“For justice we must go on our knees to Don Corleone.” ~ Mario Puzo, The Godfather
Unfortunately for Bose (not real name) there is no godfather who can give her justice. In 2019, when news of her rape went viral on social media, celebrities and organisations tweeted and retweeted, demanding justice using the hashtag #JusticeForRape. Back then, there was hope she’d get justice. But now, the hashtag #JusticeForRape has died.
On Tuesday, March 23, 2021 two young men, Don-Chima George and Rasaq Oluwasegun Oke also known as Ricco, stood in the dock at the Sexual Offences Court, Lagos High Court, Ikeja, as the case (Suit Number ID/8813C/2019) resumed. The courtroom was almost empty except for around four people who had accompanied the two accused rapists. Their lawyer, Tunji Ayanlaja (SAN), who had represented Bode George in 2009, and his team, alongside the team from the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), waited for Hon. Justice Abiola Soladoye who headed the court. On the road that leads to the Lagos High Court is a banner of Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, celebrating International Women’s Day.
Three years ago, Don-Chima and Segun Rasaq had been accused of gang-raping a 23-year-old lady at the De Lankaster Hotel and Suites (owned by Don-Chima’s father); it went viral. Now, they were shielded both by the short memory of a public that had moved on to other viral issues, and also by the connections of their father. The court had adjourned the case nine times since 2019 when it was first heard. However, three years later, despite testimony from the victim in court on May 15, 2019, the DPP had failed to get a conviction.
DPP ACTING SUSPICIOUSLY. SELF-SABOTAGE OR UNDER PRESSURE?
As Hon. Justice Soladoye walked into the court, a voice called on everyone to rise. Olusola Soneye, a Deputy Director and prosecutor from the DPP’s office, said they had no witnesses to present to the court. He thereafter closed their case. The witnesses produced by the DPP included a doctor and a police officer who could both corroborate the story of the victim. FIJ found that the doctor and IPO are government staff who can be easily called, but the DPP’s office, for unknown reasons, has failed to call on either witness till date. Both witnesses are still in active service and their evidence is crucial to prosecuting the case, yet the DPP hasn’t extended an invitation to them.
BRILLIANT LAWYERS, QUESTIONABLE ACTIONS
FIJ made findings within the judiciary about the antecedents of some of the DPP prosecutors who had handled the case. One, Akin George, who was once on the case but has moved on last year, came highly-recommended, surprisingly.
“He is a Senior Pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG),” we were told by a source.
“A brilliant, fantastic state counsel,” another said.
“One of the brightest minds in the Ministry of Justice,” a third source said.
Soneye himself didn’t come poorly recommended, himself. “An experienced lawyer; he knows the job,” FIJ was told.
Why then woud experienced lawyers fail to present witnesses with the potential to hep them win their case?
In a country where rape is blamed on victims and rape convictions extremely poor, as low as 65 rape convictions between 1973 and 2019 according to the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, the Lagos State justice system seems bent on keeping that number low, having failed to adequately and diligently prosecute the case against Don-Chima and Rasaq Segun.
Within a space of less than 10 minutes, due to the failure of the DPP Prosecutor to provide witnesses, Justice Soladoye closed the case of the prosecution.
The swiftness with which the case was adjourned to May 18, 2021 left this reporter stunned. It was unusual for DPP prosecutors not to call the doctor and police officer. Usually, it is the victim who is mostly difficult to get to give testimony. Bose had however testified.
‘NO PROSECUTING TEAM DOES THAT!’
FIJ ran its observation of the court proceedings by Juwon Fasipe, a lawyer. His explanation was that closing the case of the prosecution meant that the prosecution no longer had witnesses to prove its case and were instead relying solely on the evidence of the witness(es) already called,” he said.
“This then means that the defence will be called to open its case, present its own evidence, or apply that the prosecution has failed to prove its case, known as ‘no case submission’. But what do you need in a rape case to sustain the charge before the court? If the victim has come to testify, is the evidence of the victim alone sufficient to get a conviction from the court? Absolutely not!”
So, what, then are the possible scenarios that can make a prosecuting team shy away from presenting witnesses when there indeed are?
“Well, if the witnesses are not available or if they are unwilling to testify, the prosecuting team can refrain from inviting them. That’s one.
“Two, if the prosecuting team feel a witness is not important for the purpose of establishing their case before a court, they can decide not to invite them.
“Three, if there is a behind-the-scenes settlement between the prosecution and the defence, then the prosecuting team can conduct itself in a way that makes the court strike out the case. Remember, once the prosecuting team has called a witness, the judge cannot strike the matter out – because the defence must be given an opportunity to either open its case or make a ‘no-case submission’.
“Four, if there are threats to life or other forms of intimidation, the prosecuting team can act that way. I don’t know which of these four it is, or if there are entirely different reasons, but I can tell you that no prosecuting team acting with a rape victim’s best interest will have witnesses and not call a single one of them, instead relying solely on the victim’s testimony.”
‘DRUGGED AND RAPED’
On February 2, 2019, Don-Chima, Rasaq Segun and Bose went for an anniversary party and returned to De Lankaster Hotel around 4 am. Unknown to Bose, the drink Don-Chima and Rasaq Segun had given her was laced with drugs which eventually made her loose consciousness. At the hotel, as she came in and out of consciousness, Bose said she felt penetration from “someone with dreadlocks”.
Bose tried to push Rasaq away but he did not stop. As she fell in and out of consciousness, she said she heard the voice off Don-Chima, who also climbed her and raped her. It was the next morning, unable to find her underwear and suspicious that she had been raped the previous night by people she had considered friends, that she left the room and went to the house of a friend, Musa.
RECORDED VIDEO FOOTAGE CONFIRMS RAPE
According to a local newspaper which published the story in 2019, the then Lagos State police spokesman, CSP Chike Oti, said that after the drug was beginning to affect the victim, the two accused rapists left the club with Bose to De Lankaster Hotels in Lekki Phase one, owned by the father of Don-Chima George.
“At the hotel, they took turns to rape her. As if that was not enough, they recorded a video of the abused girl. The brother immediately invited policemen from Maroko Division led by the Divisional Police Officer, CSP Isah Abdulmajid to the scene. On searching the suspects, the DPO recovered their phones and went through their video recordings where he saw a video of the suspects sexually abusing the apparently unconscious victim.”
At the time of the case when there was a social media outrage, the then Lagos State Commissioner of Police, CP Edgal Imohimi, directed that thorough investigation be conducted and the suspects prosecuted.
NO MORE DREADLOCKS
At the courtroom, Rasaq no longer keeps his dreadlocks. His father, Chief Lanre Rasaq, a strong All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain and a close friend of the APC National leader, Bola Asiwaju Tinubu, died from Covid-19 last year. While Don-Chima’s father remains unknown, there are strong indications of political influence being used to dictate how the case is being prosecuted.
The Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) responded to a rumour on February 7, 2019, that the perpetrators of rape had been released stating that it was false and “the DPP will ensure diligent prosecution of the case”.
The hashtag #JusticeForRapeInNigeria was used to call the attention of those in authority to give justice to the victim. However, the DSVRT has not been following through with the case and updating the public. When contacted via Twitter Direct Message, DSVRT said, “The DSVRT does give updates but we will not jeopardize cases that beg for confidentiality. However, updates will be provided to the concerned parties on request.”
According to Lagos State criminal law, “Any man who has unlawful sexual intercourse with a woman or girl without her consent, commits the offence of rape and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for life”.
In June 2020, the Lagos State House of Assembly advocated for stringent punishment for rape offenders. The motion, titled ‘Need To Curb The Incident of Rape, Defilement of Minors and Other Sexual Abuses’, was moved by Mojisola Alli-Macaulay.
Despite all these laws, the body language of the Lagos Directorate of Public Prosecutions points to only one thing: a reluctance to deal with the rape case of Don-Chima and Segun Rasaq. For whatever reason!
NO ONE IS TALKING
FIJ attempted to reach out to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, headed by Mrs. Adenrera Olayinka Adeyemi, but all numbers on the website were switched off. At the time of this report, FIJ had sent an email but had received no response too.
FIJ also reached out to Musa, the friend whose house the vicim had gone after the rape, his response was: “Please don’t call me about this case again.” Then he hung up abprutly.
Similarly, when FIJ contacted a relative of the victim, she simply said “I’m not interested” and terminated the call.
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