The Court of Appeal, sitting in Lagos has dismissed an appeal filed by alleged kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike popularly known as Evans, challenging the judgement of Justice Hadizat Rabiu-Shagari of the Federal High Court in Lagos.
Evans had through his lawyer, Mr. Olukoya Ogungbeje, in suit number: FHC/L/CS/1515/17, accused the Inspector-General of Police (IG) and four others of unlawfully seizing his 25 trucks and converted same to their own. But Justice Rabiu-Shagari in his judgement delivered on April 19, 2019, dismissed Evans’ suit for lacking in merit.
Dissatisfied, he, through his lawyer, Ogungbeje, approached the Appeal Court in an appeal number: CA/L/1105/2018, and urged the court to set aside the judgement. Delivering the judgment on the appeal, Justice Joseph Ikyegh (presiding) held that there was a search warrant issued and executed in line with Section 144 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of Nigeria, 2015, empowering the police to recover the trucks.
The appellate court further held that Section 153 of Administration of Criminal Justice of Nigeria 2015 permits the police to retain proceeds of crime until the case is disposed. The court held that these Sections are in line with Section 44(1)(k) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended), which permits the temporary seizure of property for the purpose of investigation or for restitution.
Consequently, Justice Ikyegh upheld the decision of the lower court and dismissed the appeal for lacking in merit. Other members of the panel, Justice Abubakar Sadiq Umar and Justice Onyekachi Aja Otisi, agreed with the lead judgment.
Evans had through his counsel in a suit marked FHC/L/CS/1515/17 accused the IG and four others of unlawfully seizing his 25 trucks and converted same to their own. Other respondents are Nigeria Police Force (NPF); Inspector-General of Police Response Team (IRT); Lagos State Commissioner of Police; and Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
He alleged that the said trucks were seized from him without a court order, saying the police forcefully confiscated the trucks from him on June 15, 2017, without any court order. He had asked the court to award N200 million as general and exemplary damages against the police for the alleged violation of Evans’ rights under Sections 36, 43, and 44 of the 1999 Constitution.
But the police, through its counsel, Emmanuel Eze, attached to the State CID, Panti, Yaba in Lagos had urged the court to dismiss the suit as the trucks were proceeds of crime and were exhibits.
The police in a counter-affidavit, the deponent, Inspector Haruna Idowu, said the suspect acquired 11 trucks with proceeds of crime, adding that 10 of them were recovered by the police. He said the trucks were listed as exhibits in the criminal charges filed against Evans at the Lagos State High Court.
According to him, “The applicant is the notorious and most dreaded armed robber and kidnapper known as Evans, who defiled police arrest for over 10 years and who had terrorised many states in Nigeria with his various gang members. The applicant has no other source of livelihood except armed robbery and kidnapping, and many arms and ammunition were recovered from the applicant during his arrest.
“The applicant had purchased various property with proceeds of armed robbery and kidnapping. He purchased 11 trucks with proceeds of crime. The police recovered 10 in Lagos while they were not able to tow the remaining one from Anambra State to Lagos due to the fact that the applicant’s brother-in-law, Mr. Okwuchukwu Obiechina, and his wife had tampered with the brain box of the truck in a bid to pervert the course of justice.”