The absence in court of Mr China Gift Esq., has for the second time, stalled the hearing of the kidnap charge preferred against two suspects, Jude Odimegwu and Nwokolo Maxwell who are currently standing trial before an Nnewi High Court 1, over the alleged kidnapping of the Labour Party governorship candidate in the 2021 Anambra governorship election, Obiorah Agbasimalo.
Gift Esq, is the counsel to the first defendant, Odimegwu.
Barely one month ago, the absence of Thompson Ogueriwù Esq., the counsel to the second defendant, Maxwell, had equally stalled the hearing in the matter which would have marked the beginning of the trial process in the kidnap charge against the suspects.
The LP candidate, Agbasimalo, was kidnapped on September 18, 2021 at Lilu community in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State, while returning from a campaign rally and has not been found till date.
But when the matter was called up last Friday, the presiding Judge of the court, Justice C.N. Mbonu-Nwenyi agreed that the first defence counsel, Gift Esq. duly informed the court through a telephone call that he was in Abuja for another urgent matter of national interest and as such would not be present in court for this particular case.
Justice Mbonu-Nwenyi who confirmed that the court was duly notified about the absence of the first defence counsel, a day before the hearing date, noted that a criminal case of this nature cannot go on without the presence of a defence cousel.
She, therefore, adjourned the matter to November 17, 2023 for definite hearing and to enable all the parties be present in court.
In the Suit No.HIH/15C/22, the accused persons, Jude Odimegwu and Nwokolo Maxwell are standing trial for alleged conspiracy and kidnap of Agbasimalo on September 18, 2021 àt Lilu in Ihiala Local Govennment Area of Anambra State.
The Department of State Services was the first to arraign the accused persons before a Magistrate court sitting at Awka, the state capital in 2022 in Charge No. MAW/506/2022 on a two-count charge of conspiracy and kidnapping.
After their charge was read, the court consequently remanded them in the prison custody without taking their plea.
According to the charge read by the DSS in court, the accused persons had on September 18, 2021, at Lilu in Ihiala Local Govennment Area of Anambra State, allegedly attacked and caused disappearance of the victim Obiorah Agbasimalo, a Labour Party governorship candidate in the 2021 Anambra governorship elections whose whereabouts is still yet unknown at present.
The offences, the prosecution stated, were contrary to Sections 495 (1) of the Criminal Code, Cap. 36, Vol. II, Revised Laws of Anambra state of Nigeria, 1991 and 315 (2) (a) (b) (c) of the Criminal Code (Amended) Law of Anambra state of Nigeria, 2009.
The Magistrate court had while remanding them in the prison custody, also ordered the police to transfer the case file to the Director of Public Prosecutions, for legal advice.
On receiving the case file, the DPP, in turn, came up with the same two-count charge of conspiracy and kidnapping.
In the charge prepared by N.J. Nwankwo Esq., the DPP alleged that while armed with guns and other offensive weapons, the accused persons kidnapped Obiorah Agbasimalo against his will and thereafter demanded for a ransom of N1million, N5million and another N1million totalling N7million from his family for his release and yet after receiving the ransom, failed to release him till date.
After the matter was adjourned, the accused persons on handcuffs, were kept outside the court hall while other criminal cases were handled, after which they and others were taken together in a chartered vehicle back to Nnewi Correctional Custody, by the security men on mufti believed to be a combined team of policemen and prison officials.