Justice Abdulazeez Anka of the Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday refused to hear a fundamental rights suit filed by suspected kidnapper, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike (alias Evans), seeking N300 million damages for illegal detention.
Instead, he returned the case file to the Acting Chief Judge Justice Adamu Kafarati for further directive.
Justice Anka had earlier heard the case during the court’s long vacation and adjourned till August 29 for judgment after parties argued it and adopted their addresses on August 16.
But, the police, through their counsel, Mr. David Igbodo, said another lawyer, Henry Obiazi, who represented the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and the Police when the case was heard, did so without authorisation.
The police prayed the court to set aside all the “purported” arguments made by Obiazi and to set aside the ruling delivered by Justice Anka on August 16 in which he adjourned for judgment.
When the case came up before another judge, Justice Chuka Obiozor, who took over from Justice Anka during the long vacation, he (Obizor) held that the case was no longer urgent since Evans had been arraigned.
Justice Obizor then returned the file to the chief judge for re-assignment to another judge, as only urgent matters are heard during long vacation.
The case was subsequently re-assigned to Justice Babs Kuewemi.
However, Evans’ lawyer, Olukoya Ogungbeje, wrote a letter to the chief judge, informing him that Justice Anka had already adjourned the case for judgment.
Based on the letter, the case file was again returned to Justice Anka.
When the case came up before Justice Anka yesterday, the judge expressed displeasure with fact that the case was returned to him when the issue of judgment had been overtaken by events.
The judge said since the police had filed other applications, the earlier adjournment for judgment had become void.
He said even if he had written the judgment earlier, it meant that a new one would be written.
Police counsel Mr. Chukwu Agwu accused Ogungbeje of “smuggling” the case file back to Justice Anka’s court.
“The case was re-assigned to Justice Kuewumi. How my learned colleague smuggled this case to this court is baffling. He did not avail us with a copy of his letter to the chief judge, otherwise we would have reacted,” he said.
But, Ogungbeje said his letter was on the premise that since a judgment had already been fixed, it could be delivered by Justice Anka after entertaining the late applications filed by the police.
“We felt that their application was stalling the judgment, and that if my lord dismisses their application, the way will be clear to deliver the judgment,” he said.
But, Justice Anka held that it was not factual to say that judgment had been reserved “when it’s not”, adding that the court was obliged to hear the fresh applications by the police.
He said the case was not adjourned for judgment but for further hearing, adding that Ogungbeje’s claim that the case was for judgment was not the true position.
Ruling, he said: “The case was made for hearing of the motion of the first and second respondents. The court shall, therefore, cause a letter to be written to the Administrative Judge to explain the true position of the case, which is for further hearing and not for judgment.
“Parties shall, therefore, await the decision of the Admin Judge, either to re-assign the case or for this court to maintain the case in its cause list.”
Evans is claiming N300 million as damages from the police for alleged illegal detention and rights violation.
He has since been arraigned before Justice Hakeem Oshodi of the Lagos State High Court.
The prosecution said Evans and his accomplices, between February 14 and April 12 on Obokun Street, Ilupeju, Lagos, armed with guns and other dangerous weapons, captured and detained one Mr. Duru Donatus.
They allegedly collected a ransom of 223,000 Euros to release Donatus.
Ogungbeje later issued a statement alleging that Evans was forced to plead guilty.