The Lagos State Government, on Tuesday, re-arraigned five students of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), on Thursday in an Ikeja Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Court by the prosecution team of the Lagos State Government for allegedly gang-raping a 17-year old student of the institution (name withheld).
Those re-arraigned are Moboluwaji Omowole, 19, Chuka Chukwu, 19, Peace Nwankama, 19, James Aguedu, 20 and Josephine Osemeka, 20.
They were initially arraigned on Feb. 26 and had pleaded not guilty to a three-count charge of defilement of a child, permitting the defilement of a child in a premise and pro-curation.
Thursday’s proceedings were scheduled for cross-examination of the complainant but the prosecution said that based on new facts that emerged from the Feb. 26 testimony of the complainant, the defendants were re-arraigned on an amended five-count charge.
During the re-arraignment, they plead not guilty the new charges of defilement of a child, permitting defilement of a child, procuration and sexual assault.
According to Dr Jide Martins, a Director in the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) the defendants committed the offences sometime in 2017 at the UNILAG, Akoka, Lagos.
“Omowole, Chukwu and Aguedo sometime in the month January and sometime in the month of February 2017 defiled the complainant by having unlawful sexual intercourse with her.
“Chukwu sometime in January 2017 at No. 25, Shobande St., Akoka, Yaba, Lagos knowingly allowed Omowole to defile the complainant by having unlawful sexual intercourse with her.
“Nwankama, Aguedo and Osameka between the months of January to 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,” he said.
The offence, he said, contravened the provisions of sections 137, 138, 140(1)(a) and 263 of the Criminal Law of Lagos 2015.
Following their re-arraignment, Mr Adebisi Ademuwagun, the defence counsel to Omowole in view of the new charges, requested for an adjournment in order to re-strategise.
“The charge against the first defendant (Omowole) has increased from one to two and different dates and venues have also been introduced in the charge.
“It is our humble submission that the first defendant be given ample opportunity to prepare to meet this charge in accordance with the requirement of fair hearing as contained in Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution.
“When the penalty for which the first defendant is charged is heavy which is life imprisonment, it isn’t our intention to delay the trial but it is our duty to assist this court in its duties.
“We would be pleading with your lordship to allow this matter to be adjourned to give the first defendant the opportunity to prepare his case,” Ademuwagun said.
Mr R.A Oshodi, the defence counsel to Chukwu, Mr O. C Aigbangbee the defence counsel to Nwankama, Mr O. C Fapohunda defence counsel to Aguedu and Mr Ken Edechime the defence counsel to Osemeka aligned themselves to the submission of Ademuwagun.
They all said that in view of the new charges, they requested for adequate time to evaluate the charges, prepare for the trial and to cross-examine the complainant.
Justice Abiola Soladoye in a brief ruling obliged the requests of the defence counsel.
“Having listened to the submissions of both the defence and prosecution counsel, it is in the interest of justice that sufficient time is given to counsel to evaluate and re-strategise.
“This case is adjourned till Oct. 15,” she said.
The complainant had on Feb. 26 testified 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 video taped.
According to the complainant, she was also blackmailed with the video and further gang-raped on other occasions by the defendants and their accomplices who are now at large.