BY OLUGBENGA SOYELE, Lagos
Alleged billionaire kidnapper, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike Evans and two of his co-accused, Uche Amadi and Okechukwu Nwachukwu on Thursday changed their guilty plea to two count charge of conspiracy and kidnapping it filed against by the Lagos State Government.
Evans and his co-accused change their plea after the state represented by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Titilayo Shitta-Bey told the trial judge, Justice Hakeem Oshodi that the prosecution amended count two of the earlier charge to reflect the current state of the law.
With the amendment, the state is now set to prosecute them under the new Lagos Law on anti-kidnapping which carries death penalty.
They were first docked on Section 271 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2013, they are now facing trial under changed Section 155 subsection 1 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2017.
Evans, Amadi, Nwachukwu, Chilaka Ifeanyi, Victor Aduba and one female, Ogechi Uchechukwu were arraigned on August 30 before the Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja court.
Ifeanyi, Chukwunonso and Izevhukwu the only female among them had pleaded not guilty during the proceedings.
The two count charge relates specifically to the kidnap of one Donatus Dunu in the Ilupeju area of Lagos.
At the resumed hearing of the case on Thursday, the DPP told the court that there is no material change in the nature of the offence which still remains conspiracy and the kidnap of one Dunu Donatus.
She urged the court to allow the defendants take fresh pleas to the amended two count charges.
But counsel to Evans, Olukoya Ogungbeje opposed the move for fresh pleas.
The lawyer told the judge that he had only just been served in court this morning with the amended charge and he needed time to confer with his client.
He then asked the court to grant him a short adjournment so he could get a proper brief from his clients on how to proceed.
The other defence counsel except the counsel for the fourth defendant aligned with his submission. The fourth defence counsel, Olanrewaju Ajanaku told the court that he was ready to proceed as there was no material change in the charges.
After listening to all the lawyers, Justice Oshodi declined to grant an adjournment but instead opted to stand down the case for 45 minutes to enable the lawyers confer with their clients.
When the court reconvened at 11.45am and the amended charges were read to all six defendants. They all pleaded “not guilty”.
Following the development, Mrs. Shitta-Bey indicated her readiness to proceed with trial.
She information Justice Oshodi that she has three witnesses in court who are ready to testify.
But all the defence counsel pleaded for an adjournment to enable them more time to prepare their clients case.
Justice Oshodi has adjourned the matter till November 3.