After three years of prolonged court proceedings, a High Court in Ado Ekiti has finally sentenced Taiwo Ajayi, a former Vice Principal of St. Mary’s Girls Grammar School, Ikole-Ekiti, to life imprisonment.
Mr Taiwo reportedly raped a 12 year old girl in his office during his tenure as Vice Principal in 2014. Although the convict pleaded not guilty to the act, the court found him guilty but no charges were meted on him till now.
The court said Mr Ajayi committed the offence against Section 31(2) of the Child Rights Law of Ekiti State, 2012.
It was reported that Mr Ajayi lured the girl into his office, locked the door and raped her on the table while covering her mouth with a piece of cloth. At that point, a teacher had knocked on the door but Mr Ajayi refused to open up, and threatened the victim with certain disciplinary actions.
However, two of the school teachers reportedly forced the door open and caught Mr Ajayi in the awful act.
In October 2016, the convict had his first arraignment in court where he pleaded not guilty to the charge. His defence team stated how there was no evidence to pin him to the crime despite hear say arguments of the witnesses. Mr A.E. Arogundade of the Ministry of Justice led the prosecuting team while Mr Sule Longe led the defence counsel.
Justice Oluwatoyin Abodunde who delivered the judgement held that the prosecution had until recently proved the case beyond every reasonable doubt on the strength of evidence they had placed before the court.
In a statement given by the judge, he said: “The cases of child defilement have been on the increase lately and to serve as a deterrent to others, my view is that the punishment stipulated by the lawmakers was deliberate to deter the offence and protect the right to dignity of the child.”
“The defense counsel is now pleading for leniency and praying for fine instead of the due punishment. My question is: who pays the victim for the lifetime scar of the trauma and torture of rape. I am unable to deviate from the provisions of the law in this instant. The defendant is found guilty as charged and sentenced to life imprisonment.”
During the course of the proceedings, the prosecution called eight witnesses including a medical practitioner from the State University Teaching Hospital, police officers who investigated the case, two other pupils and a teacher in the school. Exhibits put forward included a medical report, statement of the accused, report of the panels set up by the school authorities and Teaching Service Commission, medical report from the police clinic, and statement of the victim. Mr. Ajayi was indicted by the two panels set up to investigate the matter and this led to his suspension from service after which he was arrested and arraigned to face charges.
To this effect, Nigerians have applauded the Ekiti judiciary for closing the case and ensuring that justice was served. Although the life imprisonment sentence for child rape does apply in all Nigerian states, instilling such harsher sanctions could serve as a form of deterrent to intending offenders.