I was flabbergasted and perused, to borrow a phrase once used by my senior school mate, when I read stories last week about billionaire kidnapper Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike aka Evans dragging the Police Inspector General, Lagos State Police Commissioner and the Special Anti-Robbery Squad before a court of law. My first thought was, so Evans knows there is law and there is even a court of law? His career never suggested that. How could a man who made a lucrative career as an outlaw suddenly turn around, acknowledge the existence of law and even submit himself to its cumbersome processes in the belief that it renders justice? This must be one of the sharpest ideological turnarounds in history.
Talking about ideology, I am supposed to be a liberal who unquestionably believes in the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution. Today however, I ask my ideological soul mates in the academic and NGO communities to excuse me for a few days while I migrate to the ranks of conservative law and order folks. I am doing this temporary ideological migration in order to ask a few questions of Nigeria’s latest national villain. Evans, variously described by newspapers as “billionaire kidnapper,” “kidnap kingpin” and “notorious kidnapper” filed a suit at the Lagos Federal High Court saying the police have detained him illegally since June 7. He must have undergone a conversion on the road to Damascus with respect to the idea of illegal detention.
A man who made a career of picking up people from the street and hauling them off to secret detention centres now recognises that there is such a thing as illegal detention? Tell me Oga Evans, under which law did you detain your victims until they coughed out billions of naira? At least the police are now saying that they obtained a court order to keep you in detention for 90 days. You Evans, did you obtain any court order before you kept your victims in detention for months? Evans said in his suit that his detention by the police for more than 48 hours without being charged to court is unconstitutional. Evans, the same lawyer who told you that people should not be detained for more than 48 hours, did he say under which section of the Constitution you detained your victims for as long as six months in some cases? You said the police did not charge you to court after your arrest. Tell me, all the people that you seized from the street or from their homes, which court did you charge them to? How come it is only now that you know that people are supposed to be charged to court after their arrest/abduction and not just be thrown into a dungeon and forgotten?
Evans is complaining that the police have subjected him to trial by media which he says is unconstitutional. Are you not happy that the police brought newsmen and television crews to interview you and have provided you with an opportunity to get saturation media coverage such as most Nigerian politicians only dream of? How many people in Nigeria get their names mentioned in the newspaper everyday and how many get their faces shown on television free of charge? Are you not grateful to the police for that? Don’t you know that this very high level publicity is your insurance against summary execution? Other suspected criminals that did not get the same kind of publicity, don’t you know what happened to them? At least you cannot now be shot “in an exchange of fire with the police” without questions being asked.
Evans filed an ex parte application before the Federal High Court on June 28 seeking an order directing the respondents to charge him to court or in the alternative, he sought an order directing the respondents to release him unconditionally where no charge is preferred against him. My question is, why is Evans eager to be charged to court? I smell a rat here. Is he thinking of deploying the billions he garnered from kidnap victims to spring himself from a court since from all indications no billionaire ever gets convicted by a court in Nigeria? Nigerians are not in a hurry to see Evans charged to court until he is stripped of all the money he made from kidnapping. All the Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) that are falling over themselves to represent him in court in anticipation of a fat brief must walk away when he becomes poor as a church rat.
Evans said if he is not charged to court he should be released unconditionally, apparently so that he can resume his career as the nation’s number one kidnapper. He also wants the court to grant him a Peter Odili-style perpetual injunction against arrest. After all the voluntary confessions he made to newsmen, when he sang like a canary about the number of people he kidnapped, the hideous conditions under which he kept them and the huge amounts of money he extorted from their families, which judge in his right mind will set Evans free based on any constitutional niceties? You mean judges are fools, that they can release a confessed kidnapper however sloppy the prosecution?
Evans’ father Mr Stephen Onwuamadike, who deposed to the affidavit at the high court, said his son “has been subjected to media trial and news orchestrated by the respondents which have continued to generate reactions in both print and electronic media without his son being afforded fair hearing before a court of law.” I see. Pa Onwuamadike, is your son the first person to be subjected to media trial in Nigeria? Is there any day that passes without EFCC trying people in the media and securing their conviction in the court of public opinion, only for the prosecution to fail in a real court? Pa Onwuamadike, your son’s predecessors as Nigeria’s top crime bosses, namely Dr. Oyenusi, Lawrence Anini, MondayOsunbor and Flog Them All were all convicted by the media before the Robbery and Firearms Tribunal later upheld the conviction. You are saying your son Evans will not get a fair trial because of the publicity. Are you saying judges should stop reading newspapers, watching television or chatting on WhatsApp just because your son wants a fair trial that he did give to his victims? The problem with your son is that he is not even a tribalist. Looking at the list of his kidnap victims, almost all of them were Igbos like himself. That is why neither Ohanaeze nor IPOB has called for his release.
Wonder of all wonders, Evans wants the judge to order the police to pay him N300m “as general and exemplary damages for illegal detention and unconstitutional media trial.” N300m for only three weeks’ detention? How much should Evans himself pay as general and exemplary damages to the people he kept in detention for months? In any case, it is easier to squeeze water from a stone than to squeeze money out of the police. Judges do not like to make rulings in vain. In most police stations in Nigeria the accused person must buy sheets of paper on which to write his statement. The best answer to Evans’ demand was the one posted in social media by a young Nigerian who said, “Evans wants N300m from the police. Did he kidnap the IG?”
This article first appeared in Daily Trust