January 19, 2018.
At the resume hearing of kidnapping trial of Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike better known as Evans, his lawyer Mr. Emmanuel Ochai representing him and Mr. Victor Nonso Aduba, 6th defendant in the matter has told the court that the law assumes his client innocent until proven otherwise, hence should be granted bail.
Arguing the bail application on Friday, January 19, 2018, the lawyer told Justice Hakeem Oshodi, the presiding judge, that no evidence before the court is linking his client to the Kidnap, adding that his client is a first offender as there is no criminal record of him anywhere.
He said; “I am seeking an order for the bail for the sixth defendant. The bedrock of the criminal justice system is the assumption of innocence subject to the discretionary powers of the court
“The prosecution argued that some members of the gang are still at large but there is nothing in the charge before the court that suggests it neither is there anything that suggests my client will interfere with investigation.
“I wish to appeal that the sixth defendant be granted bail on liberal terms which can allow him attend trial and not punish him”.
He further stated that the conditions of bail should be that which his client can afford, citing the provision of the constitution that says bail condition is not a form of punishment but what will ensure the defendant appears in court for his trial.
However, Mrs Titilayo Shitta-Bey, the Director of Public Prosecution told the court, while opposing the bail application, that Mr. Aduba should be denied bail in the interest of the public.
She said; “This is a serious offence and it is not going to guarantee the peace and tranquility of the society and there is no material evidence before the court guaranteeing this. I pray the court to refuse the defendant’s bail and dismiss this bail application”. She argued that bail can be refused if the peace of the society would be compromised.
At the resumption of trial today, the DPP expressed displeasure at the lack of legal representation of the 4th defendant, Mr. Okwuchukwu Nwachukwu. “When the judge asked him why he has no representation, Mr. Nwachukwu said “we are still making arrangement for my lawyer”
However, the DPP said; “on the last adjourned date, this court inquired from the 4th defendant on how long it will take for him to engage a counsel to represent him in this matter and he requested for two weeks. Here we are in Jan. 19, 2018, still no legal representation.
“My learned friend, Mr. Olukoya Ogungbeje, who appeared for the 1st and 2nd defendants, had previously announced his appearance for the 4th defendant. He thereafter withdrew his appearance on the grounds that the 4th defendant was yet to perfect his brief. Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution provides that a defendant is entitled to counsel of his choice or he can also represent himself if he so wishes.
However, the Supreme Court pronouncement has made it clear on what to do in attempt to delay proceeding…”The duty of the court is to assert its control and not permit any of the parties to foist it state of hopelessness on the court. Where a party has been given ample opportunity to secure representation, the court cannot wait forever at the whims and caprices of the defendant. The court can assign a counsel to take up the case of the defendant.
The DPP also submitted that a speedy trial is fundamental in the speedy dispensation of justice and noted that Ogungbeje could represent Nwachukwu and commence the cross-examination of Dunu.
Ogungbeje, however denied trying to delay the trial, saying the family of Nwachukwu met us and they promised that they will perfect our brief in a week or two.
“In the circumstance, I will like to say that it is not the fourth defendant’s (Nwachukwu) fault that he did not have a counsel; his new counsel, Mr Olanrewaju Ajanaku, withdrew from the case.”
Going forward, Mr. Ogungbeje agreed to stand for the 4th defendant only if the court will grant an adjournment when it is the turn of the 4th defendant to cross-examine the defendant.
Justice Oshodi then ordered for the commencement of cross-examination of the witness, Mr. Anselm Dunu, the brother of Mr. Donatius Dunu, a kidnap victim.
Mr. Ogungbeje tried to establish that the witness cannot prove that it was his clients who kidnapped his brother or collected ransom from his. After the cross –examination and the bail application had been argued, the judge adjourned to March 18, 2018 for ruling and continuation of trial.