Counsel Disagreement Stalls Trial of Suspected Kidnappers of Lagos Monarch

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By Akinwale Akintunde

The trial of the four suspects involved in the kidnapped of a Lagos monarch, Oba Yushau Goriola Oseni, the Oniba of Iba, failed to commence yesterday, as scheduled due to a disagreement between two counsel over which of them would represent fourth defendant, Yerin Fresh.

The four suspects identified as Duba Furefo, 49, Ododomo Isouah, 52, Reuben Anthony, 43 and Yerins Fresh, 45 were arraigned on October 24, before Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo of the Lagos State High Court, Igbosere on an eight-count charge bordering on conspiracy, murder, attempted murder, robbery, armed robbery, felony and kidnapping preferred against them by the Lagos State Government.

Apart from the kidnap of Oba Oseni, they were alleged to have murdered a security guard, SundayEniola Okanlawon and a commercial motorcyclist, Joseph Okeke and also attempted to murder the monarch’s wife, Olori Abosede Oseni.

The state said the offences contravened Sections 233, 230, 299, 297 (2) (b) and 411 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State C17, Vol 3 Laws of Lagos State, 2015. 

Justice Taiwo had reminded the defendants in Ikoyi Prison, Lagos following their plea of not guilty.

Oba Oseni was kidnapped from his palace on July 16 at about 8pm.  In the process, two persons were shot dead by the kidnappers.

The kidnappers had asked the Oba’s family members to pay them a N500 million ransom after almost a week of their kidnapping him.

At the last hearing on October 24, Fresh was represented by Chief Selowei Baidi, who is also the counsel to the 1st and 2nd defendants, while Mr. J. O Egwuaroje was counsel to the 3rd defendant.

At the resumed hearing of the matter yesterday, Lagos State Director of Public Prosecution (DDP), Mrs. Idowu Alakija announced her appearance for the state, while Baidi and Egwuaroje maintained appearances for the same defendants.

There was however mild drama when another lawyer, Mr. Anthony Onwueze, also announced appearance for the 4th defendant, Fresh.

Onwueze explained the trial judge that he had been commissioned to represent the 4th defendant.

“Prior to the court sitting, we approached Mr. Baidi that we have a specific instruction from the 4th defendant to represent him in this matter. But Mr. Baidi said his brief had not been perfected. We have a letter from the defendant authorising us to represent him,” Onwueze said.

Following Onwueze insistence to be counsel for the 4th defendant, Baidi confronted him with the Rules of Professional Ethics of the profession and insisted that Onwueze had not fulfilled the conditions precedent for over a brief from another lawyer.

“I maintain my stand as the defence counsel for the 4th defendant. I am opposed to him taking over as counsel without compliance with Rule 29 of the Rules of Professional Ethics”, Baidi argued.

Following arguments and counter arguments, prosecution counsel Mrs. Alakija observed that a dispute over proper representation in the case could be resolved in accordance with Section 234 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL), 2011, which provides for change of counsel.

She offered that the prosecution was willing to give counsel time to settle the matter.

“We can give counsel time to sort out the issue of representation before the next adjournment. We still have November 11 and 14 dates for trial,” Alakija said.

Egwuaroje, counsel to the 3rd defendant also observed that the prosecution witnesses appeared to be absent.

Ruling on the arguments, Justice Taiwo advised both counsel to abide by the professional rules. 

“Both counsel are hereby advised to abide by the professional rules. Mr. Onwueze should assist Chief Baidi to recover whatever fees were due to him from the fourth defendant.

“In view of the circumstances, I would suggest that we commence trial on October 11, by which time counsel would have put their house in order. This case is hereby adjourned till November 11. Witnesses must be in court. Counsel must have resolved the issue. No bickering gentlemen”, the judge ruled.