Afeez Baruwa, 42, a lecturer in the Department of Accounting, University of Lagos, facing accusations of raping an 18 year old girl pleaded with a Lagos magistrate for protection from a “hostile” media reportage. He allegedly raped the teenager in July, as she sought help to get admitted into the university.
Kunle Abimbola, the defendant’s lawyer, told the magistrate that the Punch newspaper had engaged in a campaign of false reportage against the lecturer.
“It has come to a case where we have to seek the ultimate protection of the defendant from the press, he is still presumed innocent until proven guilty,” said Mr. Abimbola, who brought along three copies of Punch newspaper.
At the last hearing date two weeks ago, the defence lawyer sought a bail for his client, claiming that he was “critically ill” in detention and needed urgent medical care.
BIbukun Ibikunle, a lawyer holding a “watching brief” for the rape victim’s family,. said that he had spoken with prison officials that day and was told that the accused did not show up when they were leaving the prison.
“On the 15th of August, 2015, Saturday Punch published the story ‘UNILAG lecturer: Asthma saved me from being raped, says another victim.’
“On the last adjourned date, it was stated that the defendant was ill. The next day, Punch went to town with the headline ‘UNILAG lecturer stays in prison, shuns court,’” Mr. Abimbola said.
“On the 22nd of August, 2015, Saturday Punch carried an interview with the Dean at the faculty where the defendant worked and he called the defendant a rapist.
“The defendant is being tried and convicted in the media which runs against Section 36(5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It still remains an allegation, the defendant is still presumed guilty.”
Mr. Abimbola urged the magistrate to call the newspaper to order over their “false report.”
Mr. Baruwa was absent in court at the last date.
His lawyer told the magistrate that his wife, Kafayat, had submitted a sworn affidavit to show that he is indeed ill.
“I plead with my lord to come to the aid of the defendant because the impression in the eye of the objective members of the public is that the defendant committed the offence which has not been proven.”
While opposing the defendant’s claims, Ms. Ibikunle said the media reported, accurately, the events of the last court’s proceedings.
“On the issue of the affidavit (brought by the accused’s wife), I believe that a doctor’s report must follow the affidavit. Anybody can swear an affidavit.”
While adjourning the case till November 13, Magistrate Tajudeen Elias described the case as an “exceptional circumstance” and urged the media to report the proceedings accurately.