Alleged kidnap kingpin, Chukwudubem Onwuamadike, alias Evans, on Thursday changed his plea to not guilty after he had earlier pleaded guilty to a two-count charge of kidnapping and conspiracy.

Evans, who was earlier arraigned on August 30  2017, had admitted to kidnapping and detaining people against their will while collecting huge sums as ransom.

But on Thursday October 19th when he was re-arraigned on an amended two-count charge, Evans and his five co-defendants pleaded not guilty.

The five others are — Uche Amadi, Ogechi Uchechukwu, the only female defendant, Chilaka Ifeanyi and Victor Aduba.

According to the prosecution led by Ms. P.K. Shitta-Bey, the State Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the amended charges were not different from the earlier ones.

She said the only difference relates to the punishment section in charge 2. 

Before the amended charges were read to the defendants, Olukoya Ogungbeje, the counsel to Evans and Amadi had opposed the reading of the charges to them.

“On behalf of the first and second defendants, we were served with the amended charge this morning. “My Lord, we had earlier filed an application and the learned prosecutor also filed us a counter-affidavit, My Lord, grant us a very short date to `confer’ with the first and second defendants about this amended charge."

"We intend bringing a motion after their plea, I urge your Lordship to grant us a very short date,” Ogungbeje pleaded in court.

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Joseph Otogbolu, counsel to Uchechukwu,  A.A Uzokwu, counsel to Ifeanyi and Emmanuel Ochai and the counsel to Aduba, all aligned with the submission of Ogungbeje and asked for an adjournment to `confer’ with the defendants.

O. Ajanaku, counsel to Nwachukwu did not oppose the reading of the amended charge to the defendants.

However, Shitta-Bey opposed the request for adjournment by the counsel to the defendants saying:

“I will be opposing the application for adjournment, the court should allow the charges to be read to them and their pleas taken. “Section 155(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State does not allow any formal application from the prosecution to amend charges. “All the court needs to do is to take fresh pleas from the defendants"

In his ruling on the amended charges, Justice Hakeem Oshodi stood down the case for 45 minutes  to enable the counsel 'confer' with the defendants.

When the court resumed after the stand-down, the charges were read to the defendants and their pleas were taken. 

The prosecution said Evans and his accomplices committed the offence of conspiracy at 7.45 p.m. on February 14 on Obokun Street, Ilupeju, Lagos.

The prosecution added that the defendants between February 14 and April 12 at Obokun Street, Ilupeju, while armed with guns and other dangerous weapons, captured and detained Donatius.

The defendants allegedly collected a ransom of 223,000 euros for his release.

When read their charges, they all pleaded not guilty when their names were called.

Counsels to all the accused then prayed the court to grant an adjournment to allow them study the amended charges with their clients.

Justice Oshodi adjourned the case until Nov. 3 to enable the defence to prepare for trial.

In effect, the charges read to Evans and the five others on Thursday were essentially the same as the ones Evans and two others had pleaded guilty to on August 30. 

The turn around of Evans and the two others were expected.

The offence of kidnapping attracts the death penalty in Lagos State.

With the change in plea by the defendants, the stage is now set for a full trial, which can span for months.

And since the offences are bailable, Evans can still walk free pending the conclusion of the trial.

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