The trial of four undergraduates of the University of Lagos, UNILAG, and an undergraduate of Babcock University who allegedly gang-raped a female student was yesterday stalled in an Ikeja Domestic Violence and Sexual Offences Court due to a change in counsel.
Moboluwaji Omowole, 19; Chuka Chukwu, 19; Peace Nwankama, 19; James Aguedu, 20, and Osemeka Josephine, 20, are alleged by the prosecution to be some of the students involved in the serial gang-rape of a UNILAG student within the premises of the institution.
Following their arraignment on February 26, Aguedu hired a new defence counsel, Mr Lawal Pedro(SAN), a former Solicitor-General of Lagos State and Permanent Secretary Ministry of Justice.
The cross-examination of the complainant (name withheld), yesterday could however not proceed due to Pedro’s request for an adjournment.
He said: “I just came into this matter. I thought the proceedings were for the only hearing of the bail application.
“In order for justice to be done, I will need time to study the proof of evidence in this case in order to properly cross-examine the witness. In order not to frustrate the trial, I request that my cross-examination should be adjourned and the other counsel should proceed with their cross-examination.”
Following the SAN’s submission, Justice Abiola Soladoye adjourned the case until May 2 for the continuation of trial.
Defence team wants bail
Earlier during proceedings, defence counsel to the students had via various applications asked the court to grant bail to the students who have been remanded for 21 days at the Kirikiri Prisons.
Their defence counsel had noted that the students had no prior criminal record and had all attended court proceedings since their arraignment in March 2017.
Mrs Abimbola Akeredolu (SAN) counsel to Chukwu, in her application, said: “The applicant does not constitute a flight risk. He is a student whose academic pursuits have been disrupted.
“Both parents work at Chevron and are present in court and they will ensure that he is present in court. He has never failed to appear in court or whenever his appearance is needed.”
Pedro (SAN) counsel for Aguedo, told the court: “The charge against the defendant is a misdemeanour, not a felony. The applicant is a current student of Babcock University and we have a letter before the court to show that he is a current student of the school.
“He is suffering from a back ailment that requires expert medical attention; we have documents from the National Orthopedic Hospital as proof. He has never abused the privilege of administrative bail given to him.
“We gave his birth certificate to show that at the time the alleged offence was committed, he was a minor. If bail is refused, he will suffer undue hardship and his academic life will be truncated.
“He is from a religious family and his pastor has written to Babcock University to give them sufficient time to sort out his bail application.”
Mr. Rasak Abudu, counsel to Omowole said the first defendant’s father had suffered illness caused by his son’s criminal trial.
According to him, “the first defendant (Omowole) is a second-year student of UNILAG and would not jump bail, as he has never failed to appear in court and has always been present with his parents.
“He has responsible parents. His father is critically ill as a result of this charge and his mother or any member of his family is ready to take his bail.
“The country is trying to reduce crime, constant exposure to the prison inmates will expose him further to crime. He was 17 years old as at the time of the crime; he is now 19.”
Mr. O. C, Aibangbee, the defence counsel to Nwankama asked the court to grant the third year student of Economics at UNILAG bail in liberal terms.
“Granting the application will make the applicant attend her studies even though there is a pending charge,” he said.
Mr. N. J. Edechime, counsel to Osemeka, noted in his bail application that the fifth defendant is an only child.
He said: “She is incapable of interfering with evidence and witnesses in the matter and she will not jump bail as she is a third-year student of Economics at UNILAG. If she is not granted bail, she will lose academic years; her mother is always in court as the applicant is her only child.”
Justice Soladoye adjourned the case until April 29 for ruling on Omowole, Chukwu, Nwankama and Osemeka’s bail application and March 25 for the continuation of the hearing of Aguedo’s bail application.”