The trial of four undergraduates of the University of Lagos and an undergraduate of Babcock University who allegedly gang -raped a female student , was on Monday stalled in an Ikeja Domestic Violence and Sexual Offences Court due to a change in counsel.
The suspects , Moboluwaji , 19 ; Chuka, 19; Peace , 19 ; James , 20 and 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 .
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that following their arraignment on February 26 , James 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 ) on Monday could, however , not proceed due to Pedro’ s request for an adjournment.
“ My Lord , I just came into this matter and I am told that trial has begun. 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 apply that my cross -examination should be adjourned and the other counsel should proceed with their cross – examination , ” Pedro said .
Following the SAN’ s submission , Justice Abiola Soladoye adjourned the case until May 2 for the continuation of trial.
Mrs . Abimbola Akeredolu (SAN) , the defence counsel to Chuka, 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 in Chevron and are present in court and they will ensure that he is present in court .
He has never omitted to appear in court or whenever his appearance is needed , ” she said .
Pedro (SAN), the counsel for James , told the court , “The charge against the defendant is a misdemeanor , not a felony .
The applicant is a current student of Babcock University .
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 Orthopaedic 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, ” he said .
Mr. Rasak Abudu, the counsel to Moboluwaji , said the first defendant’ s father had suffered an illness caused by his son ’ s criminal trial .
“ The first defendant (Moboluwaji ) is a second – year student of UNILAG .
He would not jump bail and he has never defaulted coming to court and the has always been present with his parents.
“ He has responsible parents. His father is critically ill as a result of this charge .
hIs mother or any member of his family are 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, ” he said .
Mr. O . C. Aibangbee, the defence counsel to Peace , asked the court to grant the third year student of Economics at UNILAG bail in liberal terms .
“ My Lord ’ s 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 Josephine , noted in his bail application that the fifth defendant is an only child of her mother .
“ 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 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 , in response asked the court to reject the bail applications of the Babcock University and UNILAG students .
They noted that due to the prevalence of the offence and weightiness of the punishment , the judge should deny the students bail and grant an accelerated hearing in the case .
The case was subsequently adjourned until May 2 for continuation of trial.