According to reports, the Lagos State Government on Thursday re-arraigned alleged kidnap kingpin, Chukwudubem Onwuamadike, alias Evans, and five others before a Lagos State High Court in Ikeja.
The re-arraignment of the defendants followed the amendment to the two charges, bordering on conspiracy and kidnapping, pressed against them by the state.
Although Evans and his co-defendants had earlier pleaded guilty to the charges when they were first arraigned on August 30, they changed their plea, denying the allegations upon their re-arraignment on Thursday.
Standing trial alongside Evans are Uche Amadi, Okwuchukwu Nwachukwu, Chilaka Ifeanyi, Victor Aduba and a woman Ogechi Uchechukwu.
When the matter came up before Justice Hakeem Oshodi, the state prosecuting team, led by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Titilayo Shitta-Bey, told the court that the amended information only affected the law and punishment under which second charge was filed.
According to Shitta-Bey, Evans and his accomplices committed the offence of conspiracy on February 14, 2017 around 7.45pm along Obokun Street, Ilupeju, Lagos.
Shitta-Bey said that the defendants, between February 14 and April 12, along Obokun Street, Ilupeju, Lagos, while armed with guns and other weapons, captured and detained one Mr. Duru Donatus.
According to the prosecutor, the defendants collected a ransom of €223,000 for the release of Donatus.
Shitta-Bey said the offence of kidnapping was contrary to Section 2(1) of the Kidnapping Prohibition Law of Lagos State, 2017, which carried death penalty as punishment.
Earlier, at the Thursday’s proceedings, Evans’ counsel, Olukoya Ogungbeje, attempted to frustrate the defendants’ re-arraignment.
He informed the court that the prosecution had served the defence counsel the amended charge in the open court.
He prayed the court to grant him an adjournment to enable him to confer with his clients about the amended charges.
“My Lord, on behalf of the first and second defendants, the amended charge was served on us this morning.
“We had earlier filed an application on behalf of the first defendant, and the prosecution just served us their counter-affidavit this morning in court.
“It is my prayer that my Lord would oblige us a date to confer with the first and second defendant about the amended charge,” Ogungbeje said.
Counsel for the third, fifth and sixth defendants, Joseph Otogbolu, A.A. Uzouawe, Emmanuel Ochai, respectively, aligned themselves with Ogungbeje, while counsel for the fourth defendant, Olanrewaju Ajanaku, told the court that he was ready to proceed with the case.
Shitta-Bey, however, opposed the application for an adjournment, citing Section 155(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law.
She said, “The application for an adjournment was calculated to delay this matter by the defence counsel; the particulars of the offences did not change just the law under which the second count was filed was changed.
Responding, Justice Oshodi urged Ogungbeje to confer with his clients in the court so that the defendants could take their plea.
After the defendants’ plea was taken, Shitta-Bey informed the court that they had three witnesses in court and they were ready to prosecute the case.
However, Ogungbeje and other defence counsels pleaded with the court for an adjournment.
While granting the defendants an adjournment, Justice Oshodi said, “In the interest of justice, the court will exercise its discretion to oblige the first, second, third, fifth and sixth defendants an adjournment. The case is hereby adjourned till November 3, 2017 for trial.”