By Cosmas Omegoh
Some lawyers have hailed last Friday’s life imprisonment verdict handed down to Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike aka Evans, describing it as appropriate.
Although they are unanimous in saying that the punishment would serve as a deterrent to others, they, however, agreed that it would not completely stop the evil.
After years of trial for kidnapping and other offences, Evans on Friday, got the shock of his life: a life-in-prison sentencing.
When Justice Hakeem Oshodi of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja, brought down his gavel on that day, his verdict was that Evans and two of his accomplices: Uchenna Amadi and Okuchuwkwu Nwachukwu, would spend the rest of their lives in prison.
The jurist found Evans and his men guilty of kidnapping one Mr Donatius Duru, said to be the chief executive officer of Maydon Pharmaceuticals Ltd.
Among other things, Justice Oshodi said that Evans in particular, “showed no remorse in the dock, and tried to lie his way out of the crimes despite the video evidence.”
He discharged and acquitted the other co-defendants: Ogechi Uchechukwu, Chilaka Ifeanyi and Victor Aduba, declaring there was no evidence linking them to the crimes preferred against them.
The Lagos State government had arraigned Evans and his cohorts for allegedly kidnapping Duru, on February 14, 2017.
The prosecution insisted that the convicts committed the said crime sometime between February 14 and April 12, 2017
The lawyers who spoke to Sunday Sun commended the prosecutors for a good job.
Ayo Ademiluyi, a lawyer and activist, said: “We must commend the honourable judge for the diligence in prosecuting the case. Because we know that in this country, criminal cases take a while before they are concluded. But this case was given special attention by the court; the sentencing is welcomed in every way.”
It was his view that the life sentencing handed out to the trio is prescribed for anyone found to be engaged in kidnapping.
He said the judge did not err in giving out the appropriate punishment.
Similarly, Mr Leye Adepoju based in Ibadan noted that the life sentencing depends on what the law says.
“If it is the provision of the law, there is nothing anyone can do about it. In that case the trial judge was right.”
He said he was not sure that kidnapping is a capital offence in the law books.
He recalled that “if the laws say life imprisonment, the judge can sentence Evans to a time ranging from two days to life imprisonment.”
Speaking in like manner, Mr Pat Anyadubalu said that it was inappropriate for some people to be swayed by emotion believing that Evans ought to have received a death sentence, adding that it all depends on the position of the law.
“Evans I know has many pending cases, some bordering on murder.
“But in this particular one, life was not involved; if it was a case of kidnapping and no loss of life, then the sentencing was appropriate. But if there was no loss of life, the issue of sentencing to death does not arise.”
He said not minding that the case lasted for years, it was appropriate for the court to allow the accused ample time to defend himself.
“It will be unfair to say that there was delay in the case until one is able to read the entire proceeding to know.
“But it is important for everyone to know that Evans’ case was a criminal offence. So, it was fitting for the court to give him fair hearing. The court has to give the accused all the latitude to defend his case. And we also have to bear in mind that there could be times the judge might want to sit and there won’t be power supply, or the accused might not be brought to court or the prosecution might ask for time to tidy up its case.”
Speaking on the implication of the life imprisonment given out to Evans and his accomplices, Anyadubalu said that it is harrowing and might even be worse than a death sentence.
“What that means is that he will be incarcerated for life; he is not coming out of the prison for anything. It is either he dies there or something else happens. But he might probably get pardon from the state government, but I don’t see that happening soon.”
Although the Evans’ verdict might serve as a deterrent to those aspiring to go into kidnapping, the lawyers were united in saying that it will not all together stop it.
According to Ademiluyi, “the sentencing of Evan will serve as a deterrent to some entrants into the same crime.
“But that said, we need to look at the socio-economic foundation that produced Evans. Evans himself was not born a kidnapper. It was our maladjusted system that made him a kidnapper over night.
“We have many Evanses in power today – kidnappers, assassins, terrorists in the ruling class. But they are shielded from prosecution because they are in power.
“But as long as we have social economic crisis, it will always lead to kidnapping. Thieves are all over in the country. They are mostly in the ruling class. But we need to work on the system for it to profit the majority and not the privileged few.
“Let it not shock anyone to learn that many, many youths will still go into kidnapping. There are many Evans all over the place. These are people who cannot understand why things are the way they are now. Poverty is all over. As long as people are not able to feed themselves, kidnapping and terrorism will not end.”
Similarly, Anyadubalu said “in crime fighting even when people are sentenced, others will still commit armed robbery.”
Adepoju too noted that “punishing an offender does not mean other offenders might learn from it. Some might do so, while others might not.
“Armed robbery is a capital offence; the punishment is there, but more and more people are still going into it. Murder is a capital offence; the punishment is there but people still commit murder. The fact that Evans has been sentenced is no guarantee that his trial and sentencing will end kidnapping.
“The judgment should be a deterrent to others. But the question is: ‘will it be a deterrent?’”
A native of Nnewi, in Anambra State, Evans claimed he was born on April 22, 1980.
His journey to prison was such a long walk. Gradual it was; slowly and steadily it progressed. But at last Evans got there.
In the world of kidnapping, his name rings a bell. For the number of years his rein lasted, he ruled with iron-clad fist, guts and gumption. His name resonated.
According to some of his victims, Evans was ruthless and unfeeling, methodical in his approach, uncanny in his executions and clinical in his finishing.
Observers say Evans never cared a hoot about the small fries. He went for men of means. He stalked them like a prey – those who have real cash and ensured they coughed it out once they were right in his net. He always went for those who could free themselves from his vice grip with foreign currencies. He knew them and always went for them, hitting them where it pains the most – the jugular. He never let them go until they paid ransom and he was fully satisfied. He collected their ransom in dollars.
He was once said to have made as much as $2 million in a single mouth-watering operation.
When his many exploits attained near embarrassing proportion, the Inspector General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team (IRT) of the Nigeria Police Force was mandated to go after him. Before then, he was said to be on the wanted list of the Anambra and Edo states police commands.
Evans was believed to have begun his kidnapping business in Nnewi while Peter Obi was the governor of the state. He later moved to Benin and later shifted to Lagos in 2013 where he formed as many as seven gangs.
At some point a N30 million bounty was placed on him by the police. Yet, he remained smarter. And for seven long years, he remained both invisible and invincible.
But while Evans’ reign lasted, the police always claimed they were on his trail. But his exploits kept repeating like a recurring decimal.
Many wondered how Evans was able to do the big crime and got away with it, how he was always able to evade arrest and navigate the ring of security everyone was told was drawn to net him. Till now, those who kept wondering about this have not ceased to do so.
Evans was also accused of committing other kidnap offences, including the kidnap of a certain Uche Okereafor in Festac, Lagos on November 21, 2017. He demanded $2million ransom.
Aside his Magodo mansion and another in the same area worth millions of Naira, Evans is said to own a mansion in Cape Town, South Africa, and two others in up market areas in Accra, Ghana. He loves exotic cars, and jewellery, and has lots of them.