Thursday, June 2, 2011

Female NYSC member: Did Osun Monarch commit rape?

For Oba Adebukola Ali, the Alowa of Ilowa in Obokun Local Government of Osun state, this is certainly not the best of time for him as the 48 years old monarch is currently standing trial over a one count charge of alleged rape of a 23 years old National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) member serving in the state, Miss Helen Okpara.

At the last sitting which was the second since the matter was drafted before the state Magistrate court, Oba Alli accompanied by one of his wives was throughout the period of the proceedings down cast.

The traditional ruler also received a rude shock as the trial magistrate, Olalekan Ijiyode ordered him to remove his cap before the proceeding in the court could continue which he promptly obeyed.

The court room was also filled to the brim as sympathizers of the rape victim including her mother, fellow corps members, officials of the NYSC from both the state and National secretariat, human rights activists and Journalists all thronged the court to catch a glimpse of the proceedings.

The embattled monarch’s problem started when on March 25 this year, he allegedly raped a youth corps member serving in his domain (Ilowa-Ijesha).

In a letter of distress to the state Director of the NYSC, the 23 year old girl explained how she was humiliated by the monarch at his private residence located at Rasco estate, Osogbo.

Part of the petition read thus “I was raped by the Oba of Ilowa on Friday March 25, 2011. Before then, I had been introduced to the Oba by our Ward RACO during the last INEC registration exercise.

One day, on my way from the school, the Oba gave me a ride and told me that he wanted me to be a computer facilitator for the schools in the community.That was after he got to know that I was computer literate and we drew a plan on the format the assignment would take.”

The girl said she later had a session with the benefiting students and after introducing the system to them, the Oba offered to take her back to school, adding that the Oba did not drop her in the school but implored her to accompany him to Osogbo where he wanted to do a follow up work on the computer programme.

“He said I should not worry that he would bring me back home and eventually we arrived at his residence in Osogbo where he entertained me. It was getting late and I wanted to go home as he started to caress me and I got up begging him but he turned down my pleas,” said she.

The victim alleged that the monarch stripped her naked and went out to soak her clothes, stressing that before he came back she had locked the door against him. She added that the threat by the monarch to kill her if he force the door open made her to open it and he consequently entered to rape her.

The state Coordinator of the NYSC Mr. Henry Enyenihi, who confirmed the development to news men added that the NYSC Director-General Brigadier-General Maharazu Tsiga briefed a lawyer to pursue the matter to a conclusive end.

The monarch who had been standing trial over the offence since March 30, 2011 at the Magistrate court, Osogbo had his case transferred by Mr Olalekan Ijiyode, the trial Magistrate to the chief Magistrate court presided over by Mr Akinwumi Makanjuola for lack of jurisdiction to hear the case.

At the resumed hearing of the case on Tuesday, 17th May, the trial Magistrtate, Mr Ijiyode before transferring the case had said that he had interest in the matter because of the challenges it posed to his position and profession, but stressed that “as a senior Magistrate grade 1, I do not have the right to preside over such case.”

He added “I’m constrained by the provisions of the law that sets up my jurisdiction. Only the Chief Magistrate can handle this kind of a matter. Ordinarily, I would have loved to handle this case because of its sensitive nature, but the laws do not allow me. The case is hereby transferred to the Chief Magistrate court for proper hearing.”

At the chief Magistrate court however, Oba Alli who was docked in the witness box for several minutes pleaded not guilty to the charge leveled against him, while his counsel Mr. Tewo Lamuye urged the court to allow his client continue with his bail which the Magistrate Court had earlier granted him on liberal terms, arguing that the offence allegedly committed by his client was not a capital one. He also assured the court that the accused person, being a traditional ruler in the state could not jump bail if granted, stressing that a court had earlier granted him bail in liberal terms.

Although the Police Prosecutor, Mr Benjamin Akindoyin and Counsel to the Defendant, Mr Hammeed Ibrahim opposed the bail application, the court granted the accused person bail in the sum of N250,000 and two sureties with three years tax clearance.

A renowned Human Rights Activist, Comrade Amitolu Shittu while commenting on the allegation of rape condemned the action of the traditional ruler if eventually found guilty by the court of law.

“What he allegedly did was wrong, if it is true. The law must be allowed to take its full course to serve as deterrent to people in high places who are at one time or the other might have been involved in this type of dastardly act.

But, speaking on the point of law, the chairperson of the Osogbo branch of the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, Mrs Toyin Adegoke called for amendment to Nigeria law as it regards rape matter, saying that to prove the allegation of rape as it contains in our criminal law is cumbersome.

According to her, to prove allegation of rape “it must be unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman by man or vice versa. It must be obtained by force, there must be penetration before allegation of rape can be proved.

Her words “If sexual intercourse is done by force, intimidation or coercion it amounts to rape. Also, if the consent of the other person is not got it is also a rape. But why the case of rape is difficult to prove is that two persons must corroborate the testimony of the victim and there must be a medical report from a government recognized hospital and it must show that there is a penetration by showing evidence of the man’s semen from the private part of the lady.”

She added that the case cannot be proved without the police report to back it up, and there must be tears on the private part of the lady or woman before the case can be substantiated by the victim.

Mrs Adegoke, however, regretted that most female victims of rape in Nigeria find it difficult to come out openly because of the trauma the incident could cause them and also trials of these cases are done in the open courts.

She also talked of stigmatization and lack of knowledge of how to prove their case because according to her most victims do take bath, change their clothes before making official reports “and once that is done the evidence of rape had been tampered with.”

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