Prosecution in the ongoing rape trial of two young men who allegedly drugged a 24-year-old woman (name withheld) at a nightclub and later gang-raped her in a hotel in Lekki, Lagos, has rebuffed an attempt by the victim to withdraw charges against the alleged culprits.
According to the charge, Don-Chima George, 25, and Olusegun Rasak, 28, are alleged by the Lagos State Government to have committed the offence on February 3, from around 5:00a.m. to 7:00a.m. at a hotel in Lekki Phase 1.
The offences contravene Sections 258 and 409 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State (2015).
At the resumed trial of the defendants on Thursday, the victim made her request known during proceedings at an Ikeja Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Court via a “Letter of Withdrawal”.
The letter dated June 3, 2019, was addressed to the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), was signed by the victim and It was read aloud in open court by Justice Abiola Soladoye.
The letter says: “I’am the victim in the above mentioned charge and I humbly write to withdraw from the case as I’am no longer interested in it.
“This is due to intervention of family members and for the sake of my integrity. Thanks for your cooperation and understanding.”
Mr Akin George, a Deputy-Director in DPP and lead state prosecutor, however, vehemently opposed the victim’s request for withdrawal of the case.
He noted that the victim was in court for the continuation of her cross-examination by the defence.
“We do not have a directive from the office of the Attorney-General (AG). My lord, the Honourable AG is the complainant in this case. In every criminal matter, victims are naturally witnesses and as we speak, there is no AG in office due to the change in power.
“We are also aware of the rules of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) which states that even the Court of Appeal cannot stay an ongoing proceeding.
“Our office initiated this action in court and there has to be a closure one way or the other.
“My lord, we have submitted issues for the respective decisions of this court. We will bring the witness to state her position before the court while we continue proceedings and await directives from the AG’s office,” George said.
Responding, Mr Tunji Ayanlaja, said while he shares the views of the prosecution that Lagos State originated the Criminal charge, but he disagrees that the absence of the AG creates a vacuum. He also sought the release of the defendants from prison.
“The constitution is so clear that when we do not have an AG in office, the Solicitor-General takes over the function of the AG. My lord, we are ready to proceed.
“The unfortunate thing is that the defendants have been in prison ever since. The victim which is their (prosecution witness) has developed cold feet for one reason or the other, this development is replete in the letter by the complainant.
“To meet the end of justice, I apply that your lordship should consider releasing the defendants on bail.
“At the end of the day, no compensation will be paid to them. They are young men who have languished in jail for four or five months,” Ayanlaja said.
After listening to the submissions of the prosecution and defence, Justice Soladoye said that the court will continue with the proceedings and that bail will not be granted to the defendants because the court had already delivered a ruling denying them bail.
“However, so that these proceedings will not be an exercise in futility, a short adjournment will be taken pending directives from the office of the AG,” she said.
The case was adjourned until June 18 for continuation of trial.
On May 15, the accuser, while being led in evidence by Dr Jide Martins, a Director in DPP, narrated how she was given a spiked glass of Hennessey and Coca-Cola at the Kabaal Nightclub in Ikoyi, Lagos.
She said the spiked drink was given to her by George, who was a very good friend of hers.
She noted that the defendants and a group of friends left the nightclub shortly after for a hotel in Lekki, Lagos, where she lost consciousness.
She alleged that she was raped by George and Rasak whilst unconscious and that the alleged sexual offence was recorded on video by the defendants.
While being cross-examined by Ayanlaja, the victim alleged that two friends, who reported the case to the police, were arraigned in the Magistrate Court on false charges, and were victimised by the families of the defendants.
“My friends stood up for a rape victim, they stood up for me and they were made to pay for that with false allegations,” the victim said in her testimony.
“The police laid false allegations of vandalism, theft and attempted murder on my friends. The police officers that arrested my friends are not the ones I reported to.
“I’m aware that those police officers are under scrutiny for corruption,” she said.