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Orphanage rape: Director absent in court

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The Director of Light of Hope Orphanage, Akute, Mr. Olatayo Atunde, was on Thursday absent at the Ota Magistrate’s Court, Ogun State.

Atunde had, on April 26 2013, been arraigned on four counts after his arrest by the Zone 2 police command.

The arraignment followed allegations of rape by two minors aged 13 and 14(names withheld), at the orphanage. The command had been alerted by a petition from Project Alert, a non-governmental organisation on violence against women.

No plea was taken after the charge was read and Atunde was subsequently remanded in Ibarra prison, Abeokuta, pending an advice from the Director of Public Prosecution.

At the hearing on Thursday, a prison official informed the court that Atunde was down with malaria, hence his absence in court.

There was also no sign of the counsel representing Atunde; neither his wife nor relatives present.

The prosecutor, Mr. Ajayi, queried the lack of a medical report to authenticate claims of Atunde’s ill health.

He said, “A medical report should have been presented to this honourable court, indicating the state of Atunde’s health and the ailment being treated.”

The magistrate, Mr. A.S. Soneye, asked Ajayi if he suspected foul play on the part of the prison official and feared that Atunde had been released.

He said, “Do you think that Atunde could have been released? I don’t think the prison officials would attempt something like that in a case of this magnitude.”

Ajayi said, “Anything can happen; incidents of this nature have occurred in the course of my job.”  He insisted that a medical report ought to have been produced. He also said advice from the DPP was being awaited.

Also in court and holding a watching brief for Project Alert, was Mr. Courage Erhuen.

Soneye asked Erhuen if he too was of the view that Atunde had been released.

“I sincerely believe and respect this court. To this end, since the court has already given an order, I believe it cannot be breached.

“The court would have to seek the consent of the complainant before Atunde can be released. I would like to believe that the prisons, being a government agency, would not do otherwise,” Erhuen said.

The minors, who were principal witnesses in the case against Atunde, are back at the orphanage which is now being run by Atunde’s wife.

The case was adjourned until August 8, 2013.

 

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