As per reports culled from a reliable source .. A change of counsel yesterday stalled
the trial of four students of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and another undergraduate from the Babcock University, Ilisan, Ogun State.
The suspects were alleged to have gang-r*ped a female UNILAG student.
The students, Moboluwaji Omowole, 19; Chuka Chukwu, 19; Peace Nwankama, 19; James Aguedo, 20 and Osemeka Josephine, 20, were alleged by the prosecution to be involved in the serial gang-rape of a female UNILAG student.
They are facing a 3-count charge before Justice Abiola Soladoye at an Ikeja Domestic Violence and S*xual Offences Court. At resumed proceedings, a former Lagos Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Lawal Pedro (SAN), announced appearance for Aguedo, the 4th defendant.
As a result, the cross-examination of the complainant could not proceed as scheduled, following Pedro’s request for an adjournment.
Pedro told the court that he was fresh in the matter and that he thought the day was slated for hearing of application for the bail of his client.
He requested for time to study the proof of evidence in the case in order to properly cross-examine the witness and for justice to be done in the matter.
“In order not to frustrate the trial, I apply that my cross-examination should be adjourned and the other counsel should proceed with their cross-examination,” Pedro said.
Justice Soladoye granted his request and adjourned the case till May 2 for continuation of trial.
The defence counsel to the students had through applications asked the court to grant them bail, having been remanded in Kirikiri Prisons for 21 days. The defence counsel noted that the students had no prior criminal record and had attended proceedings since their arraignment at a Magistrates’ Court in March 2017.
Counsel to Chukwu, the second defendant, Mrs. Abimbola Akeredolu (SAN), argued that the defendant does not constitute a flight risk and that he is a student, whose academic pursuits have been disrupted by the matter. She said Chukwu’s parents work in Chevron, adding that they will ensure he is present in court at all time.
“He has never failed to appear in court or whenever his appearance is needed,” Akeredolu said.
Pedro told the court that at the time the alleged offence was committed, Aguedo was a minor and that if bail was denied him, he would suffer hardship and his academic career would be ruined.
He said the applicant is a student of Babcock University.
“We have a letter before the court to show that he is a student of the school. The charge against him is a misdemeanour, not a felony.
" He is suffering from a back ailment that requires expert medical attention. We have documents from the National Orthopaedic Hospital as proof. He has never abused the privilege of administrative bail given to him.”
Mr. Rasak Abudu, counsel to Omowole, said the first defendant’s father had suffered an illness caused by his son’s criminal trial.
“The first defendant (Omowole) is a second year student of UNILAG. He will not jump bail and has never defaulted coming to court. He has always been present with his parents.”
Mr. O. C. Aibangbee, the defence counsel to Nwankama, the third defendant, asked the court to grant her bail in liberal terms.
“My Lord’s granting the application will make the applicant, a third year student of Economics at UNILAG, attend her studies even though there is a pending charge,” he said.
Mr. N. J. Edechime, counsel to Osemeka, argued that the fifth defendant is the only child of her mother and that she is not capable of interfering with evidence and witnesses in the matter.
He said the defendant would not jump bail, considering that she is a third year student of Economics in 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,” Edechime said.
The prosecution team led by Mrs. Fehinti Ogbemudia and Mrs. Arinola Momoh-Ayokanbi urged the court to deny the students bail and grant accelerated hearing in the case due to the prevalence of the offence and the weight of the punishment.
Justice Soladoye adjourned the case till April 29 for ruling on Omowole, Chukwu, Nwankama and Osemeka’s bail application and March 25 for continuation of hearing of Aguedo’s bail application.