Justice Kayode Ogunjobi of an Igbosere High Court sitting at the Tafawa Balewa Square, TBS, on Wednesday, June 29, 2022, threatened to impose further costs on convicted kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, a.k.a. Evans, for delaying a £223,000 suit.
One of Evans’ kidnap victims, Chief Donatus Duru, filed a suit in 2018 demanding a return of the £223,000 he paid to Evans as ransom to free himself from the kingpin’s custody.
Duru is also demanding the sum of N50 million as damages at 20 per cent interest.
Justice Ogunjobi, before whom the matter is, has already imposed costs of N2.5million on Evans.
Upon resumption of proceedings on Wednesday, the judge threatened to impose another cost on the convict for his delay tactics over his choice of lawyer.
Justice Ogunjobi lamented that Evans’ conduct was “hurting everybody” and costing the Lagos State Government money.
When the case was called, a lawyer, Maxwell Chukwuemeka, announced that he was seeking to represent the defendant (Evans) in the case.
Evans had on March 3, 2022, applied to the court to be allowed to defend himself.
But Chukwuemeka told the court that he had filed two applications – a motion for change of counsel and a motion for amendment of the defendant’s statement of defence.
Chief Duru’s counsel, Mr D. O. Obiora, said the defendant had been changing counsel but did not oppose the applications.
He noted that the court delivered a ruling on May 23, granting leave for the defendant to file its statement of defence.
He wondered how Evans was seeking leave to amend a defence he had yet to file.
Justice Kayode Ogunjobi granted both applications but noted that the matter had suffered several adjournments.
He said: “The delay is hurting everybody and putting the state at an expense. We have been here since 2018 till 2022, at the instance of the defendant. I awarded a cost of N2.5 million because the delay was unwarranted.
“If there is a further delay, I will award another cost because I don’t see why you have an application to amend your statement of defence and you didn’t come with the amended statement to file it.”
He adjourned the case till July 13 for the defence to open its case.
Chief Duru instituted the suit on May 16, 2018, and served Evans through the Comptroller-General of Prisons, Kirikiri Correctional Centre, Lagos.
The defendant was initially represented by a lawyer in March 2019 and was accorded every opportunity to defend the suit but failed to do so.
Wen the claimant closed his case on March 3, 2022, the defendant returned, seeking leave of court to defend himself.
According to Evans, he had been in prison custody since August 2017 and was not aware of the suit.
He said he became aware of the suit in 2019 when he was already out of time to file his defence. Consequently, he immediately contacted a lawyer to defend him.
The defendant added that sometime in March 2022, he, through his family, contacted his lawyer to find out the position of the matter only to be informed that the law firm had ceased representing him and that the law firm was yet to file a statement of defence in the suit.
He stated that he later discovered that the trial had been concluded without him being represented.
Opposing the request, the claimant argued that the defendant had lost the opportunity to open his defence and cross-examine the claimant’s witnesses.
The claimant argued that one of his witnesses now lives outside the country and that he (claimant) no longer had the capacity to testify again due to the emotional and mental trauma he suffered while giving his testimony in court.