The Court of Appeal Lagos division on Thursday dismissed an appeal by alleged kidnap kingpin Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, aka Evans, challenging the seizure of his 25 trucks by the police.
A three-man panel of the court, in a unanimous decision, upheld the judgment of Justice Hadizat Rabiu-Shagari of the Federal High Court on the matter.
The panel held that the appeal lacked merit and dismissed the same.
The justices upheld the police’s contention that the trucks were seized as suspected proceeds of crime in the execution of a valid search warrant.
Justice Joseph Ikyegh, in the lead judgment, held the 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.
He noted that section 153 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of Nigeria 2015, permits the Police to retain proceeds of crime until the case is disposed of.
The judge also held that the Sections were in line with section 44(1)(k) of the 1999 Constitution which permits the temporary seizure of property for Investigation or restitution.
Justice Ikyegh also held that since the trial is pending, the word ‘Confiscate’ as used by Evans’ Counsel was not appropriate in the circumstance.
He 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.
Evans through his counsel, Mr Olukoya Ogungbeje, in a suit marked FHC/L/CS/1515/17, had accused the Inspector-General of Police and four others of unlawfully seizing his 25 trucks and converting same to their own.
Other respondents are the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Inspector-General of Police 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 forcibly confiscated the trucks from him on June 15, 2017, without any court order.
He asked the court to award N200million 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 Emmanuel Eze, attached to the State CID, Panti, Yaba, Lagos, prayed the court to dismiss the suit as the trucks were proceeds of crime and were exhibits.
The police in a counter-affidavit deposed to 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 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 defiled 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 because 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 on April 19, 2019, dismissed Evans’ suit for lacking in merit.
Dissatisfied, Evans through his lawyer, Ogungbeje, approached Appeal Court in an appeal numbered CA/L/1105/2018.
Mr Eze also filed a counter to the appeal and prayed the court to dismiss the appeal.