An Igbosere High Court in Lagos on Monday sentenced an ex-staff of an oil company; James Onuoha to 15 years at the Correctional Centre for raping his tenant’s 14-year-old niece.
Justice Adedayo Akintoye sentenced Onuoha, 42, an engineer, without an option of fine.
The court had adjourned the case on January 14 until March 25 for judgment. This was after the parties adopted their final written addresses. However, judgement could not be pronounced due to the COVID- 19 pandemic; which led to lockdown of almost all sectors of the economy in March, including the Judiciary.
At the resumed hearing on Monday, the Lagos State Prosecuting Counsel, Mr Babatunde Sunmonu, and the defence counsel; Dr Victor Olowonla, announced their appearance.
Before the verdict was handed down, Olowonla, in his allocutus; pleaded with the court to temper justice with mercy as Onuoha was a first-time offender.
“My lord, he is a first-time offender; he is a family man with wife and children, and also the bread winner of his family. He has lost his job since this case came up. Going by the circumstances of this case, I urge my lord to temper justice with mercy,” he said.
Onuoha, who was charged to court by the Lagos State Government; was first arraigned in January 2016 at the Magistrates’ Court on a four-count charge bordering on defilement. He was remanded in Kirikiri Correctional Centre, pending legal advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Following his indictment by the DPP, the case was transferred to the High Court for trial.
Onuoha was accused of committing the alleged offences on January 4, 2016, at No.25, Samuel Amoore Street; Idowu Estate, Ike-Ira Nla, Ajah, Lagos. The prosecution said the defendant wilfully had an unlawful sexual act with the teenager. He said the offences contravened Sections 137 and 258 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011.
However, the defendant pleaded not guilty to the charge. Hence, the prosecution opened its case and called witnesses, including the victim.
After the prosecution closed its case, Onuoha opened his defence. He told the court how he visited his house at the above address to ask for rent from his tenant who was not at home at the time of his visit.
Onuoha said the victim was the only person at home; adding that he entered the apartment to inspect it and thereafter gave the victim N1, 000 as Christmas gift.