By Adebisi Onanuga
The request of two Babcock University, Ilishan-Remo Ogun State dropouts and suspected rapists, Don-Chima George 25 and Olusegun Rasak, 28, the son of reknowned Epe politician (names with held), to transfer their case from the courtroom of Justice Abiola Soladoye of a Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Court has suffered a setback.
Sources close to the court disclosed that the case file was returned to the courtroom of Justice Soladoye two Mondays ago.
Attached to the case file was a memo from the Chief Registrar, Mrs Taiwo Olatokun, stating that no sufficient grounds were provided to warrant the case being transferred from Justice Soladoye’s court to another.
Both George and Rasak, were arraigned on March 22, 2019 on a two-count charge for allegedly drugging and raping a 24-year-old woman (names with held) in Delankaster Hotel Lekki, Lagos
They pleaded not guilty and were subsequently remanded in Correctional Services custody, Kirikiri in a ruling delivered on April 29, 2019 by Justice Soladoye and from where they had been coming to count on every adjourned date.
The request to transfer the case file from the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Court was made after trial had commenced and the complainant (name withheld) had testified against George and Rasak, on May 15, 2019.
The complainant had also been cross-examined by the defence on May 15, 2019 and June 13, 2019.
However, a twist was introduced into the matter when the defendants were granted bail on July 31, 2019 during the annual vacation of the High Court by Justice Ganiyu Safari, the sitting vacation judge at the time.
Safari, it was gathered, granted the defendants bail based on “new grounds” brought by the defence counsel.
While granting of bail is at the discretion of a judge, the granting of bail to the suspected rapists, after the judge handling their case had rejected their earlier request was suspect as court of same competent jurisdiction don’t vacate the order or ruling of the other.
Following their bail, the defence team of the defendants returned to court on October 19, 2019 and requested that the case file be transferred from the Ikeja Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Court.
Ms Funmi Adeogun of the law chambers of Mr Tunji Ayanlaja (SAN) had in a letter dated August 26, 2019 requested for a transfer of the case file from Justice Soladoye’s court.
The defence had applied for the transfer “in order to save the good trust of the courts and maintain high order of fair hearing between parties”.
Reacting to the request, Justice Soladoye said “in view of the letter, we will order the transfer of the case file to the registry for further directive from the Chief Judge” and adjourned till November 26, 2019.
The defendants who are now on bail and their parents were however back at the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Court on Tuesday, November 26, 2019 for proceedings to resume.
The trial however did not hold as scheduled because the judge was away for a Judges Conference. The case was adjourned to January 21, 2020 for continuation of trial.
George and Rasak were previously denied bail and ordered to be remanded in prison custody
The Judge had denied the defendants bail because they had not placed any compelling or exceptional circumstances to warrant the court granting them bail.
The prosecution led by Mr Akin George alleged that the defendants committed the offence on February 3, 2019 from 5.00a.m. to 7.00a.m. at Delankaster Hotels, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos.
The complainant who is friends with George, one of the defendants went to a nightclub with the duo and a group of friends to celebrate George’s birthday.
While at the nightclub, the defendants allegedly mixed the complainant’s drink with a substance that allegedly rendered her unconscious moments later.
The prosecution alleges that they took the complainant to Delankaster hotel which is George’s father hotel, where they allegedly took turns to rape her while videotaping the sexual offence.
According to the prosecution, the offences contravene Sections 258 and 409 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.