The trial of five undergraduates of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) for allegedly gang-raping and blackmailing a fellow student was stalled on Tuesday because of the absence of some of the defendants in court.
The defendants, Moboluwaji Omowole, 19; Chuka Chukwu, 19; Peace Nwankaba, 19; James Aguedu, 20; and Josephine Osemeka, 20, are standing trial on three counts of defilement of a child, permitting the defilement of a child on a premises and procuration (inducing any minor girl under the age of 18 to go from any place or to do any act with intent that such a girl maybe, or knowing that it is likely that she will be, forced or seduced to have illicit intercourse with another person).
The defendants and others at large were alleged to have committed the offences in January 2017 on the premises of UNILAG in Akoka.
The victim, who was 17-year-old at the time of the incident, had told the court that she became friends with Nwankaba, who was her roommate when she moved into the school’s hostel during the 2016/2017 academic session, adding that she lured her to be gang-raped.
She also told the court that she was gang-raped at the High Rise area on the campus by eight men, who videotaped the assault, adding that she was blackmailed with the video and further gang-raped on other occasions by the defendants and their accomplices, who are at large.
However, during Tuesday’s proceedings, three of the male defendants were absent in court due to the inability of officials of the Kirikiri Medium Security Correctional Centre to bring them early.
The presiding judge, Justice Abiola Soladoye of the Lagos State Special Offences Court, stood down the proceedings around 9am when none of the defendants was in court; but when the case was called again around 10.51am, only the female defendants, Nwankaba and Osemeka, were present in court.
The defence counsel, Lawal Pedro (SAN), who expressed displeasure about the development, said the prosecution would not have allowed the court to stand down the matter if the reverse had been the case.
However, the prosecuting counsel, Jide Martins, stated that the delay in bringing the defendants to court was not caused by the prosecution.
Justice Soladoye adjourned the matter till December 3 for the continuation of trial.