The absence on Tuesday of three of the five students of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), facing trial for allegedly gang-raping a student of the institution has stalled their criminal trial.
The students are facing trial at an Ikeja Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Court for allegedly raping a 17-year-old student of UNILAG.
The five students facing trial are: Moboluwaji Omowole, 19, Chuka Chukwu, 19, Peace Nwankama, 19, James Aguedu, 20, and Josephine Osemeka, 20.
The male defendants – Omowole, Chukwu and Aguedo were however, absent during proceedings, due to the inability of the officials of the Kirikiri Medium Prisons to bring them early to court.
Justice Abiola Soladoye had stood-down proceedings at 9 a.m. when none of the defendants was in court.
However, at about 10.23 a.m., the female defendants, Nwankama and Osemeka were brought into the courtroom by officials of the Kirikiri Female Prisons.
When the case was called at 10.51 a.m. for hearing, the three male defendants were still absent in the courtroom.
Aguedu’s Defence Counsel, Mr Lawal Pedro (SAN), registered his displeasure over the development.
“The court sits at 9 a.m. We, the state and citizens are equal before the law.
“The same indulgence (standing-down the case) will not have been granted if the situation was the reversed,” he said.
Reacting to Pedro’s submission, Dr Jide Martins, a Director in the Directorate of Public Prosecutions and lead prosecutor in the case, noted that the delay was not caused by the prosecution.
“The correctional services are yet to bring the defendants to court. I do not want to speculate but one can generally assume that it is caused by the traffic situation.
“I am not comfortable with the aspersion that is inferred that the delay was at the instance of the prosecution.
“This is beyond our control. We have done our part. Our witness is in court and we are ready to proceed with our case.”
According to Martins, Omowole, Chukwu and Aguedo sometime in January and sometime in February, 2017 defiled the complainant by having unlawful sexual intercourse with her.
“Chukwu, who lives at No. 25, Shobande St., Akoka, Yaba in January, 2017 knowingly allowed Omowole to defile the complainant by having unlawful sexual intercourse with her.
“Nwankama, Aguedo and Osameka between January and March 2017 were into the procuration (obtaining) of young girls for the purpose of defilement.
“Osemeka sometime in the month of January 2017, in UNILAG, sexually assaulted the complainant by kissing her.”
However, as a result of the absence of the three male defendants, Soladoye adjourned the case till Dec. 3 for continuation of trial.
A prison official, who spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on condition of anonymity at the court premises, confirmed that the absence of the defendants was as a result of heavy traffic.
“I spoke to my colleagues at the Kirikiri Medium Prison. They are encountering very terrible traffic in that area. That is why there was delay in bringing them to court this morning,’’ he said.
NAN reports that the defendants were eventually brought to court at 11.32 a.m. by prison officials after the court had risen and concluded hearing for the day.
According to the prosecution, the defendants committed the offences sometime in 2017 at the Akoka Campus of UNILAG.
The complainant while testifying on Feb. 26, said that she was lured by Nwankama who was her roommate to High Rise, a staff quarters hostel at UNILAG.
She said she was gang-raped at High Rise by eight male students and sexually assaulted by Osemeka.
She alleged that the gang-rape and sexual assault at High Rise was videotaped and that she was blackmailed with the video.
She alleged that she was also gang-raped on some other occasions by the defendants and their accomplices who are now at large.