The absence of Lagos State counsel has stalled the trial of Dr Afeez Baruwa, an ex-lecturer of the University of Lagos, accused of raping an 18-year-old admission seeker (name withheld).
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Baruwa was scheduled to open his defence at an Ikeja High Court on Thursday, a year after the prosecution closed its case against him.
The trial has experienced setbacks caused primarily by unavailability of counsel and the court not sitting for other reasons.
The lecturer arrived at the court at 9a.m. on Thursday with his defence team and was ready to give evidence.
At 2.11p.m. when the case was to commence, O. A Azeez, state counsel, present in court, informed the judge that Y. G Oshoala, the lead prosecutor, wanted to cross-examine Baruwa himself as he was most familiar with the facts of the case.
Oshoala had been prosecuting the case since Baruwa was first arraigned over alleged rape.
No reason was given for Oshoala’s absence in court on Thursday.
Azeez said: “My Lord, if it is convenient for the court, I can take the examination-in-chief of the defendant as Oshoala left instructions that he wants to personally cross-examine the defendant.”
Responding, Olanrewaju Ajanaku, Baruwa’s counsel, said the lecturer was ready to give defence.
He said: “My Lord, learned counsel for the prosecution said Oshoala wants to personally take the cross-examination of the defendant.
“However, I want to be assured that, on the next adjourned date, the trial will go on.”
Justice Josephine Oyefeso expressed displeasure at the delay caused by the prosecution, and reluctantly granted an adjournment.
The judge said: “Very reluctantly, I accept the proposal of the prosecution.
“This case is adjourned till March 14 for trial.”
NAN reports that the prosecution had on January 23, 2018, closed its case against the former lecturer.
Four prosecution witnesses testified during the trial, including the alleged victim, her father, a medical doctor and the investigating police officer.
Baruwa, father of two and former part-time lecturer in the Department of Accounting in UNILAG, is facing a count charge of rape.
The prosecution alleged that the former lecturer raped the teenager at 9.25a.m. on July 23, 2015, in Room 8, the Faculty of Business Administration Annex building, UNILAG.
Baruwa, who was a friend of the teenager’s father, was requested by the man to help his daughter to secure admission into the institution.
The alleged rape occurred when she was in his office to make arrangements for her admission into the university.
UNILAG has, however, put up a disclaimer in respect of Baruwa.
Rape violates Section 258 of the Criminal Law of Justice, Laws of Lagos State 2011, and can be punished with up to life imprisonment.