An Ikeja High Court in Lagos has discharged and acquitted a part-time Arabic teacher, Ustadh Anisere Sulaimon, of a defilement and sexual assault charge after he spent almost four years in detention.
Justice R. A. Oshodi held that there was no prima facie case against Ustadh Sulaimon, who was a final year student of the Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education at the time of his arrest in 2018.
Ustadh Sulaimon, of Abesan Estate, Ipaja, Lagos was accused of defiling and sexually assaulting a then four-year-old child at Mahadu Ridwanullah Arabic and Islamic School, Opeki in Abesan Estate.
He denied committing the offence.
His counsel, Mr. Ahmed Adetola-Kazeem, filed a no-case submission, which the court upheld.
The judge agreed with Adetola-Kazeem that apart from Sulaimon denying the charge, the prosecution’s lone witness (Mercy Oluranti) also testified that she was aware that it was a relation of the child that used to have carnal knowledge of her.
The court noted that the witness said one Kehinde Adedeji, who is an uncle to the child, confessed to the crime of defiling the four-year-old.
Justice Oshodi held: “The prosecution has not made out a sufficient case to warrant the defendant being directed to put up a defence to count 1. I uphold the no-case submission in relation to this count and, therefore, accordingly discharge and acquit the defendant on this count.
“Count 2. relates to the same victim, but this time, the penetration of her vagina in a sexual manner by the defendant.”
The court observed that the witness did not witness the alleged offences, adding that, like for count one, “the evidence of PWI does not raise a prima facie case,” and that “there is no ground for proceeding with defence, I hold that the no-case submission succeeds. The defendant, Anisere Sulaimon, is accordingly discharged and acquitted.”
On June 5, 2018, Sulaimon was brought before an Ikeja Magistrate Court on the allegation of defilement and sexual assault, and remanded at the Kirikiri facility.
The Magistrate, Mrs. B.O. Osunsanmi ordered that he be kept behind bars pending advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Earlier, the prosecutor, Mr. Ezekiel Ayorinde alleged that Sulaimon committed the offence in 2017 at his mosque.
The case was adjourned until July 9, 2018 for mention.
Following the DPP’s report, the case was subsequently moved to the High Court and Sulaimon was arraigned on October 9, 2019, before Justice Sybil Nwaka.
He pleaded not guilty to an amended two-count charge.
But the case was transferred to another court when Justice Nwaka was elevated to the Court of Appeal.
Sulaimon was then re-arraigned before Justice R. A. Oshodi on July 27, 2021.
He was again accused of defilement and sexual assault by penetration.
Both offences were contained in an amended charge dated October 8, 2019.
He pleaded “not guilty” and the trial commenced on November 8, 2021.
I was convinced he was innocent – Counsel, Adetola-Kazeem
Speaking with Muslim News on a phone call on Wednesday, the counsel to the victim, Mr. Adetola-Kazeem said he was convinced that his client was innocent going by the available evidence.
According to him “I got the case through a Lawyer who was briefed by the family of the Ustadh (Sulaimon). The major motivation was helping someone in distress and the fact that I was convinced he was innocent going through the proof of evidence.”
Mr. Adetola-Kazeem said, though people need to be careful, the suspect, in this case, did not do anything to warrant the accusation he got.
“The day the offence was allegedly committed, he was not even at the madrasah (Arabic School). Interestingly, the madrasah does not open on that same day. Generally, we need to be careful in our dealings with children. Everyone who wrote statements exonerated him, but one way or the other, they found a way to build the case around him.
“We need to be more prayerful and also careful. This is similar to the case of Prophet Yusuf who was also accused of rape according to the scripture. Whoever Allah wants to test, there’s nothing the person can do. He will definitely face his test. The Ustadh has been tested by Allah with this trial and I believe strongly that he passed the test”, he noted.
Commenting on the state of the criminal justice system in the country, he called for an overhaul of the judicial sector.
“Alhamdulillah for how the case turned out. He took a long while in custody and it paints the state of our criminal justice sector bad, which unfortunately needs a lot of revamping. The police played their part, but beyond them, there was a social worker, Mercy Oluranti, who played a role and there were suspicions of political maneuver in some of the institutions the Ustadh was working, which played against him.
“The case was built around the Ustadh. Initially, some lads who had gotten hints from the young girl started pointing fingers at the girl’s uncle (also a teenager). So, because of the persistence of the social worker, the case was built around the Ustadh even though the lad was arrested and still in Oregun Central Correctional Centre at the moment”, he revealed.
– Additional information from The Nation
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