The International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) on Monday said that the 21-year sentence handed to Akin Baruwa, a former part-time lecturer at the University of Lagos (Unilag), for raping an admission seeker was not stringent enough.
The News Agency of Nigeria, (NAN) reports that Justice Josephine Oyefeso had on Feb. 20 in Ikeja sentenced Baruwa after finding him guilty on a one-count charge of rape, contrary to Section 258(1) of the Criminal Law of Lagos, 2011.
The Chairperson of the Lagos Chapter of FIDA, Mrs. Philomena Nneji, lauded the judgment, describing it as a good step in the right direction, but said it could be stiffer.
“We would have wished for a higher sentence. We must follow this kind of prosecution to a logical conclusion in a way that it will act as a deterrent to others.
“Women and children are the most vulnerable members of society; we have zero tolerance for gender-based violence and all types of violence, especially rape.
“The rate of rape in our society is becoming worrisome to FIDA,” Nneji said.
Mr. Akin George, an Assistant Director in the Directorate of Public Prosecution, Lagos State, also lauded the sentence but said that the maximum sentence for rape – life imprisonment – should have been passed by the court.
George, who is also a prosecutor in the Ikeja Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Court – which gave the judgment – said that incidences of rape and other gender-based violence had risen.
He said that life sentences would send a strong message to perpetrators of such crimes.
“It is very good judgment and will serve as a deterrent to lecturers and other people in authority who take advantage of the country’s broken educational system to exploit vulnerable students seeking admission.
“However, a life sentence would have been preferable to send a very strong message to perpetrators,” he said.
Mr. Malachy Ugwummadu, the National President of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), lauded the sentence and noted that the law had made provisions for parole for individuals who committed grievous crimes.
“The sentence is good enough; in the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, there are now provisions for parole.
“This is a mechanism in which a convicted felon is pardoned before the completion of his sentence if he genuinely demonstrates some reforms and penance in a way that he no longer poses challenges to the society.
“The whole essence of this is to serve as a deterrent; punishment is given to mitigate the incidence of crime.
“Where parole is available, the society should pay attention to the fact that such people need not suffer the capital punishment,” Ugwummadu said.
NAN reports that according to prosecution, Baruwa raped the admission seeker (name withheld) at 9.25 a.m. on July 23, 2015, in Room 8, Faculty of Business Administration annex building, Unilag.
Baruwa, who was a friend of his victim’s father, was requested by him to help his daughter to secure admission into the institution.
The rape occurred when the victim was in Baruwa’s office to make arrangements for her admission.