The Child Protection Network (CPN) has accused the police in Oyo State of conspiracy to prevent justice in a case of child rape allegedly perpetrated by a man, identified as Mr Adetunji.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered a seven-year-old girl (name withheld) was allegedly raped by Mr Adetunji, a taxi driver and neighbour of the victim’s family, on December 6. The matter was reported at the Ogbere police division.
According to sources well briefed about the case, Mr Adetunji paid a sum of money to the girl’s single parent, Ms Oladipo. He was released on bail and the police decided not to charge the accused to court, with the mother’s acquiescence, even though it was reportedly established there was penetration.
The mother is also said to be cooperating with police, Mr Adetunji and leaders of the neighbourhood’s landlords’ association to prevent details of the matter from getting to the public.
“They have threatened everyone to back out of the case and since it is not my child that is affected nor my relative, I had to keep quiet. The mother was on the verge of fighting me after she had struck a deal with the landlords,” one source said.
Following the release of Mr Adetunji, this reporter confirmed the arrest of Ademola, the half-brother of the victim, on the basis that he attempted violence against the man after police had granted him bail.
After signing an undertaking that he would not instigate violence against the accuse, the 18-year-old Ademola was freed by the police. The teenager refused to speak about his ordeal.
In a petition titled “against gross professional misconduct and Injustice” about the case, CPN called on the state commissioner of police, Adekunle Odude, to ensure that the perpetrator is ‘brought to book.’ The group demanded that similar cases reported at any police station should be transferred to the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID) for a thorough investigation and subsequent prosecution of the suspects.
“We appeal to you, Sir to use your good offices in ensuring that the perpetrator of the crime, one Mr. Adetunji is arrested and arraigned before the appropriate court forthwith in the interest of justice,” reads the petition.
CPN is a coalition of registered Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) established through the instrumentality of UNICEF as a social intervention body under the auspices of the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community Development and Social Welfare.
A copy of the petition dated December 23, 2018, and signed by the Oyo State Coordinator of CPN, Ebunlomo Walker, and other stakeholders, was sent to PREMIUM TIMES.
According to CPN, the victim’s mother had confirmed that the result of the medical examination conducted in two different hospitals indicated that the 65-year-old Mr Adetunji, actually committed the offence of sexual assault on the 7-year-old innocent girl.
The group said it was embarrassed by the way the Divisional Police Officer at Ogbere Police Division released the accused on the ‘flimsy excuse’ that the man did not penetrate. It alleged that the DPO arranged a settlement in which the perpetrator paid the mother of the victim ₦12,000 to ‘finally settle the case.’
“Thus the mother told the police that she did not want to prosecute the matter anymore,” adds the petition.
The group, however, noted that a case of rape or sexual assault against a ‘minor’ is a serious crime under the law and as such Child Sexual Assault (CSA) is a state case and not one that the victim’s mother can decide to withdraw.
“Such withdrawal will only encourage more offenders to continue their advancement in crime,” the petition further reads.
The group also accused the Oyo police spokesperson, Adekunle Ajisebutu, of accusing an activist of crying more than the bereaved. It said such was an unprofessional move by the officer.
“(It is) A statement which the CPN considered unprofessional and least expected from a Senior Police Officer of PPRO’s calibre who the society looks to as our hope for redress of societal ills and protection of the rights of children,” it wrote.
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. An attempt to commit the offence is felonious and such offender is liable to fourteen-year imprisonment.
Also, the Child’s Rights Act, section 31 of part 1 stipulates that a person who commits an offence of defilement is liable on conviction to life imprisonment.
Reacting to the petition, the police spokesperson, Mr Ajisebutu, in a conversation with PREMIUM TIMES on Monday, narrated how the case was reported to the police and how the reports got to his office.
He said: “I took up the matter. I called the DPO (of the station where the matter was reported), who sent me the officer that investigated the case. I demanded to see the complainant. They were all in my office. But unfortunately, the suspect, (who was on bail), wasn’t around and we could not be waiting for him because he doesn’t have foreknowledge of my invitation.
“On enquiry, it was discovered that a case of defilement could not be proved.
Mr Ajisebutu, while justifying the action of the law enforcement agents, said the woman had already withdrawn the case and had sworn to an affidavit in court stating that she is no longer interested in a case because of the future of her child.
He, however, denied the arrest of the victim’s half-brother claiming he was only invited for questioning.
The police spokesperson also denied accusing the child right activist of ‘crying more than the bereaved’.
When asked if an attempt to sexually abuse a child is not a crime and if it is not a case worth investigating even if a complainant withdraws, Mr Ajisebutu evaded the question and reiterated that the complainant is no longer interested in prosecuting the suspect.
However, when asked for a doctor’s report, which is allegedly in the custody of the police, the spokesperson tagged it classified information that cannot be released.
Efforts to reach Ms Oladipo for comments and confirm if she actually swore to an affidavit were unsuccessful as she did not pick or return calls to her mobile phone.
In a recorded telephone conversation with Kehinde Akinyemi of Child Growth Concern Initiative, shared with our reporter, Ms Oladipo said she was no longer interested in the matter.
“Mo ni mi o se ejo mo (I said I’m no longer interested in a case),” she yelled on phone.
Commenting on the law regarding of the case, an Osun-based lawyer, Yemi Abiona, who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday, derided the stance that the complainant is no longer interested in the case.
Mr Abiona, who stressed that sexual assault is a criminal offence against the state, explained that a case of such magnitude cannot be withdrawn by a complainant if the state chooses to prosecute it.
He added that the mother swearing to an affidavit is not crucial as she is just a nominal complainant, who can be compelled to serve as a witness by the state.
“That doesn’t hold water. it is the state that prosecutes and not individuals. It will be the defence counsel versus state counsel when the case gets to the court,” he said
Contrary to the police claim on the medical report, the lawyer said the police ought to release such.
“If they don’t want to release such document, that shows there’s a conspiracy and that should be exposed,” he said.
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