Suspected kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike (aka Evans) on Wednesday stunned a fully packed Lagos high court which sat in Ikeja when he pleaded guilty to a two count charge of conspiracy and kidnapping preferred against him and five other suspected accomplices.
Twice the offences in the charge were read to him in the dock and twice Evans surprisingly entered a plea of guilty.
Evans was arraigned by the police before a vacation judge, Justice Hakeem Oshodi of an Ikeja High Court, for alleged kidnapping of Dunu Donatus, a Lagos businessman.
The premises of the Lagos high court in Ikeja became Mecca of a sort on Wednesday when the police brought the suspected kidnap kingpin to court.
Many of them said they came to catch a glimpse of him.
Arraigned with Evans on Wednesday were suspected members of his gang, including a woman, Ogechi Uchechukwu, the third defendant; Uche Amadi, Okwuchukwu Nwachukwu, Chilaka Ifeanyi and Victor Chukwunonso Aduba, second, fourth, fifth and sixth defendants.
The government of Lagos State preferred a two-count charge offence bordering on conspiracy and kidnapping against the suspects, who have been in police custody since June 10.
The offences are contrary to sections 411 and 271(3) Criminal Law Cap C17 Laws of Lagos State 2015.
The prosecution team was led by the Attorney-General & Commissioner for Justice Adeniji Kazeem. Mr Olukoya Ogungbeje led the defence team.
The court registrar read the charges after Justice Oshodi’s arrival at about 9.30am.
In count one, the defendants were alleged to have “on February 14, 2017, at about 7.45pm along Obokun Street, Ilupeju, Lagos, conspired to commit felony to wit kidnapping.”
In count two, they were alleged to have “between February 14 and April 12, 2017, along Obokun Street, Ilupeju, Lagos, while armed with guns and other weapons, captured detained and collected a ransom of 223,000 Euros from one Dunu Donatus for release”.
The charge sheet was signed by the state Director, Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), Ms. T. K. Shitta-Bey.
Evans, Amadi and Nwachukwu entered a guilty plea.
His other three accomplices, Uchechukwu, Ifeanyi and Aduba, pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Kazeem asked the court for adjournment for trial of those who pleaded not guilty.
In respect of Evans and two others who entered guilty plea, he said the adjournment would enable the prosecution lay the facts of the matter before them for their affirmation and the court for sentencing.
Justice Oshodi remanded all the defendants at the Kirikiri Maximum Prison.
The only woman amongst them, Ogechi Uchechukwu was remanded at the Female Prison, Kirikiri.
Justice Oshodi adjourned the matter till October 19 for trial.
Speaking with reporters after the arraignment, which lasted less than 30 minutes, the Lagos attorney-general expressed satisfaction with the way the trial began.
But Ogungbeje disagreed. He said he suspected that his clients (Evans and other two) may have been ‘misadvised’ to enter a guilty plea.
Ogungbeje said: “For now, let’s wait and see what happens. But the point must be made that we were not allowed to confer with our clients.
“For now, whether we are satisfied or not, we would keep our gun powder dry.”
Court sources said Evans and others were driven into the Ikeja High Court premises as earlier as 6.00am amid tight security by prison officials, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) in full combat gear.
Evans and his suspected accomplices were said to have been taken straight into the courtroom after the police had swept the floors.
At about 7.30am, scores of Lagosians started trooping into the court premises to catch a glimpse of the billionaire kidnapper.
The court premises was under tight security by policemen on horse backs, most of who were handling dogs.
Each of the three-floor court building was secured by the police.
Evans was clean-shaved, looking well-nourished and dressed in a clean pink stripped shirt on a pair of black trousers over a pair of bathroom slippers. He was the first to be called into the dock.
Others were called into the dock in order of their names on the charge sheet.
The court room was filled beyond capacity with reporters, from local and international media organisations and the police.
About three hours after the trial ended, Evans and others were brought out of the court room in-between two walls of security men into a waiting Prisons van.
As they were being driven away, most of the people in the crowd brought out their phones and stood on their cars and raised platforms to record their departure amid salutations of “Oro baba o”.