ews of arrest of kidnap kingpin, Chukwudimeme Onwuamadike (alias Evans) by the police on June 10, 2017, dominated Nigeria’s media space the following 12 hours and beyond. His trial continued to hold the attention of the media and the general public.
Evans was arrested at his residence at No. 3, Fred Shogboyede St, Magodo, Lagos.
He was accused by the then DCP Abba Kyari-led Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT) of kidnapping high profile Nigerians and demanding huge ransoms in foreign currencies for their release.
His four and a half years’ trial before an Ikeja High Court was plagued by delays caused by applications filed by counsel as well as Evans’s frequent change of counsel and the lockdown necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 64-day strike in 2021 by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) also contributed to the delay.
This is a timeline of the trial which culminated in a judgment on Friday with the court convicting him and sentencing him to life imprisonment.
The trial is of the five trials the kidnap kingpin and his accomplices are facing before the High Courts in Lagos State.
AUG. 30, 2017
Evans and five others: Uche Amadi, Ogechi Uchechukwu, Okwuchukwu Nwachukwu, Chilaka Ifeanyi and Victor Aduba were charged on two counts of conspiracy and kidnapping before Justice Hakeem Oshodi of an Ikeja High Court.
Evans, Amadi and Nwachukwu pleaded guilty to the charges while Uchechukwu, the only female defendant, Ifeanyi and Aduba pleaded not guilty.
According to prosecution team led by the then Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Adeniji Kazeem, Evans and his accomplices kidnapped the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Maydon Pharmaceuticals, Mr Donatus Dunu, on Feb. 14, 2017, and received 223,000 euros as ransom for his release.
Five of the defendants were remanded at the then Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison while Uchechukwu, the only female defendant, was remanded at the then Kirikiri Female Prison.
OCT. 19, 2017
Evans and his co-defendants were re-arraigned on an amended two-count charge of conspiracy and kidnapping.
The defendants were earlier charged under Sections 271(3) and 411 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015. On Oct.19, 2017, they were charged under Section 2(1) of the Kidnapping Prohibition Law, No. 13, Laws of Lagos State, 2017, and Section 411 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.
In a dramatic turn of events, Evans pleaded not guilty.
NOV. 3, 2017
Anselem Dunu, Donatus Dunu’s brother, testified as the first prosecution witness in the trial. He narrated how he raised N100 million and converted it to 223,000 euros as ransom for his brother’s release.
Oshodi dismissed an application filed by Evans’s counsel, Mr Olukoya Ogungbeje, seeking to quash the two-count charge brought against him by Lagos State Government.
NOV. 17, 2017
Evans and his co-defendants complained about their living conditions at the Kirikiri Prisons, to Oshodi.
“This is unfair, I have not been given food and change of clothes. I was not given the opportunity to bathe since Wednesday,” he said.
Oshodi ordered the then Director in Lagos State Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Ms. Titilayo Shitta-Bey, to investigate the accusation. The judge also dismissed a bail application of Uchechukwu, the only female defendant.
JAN. 19, 2018
Anselem’s cross-examination could not commence because Nwachukwu, a co-defendant, had yet to secure legal representation.
MARCH 2, 2018
One of Evans co-defendants, Victor Aduba, an ex-soldier, was refused bail.
Oshodi had considered the gravity of the alleged offences and the possibility of interfering with trial, before arriving at the decision.
Oshodi, in a separate ruling, foreclosed Okwuchukwu Nwachukwu’s chance of cross-examining Anselem due to his unwillingness to cross-examine him by himself as he had no legal representation.
MARCH 16, 2018
Donatius Dunu, the CEO of Maydon Pharmaceuticals and the complainant in the case, testified in the trial as the second prosecution witness.
He narrated how he was abducted at 7.30 p.m. on Obokun Street, Ilupeju, Lagos, while heading home from work. He said that an initial ransom of two million dollars was demanded, and his hands and feet were shackled during his 88-day stay in captivity.
He said that due to a fluctuation in dollar rate, the ransom was changed to one million euros which was negotiated down to 500,000 euros. He testified that his brother, Anselem, was able to raise 223,000 euros.
He said he escaped from captivity while his captors were asleep, and alerted the authorities. He was cross-examined by Evans’s counsel.
MAY 11, 2018
The third prosecution witness and a Manager at Maydon Pharmaceuticals Ltd., Mr Uchenna Okagwu, narrated how he paid 232,000 euros as ransom to Evans and his accomplices to secure the release of his boss. The money was dropped off at a location at Okota, Lagos.
“As I walked to the back of my vehicle, I was three steps away, I was asked to drop the ransom, I did so and was told to move immediately after dropping the money.
“As I looked around, I only saw a vehicle parked at the beginning of the street with full lights on, the vehicle looked like an SUV.”
Under cross-examination by Ogungbeje, Okagwu said he didn’t see anyone while dropping the ransom and that the money was not given directly to any person.
SEPT 11, 2018
The fourth prosecution witness, Insp Idowu Haruna of the Intelligence Response Team, told the court that the defendants were arrested following Donatus Dunu’s escape from captivity.
Led in evidence by state counsel, Mr Adebayo Haroun, the investigating police officer said that the statements of the defendants were not obtained under duress but rather in a conducive environment.
Evans’s new counsel, Mr Chinonye Obiagwu, however, opposed the admissibility of the statements on the premise that they were obtained under duress. This prompted Oshodi to order a trial-within-trial.
OCT 26, 2018
Taking the stand at the trial-within-trial, Evans claimed that his confessional statement to the police was not obtained voluntarily.
He claimed that policemen tortured him and made him to witness executions in a bid to get him to admit to the alleged crimes.
FEB. 1, 2019
In a ruling, Oshodi admitted Evans’s June 11, 2017 confessional statement in evidence, saying that there was no proof before the court that he was tortured by the police.
The judge noted that the 1999 Constitution did not require that statements to the police must be in a specific form, adding that based on Evans’s videotaped confession played in court during the trial, there was no proof he was tortured to provide details of his misdeeds.
JAN. 11, 2020
Concluding his evidence, Haruna narrated how Evans spent the ransom he collected from his victims.
“The ransoms collected by the first defendant were used for purchasing houses on Magodo Estate, Lagos, where he was arrested. He also bought a house on Emmanuel Keshi Street on Magodo Estate.
“He bought a house located in Accra, Ghana. The first defendant also bought landed property in Anambra State from the ransom,” he said.
After Haruna’s testimony, Haroun told the court that prosecution would be closing its case against the defendants.
AUG. 14, 2020
Oshodi gave a ruling on a no-case submission filed by Evans’s co-defendants, Uchechukwu, Ifeanyi, Nwachukwu and Aduba.
He said the co-defendants had a case to answer due to substantial evidence before the court. He ordered them to open their defence.
After the ruling, the judge ordered Evans’s new counsel, Mr Oyekunle Falabi, from the law chambers of Victor Opara (SAN) to write an undertaking that the law chambers would conclude the case.
The judge said Evans had developed a habit of engaging services of lawyers who “disappear halfway through trial”, noting that it was causing delays in the case.
Since the trial began on Aug. 30, 2017, Evans had been represented at different times by Mr Olukoya Ogungbeje, Mr Noel Brown, Mr Chinonye Obiagwu and Mr Olanrewaju Ajanaku, all of whom withdrew from the case.
JAN 22, 2021
Evans opened his defence. He denied allegations of conspiracy and kidnapping against him, insisting that he was a legitimate businessman.
Led in defence by his counsel, Opara, he said: “My lord, my name is not Evans, and I don’t have a nickname. I’m a legitimate businessman who deals in haulage and ornaments.”
He said he was coerced into admitting being a kidnapper after the police, in a bid to make him to confess, extra-judicially killed four individuals in his presence.
He also testified that he had never met the other defendants, except on the day the police paraded them before the media at Area F, Police Command, Ikeja.
JUNE 29, 2021
Evans’s sister, Mrs Ndubuisi Obiechina, testified as the second defence witness. Led in evidence by Opara, she told the court that her brother was tortured by IRT operatives to confess to the crimes.
Evans co-defendants, Uche Amadi and Ogechi Uchechukwu, a married couple, also presented their defence.
Amadi told the court that he was arrested alongside his wife in Port Harcourt, adding that he had never been to Lagos and that he did not know or have any relationship with Evans.
Uchechukwu who married Amadi in 2004, in her defence, disputed her husband’s claim.
“If anyone comes to this court and says that Amadi has never been to Lagos except in 2017 when he was arrested, then that person must be lying,” she said.
AUG. 3, 2021
Evans’s co-defendants, Ifeanyi and Aduba, two ex soldiers of the Nigerian Army, denied being accomplices.
Responding to questions from Opara, Ifeanyi said, “I have never taken part in any kidnap activities in my life. I have never attempted to kidnap anyone before or conspired with Evans to kidnap the victim (Dunu).”
Aduba, led in evidence by his counsel, Mr Emmanuel Ochai, said he was forced to sign a confessional statement in police custody after three men — Felix Chinemeren, Paul Samyan and Chukwuma Nwosu — who were initially paraded to the media as kidnappers, were extra-judicially killed by an IRT team.
Following the evidence of the two former soldiers, defence closed its case.
DEC. 10, 2021
Oshodi announced Feb. 25, 2022, as judgment date, after listening to oral submissions of final written addresses by prosecution and defence counsel.
Opara (SAN), in a final written address dated Nov.1, 2021, said there was no evidence directly linking Evans to the alleged crimes. He said that the kidnap victim, who was blindfolded throughout his 88-day ordeal, did not state in his testimony in court that he could physically identify Evans.
Haroun, via a final written address dated Nov. 30, 2021, asked the court to convict the defendants, saying that the kidnap victim had given direct evidence about how he was kidnapped, how he escaped and the roles of each defendant.
“We have circumstantial evidence linking the first defendant (Evans) to the crime and we also have confessional statements and video recordings of him,” Haroun said.
FEB. 25, 2022
Oshodi, in a three-hour judgment, found Evans, Amadi and Nwachukwu guilty of the two-count charge of conspiracy and kidnapping brought against them by Lagos State Government.
He said that none of the convicts showed any remorse during the trial.
“Despite the huge evidence stacked against them, they tried to lie their way out.
“In this respect, the first, second and fourth defendants are each hereby sentenced to life imprisonment. This is the sentence of the court,” he said.
Other defendants – Uchechukwu and the two ex-soldiers – Ifeanyi and Aduba – were discharged and acquitted. The judge held that there was no evidence linking them to the crimes.