After 108 days, suspected billionaire kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike alias Evans, on Friday appointed a new lawyer to handle his case at an Igbosere High Court in Lagos.
The new lawyer is Mr R.B.C Eke and he is Evans’ third counsel since the defendant’s arraignment in 2017.
Evans had been without a lawyer since January 31, after former counsel Mr Olukoya Ogungbeje and Mr Chino Obiagwu SAN consecutively withdrew from the case in unclear circumstances.
The defendant is standing trial on two separate charges before the judge.
In the first, he is on trial alongside Joseph Ikenna Emeka, 29, Chiemeka Arinze, 39, Udeme Frank Upong, 43, on a seven-count charge of murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to kidnap and selling of firearms.
In the second charge, he is standing trial alongside Joseph Emeka, Linus Okpara and Victor Aduba.
On April 10, Justice Adedayo Akintoye gave Evans till today to get a new lawyer.
The judge told Evans, whose case suffered three adjournments following his failure to secure legal representation, that he had only three options.
He could defend himself, get a new counsel or the court would appoint a legal aid counsel for him, Justice Adedayo said.
The judge gave the warning following the third consecutive absence of Mr Obiagwu
No member of Evans’ legal team was present and there was also no letter to the court to explain their absence.
Upon an enquiry from Justice Adedayo, Evans said: “The last time we spoke, he told me that on the next adjournment he will be in court.”
Judge: “So, he’s not here?”
Prosecuting counsel Yhaqub Oshoala prayed the court to invoke Section 233 (3) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) which empowers it to appoint a counsel for the defendant.
He said: “The provision is that where the defendant fails or is unable to secure a counsel, the court has the discretion to order the legal aid counsel to provide a representation for the defendant.
“This is the third time this matter is called and the first defendant (Evans) is not represented”.
Acknowledging his submission, Justice Adedayo turned to Evans and asked: “What exactly is the position? I understand they don’t want to appear for you. Do you want the court to appoint another lawyer for you?”
Evans shook his head, “No, my lord,” he said.
The judge advised him to ensure that he got a legal representative before the next adjourned date.
Justice Akintoye said: “If your lawyers don’t want to appear, we cannot force them.
“You have three options, you can get another lawyer to represent you or the court can appoint one for you or you can defend yourself, which is not advisable.
“Today is the last chance that I have given, otherwise I will do what I have said. After today, there will be no more adjournment.”
At the resumed hearing of the matter yesterday, Eke, informed the court that since he had just taken over the case, he would need time to study the case file.
He prayed the court to grant him an adjournment so that he can catch up with the proceedings.
Justice Akintoye granted his prayer and adjourned till June 27 for continuation of trial within trial of Evans, on the first charge.
On the second charge, third defendant Linus Okpara, also got a new lawyer, Mr C. J. Jiakponna, who informed the court that he had a bail application.
But prosecuting counsel Mr Y. G. Oshoala told the court that he had not been served with the bail application.
Consequently, Justice Akintoye adjourned till May 23, for hearing of the third defendant’s (Okpara), ball application on the second charge.