LAGOS High Court has given kidnap suspect Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike alias Evans till May 17 to get a lawyer to defend him.
The order came 12 days after a similar directive by an Ikeja High Court where he is also standing trial.
Justice Adedayo Akintoye yesterday told kidnap suspect Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike aka EVANS, whose case has suffered three adjournments because he has no lawyer, that he now has only three options :
- defend himself;
- get a new counsel;
- or the court will appoint a Legal Aid counsel for him.
The judge’s warning followed the third consecutive absence of Evans’ counsel, Chino Obiagwu (SAN).
At the last sitting on March 1, Obiagwu was not in court. But he sent a letter informing Justice Akintoye of his absence.
Acknowledging the letter, Justice Akintoye adjourned till yesterday for address by counsel for trial-within-trial.
On March 29, Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo of the Ikeja High Court gave him up till May 10 to get a lawyer or defend himself. Alternatively, the court said it could appoint a Legal Aid counsel for him.
Evans, Joseph Ikenna Emeka, 29, Chiemeka Arinze, 39, and Udeme Frank Upong, 43, are standing trial on a seven-count charge of murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to kidnap and selling of firearms.
None of Evans’ lawyers was present yesterday nor did they write the court on their absence.
Upon enquiry from Justice Adedayo, Evans said: “The last time we spoke, he told me that on the next adjournment he would be in court.”
Judge: “So, he’s not here today?”
Prosecuting counsel Yaqub Oshoala prayed the court to invoke Section 233 (3) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL), which empowers it to appoint a counsel for the defendant.
He said: “The provision is that where the defendant fails or is unable to secure a counsel, the court has the discretion to order the Legal Aid Council to provide a representation for the defendant.
“This is the third time this matter is called and the first defendant (Evans) is not represented”.
Turning to Evans, Justice Akintoye asked: “What exactly is the position? I understand they don’t want to appear for you. Do you want the court to appoint another lawyer for you?”
Evans shook his head. “No, my lord,” he said.
The judge advised him to ensure that he got a lawyer before the next adjourned date.
Justice Akintoye said: “If your lawyers don’t want to appear, we cannot force them.
“You have three options, you can get another lawyer to represent you or the court can appoint one for you or you can defend yourself, which is not advisable.
“Today is the last chance that I have given; otherwise I will do what I have said. After today, there will be no more adjournment.”