UPDATED: Judge Hands-off Evans Case
Justice Abdulazeez Anka of the Federal High Court, Lagos on Wednesday declined to hear a fundamental rights suit filed by suspected kidnapper, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, alias Evans.
Evans is seeking N300 million damages for his illegal detention.
Anka said that the case file would be returned to the Administrative Judge for further directive.
The judge had earlier heard the case during the court’s long vacation and had adjourned until Aug. 29 for judgment after parties argued it and adopted their addresses on Aug.16.
But the police through its counsel Mr David Igbodo said another lawyer, Mr Henry Obiazi, who represented the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and the Nigeria Police when the case was heard did so without authorisation.
The police prayed the court to set aside all the purported arguments made by Obiazi and to set aside the ruling it delivered on Aug. 16 in which he adjourned for judgment.
When the case came up before another judge, Justice Chuka Obiozor during the long vacation, he held that the case was no longer urgent.
Obizor, then returned the file to the Chief Judge, Justice Adamu Kafarati for re-assignment to another judge.
The case was subsequently re-assigned to Justice Babs Kuewemi.
However, Evans’ lawyer, Olukoya Ogungbeje wrote the chief judge informing him that Anka had already adjourned the case for judgment.
Based on the letter, the case was again returned to Anka.
When the case came up before Anka on Wednesday, he expressed displeasure that the case was returned to him when the issue of judgment had been overtaken by events.
The judge said that since the police had filed other applications, the earlier adjournment for judgment had become void.
Anka added that even if he had written the judgment earlier, it meant that a new one would be written.
Police Counsel Chukwu Agwu accused Ogungbeje of “smuggling” the case file back to Anka’s court.
“The case was re-assigned to Justice Kuewumi. How my learned colleague smuggled this case to this court is baffling.
“He did not avail us with a copy of his letter to the chief judge, otherwise we would have reacted,” he said.
But Ogungbeje said his letter was on the premise that since a judgment had already been fixed, it could be delivered by Anka after entertaining the late applications filed by the police.
Meanwhile, Anka held that it was not factual to say that judgment had been reserved “when it’s not’’.
He said that the court was obliged to hear the fresh applications by the police.
The judge said the case was not adjourned for judgment but for hearing, adding that Ogungbeje’s claim that the case was for judgment was not the true position.
Ruling, he said: “the case was made for hearing of the motion of first and second respondents.
“The court shall therefore cause a letter to be written to the Administrative Judge to explain the true position of the case, which is for further hearing and not judgment.
“Parties shall therefore await the decision of the Admin Judge, either to re-assign the case or for this court to maintain the case in its cause list.”
Evans has since been arraigned before Justice Hakeem Oshodi of the Lagos State High Court.
While Evans and two others pleaded guilty to the charges, the remaining defendants pleaded not guilty.
The prosecution said that the defendants between Feb. 14 and April 12, on Obokun Street, Ilupeju, Lagos, armed with guns and other dangerous weapons captured and detained Duru Donatus.
It said that the defendants allegedly collected a ransom of 223,000 Euros to release Donatus.
In his fundamental rights suit, Evans is claiming N300 million against the police as damages for alleged illegal detention and rights violation.