Billionaire kidnapping kingpin Chukwudumeme Onwamadike, more popularly known as Evans, will face 52 charges in 14 different cases in courts in Lagos and Edo States, the Nigeria Police Force announced on Wednesday.

He will be charged along with 15 members of his gang on charges of murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, unlawful possession of firearms, unlawful possession of ammunition, and other offenses.

Earlier on Wednesday, Evans and five members of his gang were arraigned before Justice Hakeem Oshodi at the Lagos State High Court on two counts of conspiracy and kidnapping, to which he pleaded guilty.

Evans and two of the other defendants, Uche Amadi and Okwuchukwu Nwachukwu, also pleaded guilty to the charges, but Ogechi Uchechukwu, the only female member of the gang, along with Chilaka Ifeanyi and Victor Aduba, pleaded not guilty.

The Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Adeniji Kazeem, who led the prosecution of the first arraignment, said the billionaire kidnaper and his team, including those at large, committed the offenses between February 14 and April 12, 2017.

Among other crimes, they allegedly kidnapped and detained one Duru Donatius and collected the sum of 223,000 Euros from him before he was released.

The defendants’ lawyer, Olukoya Ogungbeje, said that his clients were coerced into pleading guilty.

He accused the police of preventing him from seeing his client and said that he never had the opportunity to consult with them before they were charged to court.

Mr. Ogungbeje, who had been battling the police in a fundamental human rights suit for unduly detaining Evans, claimed in a press statement on Wednesday that Evans confided in him that he was forced to plead guilty in court.

“This is definitely unconstitutional and we intend to challenge this unconstitutional procedure for hoodwinking, undue influence, brainwashing and coercing an accused person into entering a guilty plea against his wish and freewill,” he said.

The controversial lawyer said Evans might change his plea to not guilty at the next adjourned date.  

“He pointedly told us that being informed now, he will change his ‘police motivated guilty plea’ to ‘not guilty’ at the next adjourned date,” Mr. Ogungbeje said.

He described as “settled law” that a guilty plea must be made voluntary and devoid of any influence, coercion, and manipulation.

“We have a responsibility to assist the cause of justice in accordance with the law,” the lawyer added.

Justice Oshodi ordered that Evans and the five gang members be remanded in Kirikiri Maximum prison, the woman amongst them held in the female wing of the prison.

The case was adjourned to October 19.

Federal High Court of Lagos

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