The Federal High Court in Lagos Thursday awarded a punitive cost of N20,000 against a lawyer, Mr Olukoya Ogungbeje, who represents suspected kidnapper, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, alias Evans, for being absent.
A fundamental rights case filed by Evans was billed to be heard before Justice Abdulazeez Anka, but the lawyer wrote the court a letter saying he took ill.
Ogungbeje apologised for his absence and urged the court to adjourn the case to another date.
But, a lawyer who represented the Commissioner of Police in Lagos, Mr Emmanuel Eze, opposed Ogungbeje’s application for an adjournment.
He said the applicant’s lawyer did not inform the police that he would be absent; adding that any other lawyer from Ogungbeje’s office could have come to represent Evans.
According to him, it was an “affront” to the court for Ogungbeje not to send another lawyer to stand in for him.
“In view of this, we are of the view that the applicant’s counsel is most unserious with this application. We, therefore, ask for a punitive cost of N100, 000 against the applicant and his counsel,” he said.
Ruling, Justice Anka awarded N20,000 cost against Ogungbeje, which he said must be paid before the next adjourned date otherwise the case would not be heard.
He held: “Counsel wrote a letter seeking for an adjournment without copying the prosecution. This, to me, is unprofessional. The court hereby warns counsel to desist from such type of practice.”
The judge said the facts before him shows that the applicant was still in police custody.
“In the circumstances, cost is awarded in the sum of N20, 000 against counsel to the applicant to be paid on or before the next adjourned date or counsel shall not be heard,” Justice Anka said.
The judge sits during the court’s long vacation and hears only urgent motions and cases bordering on human rights violations. The nine-week vacation will end on September 8.
Evans sued the Inspector-General of Police over alleged violation of his fundamental rights.
He is praying the court to compel the police to charge him to court or to release him unconditionally rather than detaining him indefinitely since June 10.
Evans is also demanding N300million damages and an apology for the alleged violation of his rights, adding that his continued detention without trial was illegal and violated sections 35 and 36 of the 1999 Constitution. .
The Nigeria Police Force, Lagos Commissioner of Police, Special Anti-Robbery Squad and the Lagos State Police Command are the other respondents.
Evan’s father, Stephen Onwuamadike, said in a supporting affidavit that since his son’s arrest, all his family members were allegedly denied access to him except newsmen.
An Assistant Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari, said Evans’ detention was to allow for thorough investigation.
“All those who want Evans released did not know that the police had obtained a 90-day warrant to detain him,” said Kyari, who led a special squad that smashed Evans’ gang.
Evans had also reportedly denied instructing any lawyer to file a suit on his behalf.
“I have no hand in any case filed against the police and I did not speak with any lawyer or my father to file a case on my behalf,” he was quoted as saying in a television interview.
Ogungbeje, however, told our correspondent that he was instructed by Evans’ family to file the suit.
The lawyer said Evans’ father was personally in court to depose to an affidavit in support of the case.
Justice Anka adjourned until July 20 for hearing.