A Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital, yesterday convicted Yunusa Dahiru for the abduction of 14-year-old Ese Oruru, an indigene of Delta State
The presiding Justice Jane Inyang sentenced Dahiru to 26 years imprisonment in the judgment she delivered yesterday. Dahiru abducted Oruru from her family house at Opolo area of Yenagoa on August 12, 2015 and took her to his home state, Kano, where he forcibly converted her into Islam.
The minor, who was 14 years old at the time of the incident, was raped, resulting in pregnancy. She was eventually rescued by the police in February 2016 and brought back to Yenagoa in early March, where she gave birth to a baby girl in May of the same year.
On March 8, 2016, Dahiru was arraigned before the Federal High Court on a five-count charge bordering on criminal abduction, illicit intercourse, sexual exploitation and unlawful carnal knowledge of a minor.
Among the charges against Dahiru, resident in Opolo-Eipie area of Yenagoa in Bayelsa State, is that he conspired with the duo of Dankano Mohammed and Mallam Alhassan, between August 2015 and February, 2016, to commit an offence of abduction and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 27(a) of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015.
He was also accused of abducting Oruru by means of coercion, transported and harboured her in Kano State and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 13(2)(b) of the Trafficking in Persons (prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015.
Dahiru also faced the trial for inducing Oruru by the use of deception and coercion to go with him from Yenagoa to Kano State with intent that she be forced or seduced into illicit intercourse and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 15(a) of the Trafficking in Persons (prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015.
He was further accused of procuring Oruru and subjecting her to sexual exploitation in Kano State and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 16(1) of the Trafficking in Persons (prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015.
Dahiru was accused of having unlawful carnal knowledge of Oruru without her consent and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 357 of the Criminal Code Act and punishable under section 358 of the Criminal Code ACT, Cap. C.38 laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
He had pleaded not guilty to the charges which were read to him in pidgin English and on March 21, the first trial judge, Justice Aliya Nganjiwa, granted him bail in the sum of N3million with two sureties in like sum.
Giving her judgment yesterday, Justice Inyang acquitted the accused on count one but found him guilty on counts two, three, four and five. She, therefore, sentenced Dahiru to five years in prison for count two and seven years each for counts three, four and five and that they would run consecutively.
The judge also held that the failure of the defence team to produce one Abdullahi Zarafat was also “fatal to the defence.” The counsel to the defendant, Kayode Olaosebikan, pleaded for the judge to temper justice with mercy and give a liberal sentence to the accused.
Dahiru, who was in his prison attire, emerged from the court after the judgment with tears in his eyes. Olaosebikan, in an interview with journalists, said that they were not comfortable with the aspect of the ruling that the sentence should run consecutively.
He said: “Though I’m not comfortable with the part of the judgment that said the sentence should run consecutively, we had some challenges during the course of trial.
“There were six other witnesses we needed to have called in this matter, two of them are resident here (in Bayelsa), four of them in Kano, but none of them was available.”
Olaosebikan said that his client was at liberty to appeal the judgment, especially because of the part of the ruling that said that the sentence should run consecutively.
In his reaction, the prosecution counsel, Samuel Njoku, a Deputy Superintendent of Police from the Force Headquarters, expressed delight that justice had been served. He described the judgment as “naked and simple justice that has been done today.”
The Ese Oruru saga got the world attention after the deposed Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido, got enmeshed in her abduction and detention after findings showed that the minor was forcibly married and hidden in his palace.
Though he later denied complicity in the minor’s travails but not until the media, rights activists and public spirited individuals condemned the abduction.
Before Oruru was eventually rescued and brought back to Yenagoa, all attempts, including a couple of visits by his mother to Kano to recover her daughter proved abortive.
It took the media and civil rights organizations to bring Oruru’s story to the limelight when it was learnt that very powerful quarters like the Sharia Council in Kano and then Emir of Kano were involved in the case.
Oruru’s rescue eventually materialized after the matter was massively launched into the public space by the media, forcing the then Emir Sanusi to order the Sharia Council to release her.
The world got more curious during the court process to prosecute Dahiru and two others still at large after the accused was led in defence by a powerful team led by Olaosebikan. The three-man team of police prosecutors was headed by Kenneth Dika.
Not to be outdone in the case, Bayelsa and Delta states governments also intensified interest while the Urhobo Progress Union (UPU), also led a team of lawyers to help in the prosecution of Dahiru.
Reacting to the case, the Chairman of the Sagbama branch of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and former chairperson of International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) in Bayelsa State, Dise Ogbise, said the judgment was appropriate as it would serve as a deterrent to other pedophiles.
“The judgment has sent a strong message to serve as a deterrent to pedophiles of underage children. The judiciary is fair in the judgment given,” she said.
The father of the girl, Charles Oruru, said he was very happy that the five-year case had ended in their favour.
“I’m very happy and grateful because I see that all my suffering is not in vain. This case will serve as a deterrent to others who traffic people’s children. I thank God that truth has prevailed. I and my family are very happy,” he said.