By Onozure Dania
Lagos—A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, yesterday, ordered the Nigerian Police Force to pay Okwuchkwu Obiechina, brother-in-law to popular kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, alias Evans, N2 million.
Obiechina had filed a fundamental rights enforcement suit against the Police for “illegally” detaining him in the course of investigations into Evans’ activities.
Justice Mohammed Idris ordered the immediate release of Obiechina, adding that he should be charged to court if the Police have any case against him.
He also ordered the Police to tender apology to the kidnapper’s brother-in-law, which should be published in two national newspapers.
The judge held that Obiechina’s arrest and detention was unconstitutional, adding that the remand order which the Police claimed to have obtained from a magistrate’s court was invalid.
One Okoliagu Abunike, who deposed to a 15-paragraph affidavit in support of the ex parte application, said Mr. Obiechina was arrested by a team of policemen led by two officers, identified only as Phillip and Christian.
Mr. Abunike argued that Mr. Obiechina was arrested and detained solely because of his relationship with Evans, adding that the Police officers had been bragging that no court would order the release of Mr. Obiechina.
He said: “Since June 26, the first applicant is still being detained at the detention cell of the respondents till date, even beyond the constitutionally-allowed time by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The applicant has not committed any offence known to law to warrant his being arrested and detained by the operatives of the respondents.
“The applicant has not committed any offence known to law that will warrant the infringement of his right to life, personal liberty, fair hearing, freedom of movement and dignity of human person.”
Meanwhile, Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo of a Lagos High Court sitting at Igbosere, yesterday, adjourned the arraignment and hearing of pending application of the kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, popularly known as Evans, to October 27.
Evans is being tried alongside five others over alleged murder, kidnap of Sylvanius Ahanonu Hafiia and attempted kidnap of the Chairman of Young Shall Grow Motors, Vincent Obianodo.
Justice Taiwo adjourned the case following an application by Evans’ counsel, Olukoya Ogungbeje.
The Police beefed up security within and outside the State High Court, as Evans was brought to court alongside one Victor Nonso Aduba at about 9a.m.
As at 7.30a.m., not fewer than 30 heavily-armed mobile policemen were spotted around the court. Others were strategically positioned at entrance of both Igbosere Road and back of Tafawa Balewa Square.
There were lawyers, litigants and spectators inside and outside the court trying to catch a glimpse of the billionaire kidnapper.
However, the arraignment of the defendant, who was brought on two separate charges, could not go on as his counsel, Olukoya Ogungbeje, informed the court of two separate motions on notice dated October 19, seeking to quash the charge against his client, on the ground of jurisdiction to entertain the charge.
He said: “The information from the prosecution has not being served on us. It was just this morning (yesterday) that we were served the information.
“However, we got wind that our client would be arraigned this morning (yesterday), that is why we brought motion challenging the competence of the charge based on jurisdiction.
“We have just been served as counter-affidavit this morning (yesterday) and this motion seeks to challenge the four-count charge and they have replied. We intend to reply on points of law on the counter-affidavit by the prosecution; we are asking for a short adjournment to reply the prosecution.
“It is settled in law that when an application seeking to quash a charge is brought, such application should be held first before any arraignment, because when plea is taken it means trial has started.”
This is just as counsel to Aduba, Emmanuel Ochai, and the counsel to the three other defendants, Ogedi Ogu, did not object to the arraignment of the defendants.
Ochai said: “We were served with the charge this morning (yesterday). Since we are seeing the charge for the first time, we do not wish to join issues; we leave it at the discretion of the court.”
The Director of Public Prosecution, Ms Titi Shitta-Bey, said the defendants were served on August 28, and Inspector Idowu Haruna, who effected the service, disposed to an affidavit, which is in the court file.
She said: “Section 87 (a) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law, states that it is mandatory to serve the accused and not the counsel.”
She further stated that the application seeking to quash the charge should not be heard, noting that “the application is not yet ripe for hearing; we were served late on Friday, October 20, and we have diligently replied on counter-affidavit.”
Shitta-Bey, however, said the business of the day was the arraignment of the defendants, but later conceded to the argument of Ogungbeje and said the application should be heard first.
Consequently, Justice Taiwo adjourned till October 27 for the hearing of pending application.