Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, suspected kidnap kingpin also known as Evans, has changed his plea in the two-count charge of conspiracy and kidnapping brought against him, from guilty to not guilty.
Evans was accused of kidnapping one Donatus Dunu, who later escaped from captivity and made statements that led to Evans’ arrest.
Five other persons believed to be members of Evans’ gang were also arraigned in August.
When the charge was read to the defendants during their arraignment, Evans and the second and fourth defendants pleaded guilty to the two-count charges, while the third defendant, a female, and the fifth and sixth defendants pleaded not guilty.
However, at the resumption of hearing on Thursday, Titilayo Shitta-Bey, Director of Public Prosecution, Lagos State, informed Justice Hakeem Oshodi that the charges against the accused persons had been amended.
Shitta-Bey said the charge still remained that of conspiracy and the kidnap of one Dunu Donatus, but that the amendment related only to the punishment section for the second charge.
She urged the court to allow the defendants take fresh pleas to the amended two-count charge.
But Olukoya Ogungbeje, counsel to Evans, opposed the move for fresh pleas, saying that he had only just been served the amended charge in court and needed time to confer with his client.
He then asked the court to grant him a short adjournment so he could get a proper brief from his clients on how to proceed.
Justice Oshodi then stood down the case for 45 minutes to enable the lawyers confer with their clients.
When the hearing reconvened, the amended charges were read to the accused persons and all of them pleaded “not guilty”.
Following the plea, the prosecution counsel told the Judge that he was ready to proceed with the trial as three witnesses were in court to testify.
In August, after the arraignment of Evans, his lawyer had told newsmen that his client would change his plea to “not guilty” at the next court sitting.
Ogungbeje insisted that it was the police that coerced Evans to plead guilty to the kidnapping charges.
He said that since June when Evans was arrested and remanded, the police did not allow his family members and lawyers have access to him.
“It is settled law that plea of guilty must be made voluntary and direct devoid of any influence, coercion and manipulation,” Ogungbeje said.
“In the meantime, after our brief conferring with our client in open court, he made it known to us that he would change his Police motivated guilty plea to ‘not guilty’ at the next adjourned date.”