The Nigerian Police Force, Zone 11, in Osun State on Tuesday, detained a PREMIUM TIMES’ journalist, Alfred Olufemi, over a report that exposed an Islamic cleric, who raped a 16-year-old girl, in Ede.
Mr Olufemi, who was accompanied by this reporter to the police station, was detained for about six hours. The two journalists arrived at the station around 1: 30 p.m. and left the police custody around 7:15 p.m.
While in custody, a police officer bullied the two reporters and forced our correspondent to delete pictorial evidence of his colleague writing a statement at their office.
PREMIUM TIMES, in July last year, exclusively reported how Habeebulah Abdulrahman, (popularly known as Al-Edewy), was accused of raping a 16-year-old female student of his Islamic school.
In response, Mr Abdulrahman told PREMIUM TIMES that the teenager is his wife and he had the right to have sexual intercourse with her.
The victim, born in 2003, lost her dad at a young age and stays with her mother in Ede, a town in Osun State. She recently completed her junior secondary education in the town.
PREMIUM TIMES’ investigation revealed that the cleric, in January 2019, invited the girl to join his Islamic class, which is a short distance from her house, for proper Qur’anic teachings.
The girl yielded, with the consent of her mother.
But, the Islamic scholar, after a while, requested her hand in marriage. The girl, on several occasions, rejected the proposal. However, Mr Abdulrahman persisted until he raped her.
This newspaper gathered that he gave the victim several gifts, with the motive of luring her into marriage, but when confronted, he claimed he was only supporting her because she has no father.
Police arrest cleric
According to Section 358 and 359 of the Criminal Code Act- part five, anyone who commits the offence of rape is liable to life imprisonment; while attempt to commit the offence is felonious and such offender is liable to 14-year imprisonment.
Also, Section 31 of the Child Rights Act 2003 stipulates that a person who commits an offence of ‘defilement’ is liable on conviction to life imprisonment.
Although yet to be domesticated in 11 other states, the Osun State government passed the Child Rights Act into law in 2017.
Before PREMIUM TIMES exposè, the family unit of the police had earlier said the suspect absconded when police officers visited his residence in Ede.
However, after PREMIUM TIMES report Mr Abdulrahman eventually showed up in Osogbo, where he was questioned and detained.
“After he was detained, his lawyer came around and two lawyers from the side of the victim were also present,” a police source said. “The police said they would file a lawsuit as soon as possible.”
This was confirmed by members of the victim’s family and their lawyer. He was thereafter arraigned on a three-count charge of abduction of a young girl to an unknown destination to have carnal knowledge of her and indecent assault by touching.
Mr Abdulrahman was granted bail with the condition of providing a level 12 civil servant who owns a landed property- a condition which he met. He was freed afterwards.
Following this newspaper’s report, the family and our correspondent continue to face pressure and threat from unknown individuals who warned against further reports on the incident.
After much pressure, members of the victim’s family shared dissenting views on the settlement of the issue.
While some believed that an out-of-court settlement is a welcome development, some said the matter should be treated as a criminal case and justice should prevail.
The 16-year-old girl later vowed to commit suicide if her family accepts an offer to settle the matter out of court.
The proposed settlement includes that the accused admit to committing the offence and tender an unreserved apology, which he did.
Petition against Premium Times
In December, PREMIUM TIMES’ journalist was contacted by a police officer, identified as Sergeant Adisa, who informed him about a petition against him.
The petition was over the report, which exposed the criminal act of the cleric.
On Tuesday, Mr Olufemi alongside this reporter honoured the police invitation. He was accused of publishing ‘fake’ report about the personality of the cleric.
In his petition, Mr Abdulrahman denied granting any interview to PREMIUM TIMES, a claim which differs from his position when he was in the police custody, where he affirmed that the reporter ‘disturbed’ him on several occasions.
When this correspondent questioned why police failed to write officially to PREMIUM TIMES’ head office, despite being advised by Mr Olufemi to do so, Sergeant Adisa threatened to send this reporter out of his office, as he emphasised that no one can teach him his job.
Around 3 p.m. after writing his statement, Mr Olufemi, the victim’s family and the complainant, were taken to a senior officer, Benjamin Ayeni, for further interview.
Throughout the period of interrogation, the cleric did not deny the allegation against him.
A ‘bullying’ Sergeant
During further interrogation at Mr Ayeni’s office, Sergeant Adisa, again, bullied our correspondent who accompanied his colleague to the station.
He threatened to send this reporter out for taking sides with his colleague, after insisting that Mr Abdulrahman’s petition is baseless, without talking about the genesis of the matter, which is having sexual intercourse with an underage.
When asked to respond to our correspondent’s question, Mr Abdulrahman noted that he did not petition the police to investigate, but, his major aim is to know PREMIUM TIMES’ interest in his affairs.
Mr Ayeni further took the parties involved in the matter to the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Police, who told our correspondent that proper invitation would be sent PREMIUM TIMES and other parties involved for further interrogation on January 30.
After this, Mr Olufemi was granted bail on self-recognition around 7 p.m.
Sergeant Adisa then insisted on searching our correspondent’s phone as he mandated this reporter to delete all the pictures that were taken during the time they were at the station.
He had, earlier, threatened to jail our correspondent if any audio or pictorial evidence is found on him.
At 7:15 p.m, the two journalists signed out of police custody.