Court dismisses Evan’s N200m suit against police over seized 25 trucks

An Appeal Court sitting in Lagos division on Thursday has dismissed an appeal filed by alleged notorious kidnapper, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, a.k.a. Evans, against the judgment of Justice Hadizat Rabiu-Shagari of the Federal High Court over his seized 25 trucks by the Nigeria Police.

The three justices of the Appeal Court dismissed Evans’ appeal for lacking in merit.

It would be recalled that Evans through his counsel, Mr Olukoya Ogungbeje, in a suit marked FHC/L/CS/1515/17, accused the Inspector-General of Police and four others of unlawfully seizing his 25 trucks and converting same to their own.

Other respondents are Nigeria Police Force (NPF), IGP Response Team (IRT), Lagos State Commissioner of Police, and Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

Evans, had alleged that the said trucks were seized from him without a court order, saying that the police forcefully confiscated the trucks from him June 15, 2017, without any court order.

Evans asked the court to award him N200 million as general and exemplary damages against the police for the alleged violation of his rights under sections 36, 43, and 44 of the 1999 Constitution.

But the police, through its counsel, Barrister Emmanuel Eze, attached to the State CID, Panti, Yaba, Lagos, urged the court to dismiss the suit as the trucks were proceeds of crime and were exhibits.

The police, in a counter-affidavit deposed by 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.

“The applicant is the notorious and most dreaded armed robber and kidnapper known as Evans, who defied police arrest for over 10 years and who had terrorised many states of Nigeria with his various gang members. The applicant has no other source of livelihood except armed robbery and kidnapping as so many arms and ammunition were recovered from the applicant during his arrest.

“The applicant had purchased various properties 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.”

Justice Rabiu-Shagari had on April 19, 2019, dismissed Evans’ suit for lacking in merit.

Dissatisfied with Justice Rabiu-Shagari’s judgment, Evans through his lawyer, Ogungbeje, approached Appeal Court in an appeal numbered CA/L/1105/2018.

Police through its Counsel, Mr Eze Esq, also filed a counter to the appeal and urged the court to dismiss the appeal.

Delivering judgment on the appeal, Justice Joseph Ikyegh, in his lead judgement, held that a search warrant was 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. And that section 153 of the Administration of Criminal Justice of Nigeria 2015, permits the Police to retain proceeds of crime until the case is disposed of.

The judge also held that the Sections are in line with and that section 44(1)(k) of the Constitution of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), which permits the temporary seizure of property for the purpose of Investigation or for restitution.

Justice Ikyegh also held that since the trial is still pending and that the word ‘confiscate’ as used by the learned counsel for the appellant was not appropriate in this circumstance.

Consequently, Justice Ikyegh upheld the decision of Justice Rabiu-Shagari of Federal High Court and dismissed Evans’ appeal for lacking in merit.

Other members of the panel, Justice Abubakar Sadiq Umar and Justice Onyekachi Aja Otisi, agreed with the lead judgment.

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