopped because I was in my full regalia.
“We exchanged phone numbers and he said he will let me know anytime he wants to travel so that I can accompany him. He also said that he has a truck that LASTMA usually extorts him whenever it spoils on the road and that he will need my assistance. Since then, he has traveled three times and whenever we get to Lagos, he gives me N20,000 and buys drinks for me at the bar,” Aduba said.
The defendant further said that he got a call from Nwosu on June 24, 2017 to meet him in a bar which led to his arrest.
“When I got to the bar, Nwosu told me not to worry about anything. He said they forced him to call me. As I was about to ask him who forced him, five men approached us and they told me I was under arrest. I struggled with them but they overpowered me and took me to the station.
“I was in the cell for eight days. One man met me in the cell and told me to give him my personal information and I did. Five days after that, he came back to the cell and took me to the counter and I met the five other men.
“They brought out a paper and they told me to sign. I asked if I could go through the papers before I could sign but they said no. One of the men, Mr Idowu Haruna, suddenly gave me a dirty slap. They later took me to a place called theater (torture room). As they were torturing me, Haruna injured me with a cutlass on the hand.
“Their boss, Phillips, ordered them to stop and they took me back to the cell. A day later, they chained me and they told us to enter a white bus. After a while, they took me back to the cell. Three days later, one fib one of the men who came back to meet me in the cell, again told me to sign some papers. I told him they should allow me to speak with my family to inform them of my whereabouts but he refused.
“The man said they will kill me if I refuse to sign the papers and then brought out his phone to speak with a man who introduced himself As DCP Abba Kyari and he said if he refuses to sign the papers, they will kill me,” Aduba said.
The witness further said that Kyari spoke with Haruna on the phone for a few minutes before he hung up, adding that he succumbed to signing the papers after Haruna showed him the dead picture of three men, including the picture of Nwosu.
“I saw the corpse of three men on his phone, including the picture of Nwosu. I was forced to sign the papers because i was scared,”
During cross-examination by the state prosecutor, Mr Yusuf Sule, the defendant said.
“I do not have any document to show that I was tortured because they did not care about my life and I did not see any sign that there was a “theater” in the cell but their boss said they should take me to a theater.
“The only thing I told the police was my personal information and my family information. I did not know where they got the information that I signed on from ”he said.