The Ogun State Ministry of Women Affairs on Thursday said it was right to return two key witnesses in a case against the Director of Light of Hope Orphanage, Akute, Mr. Olatayo Atunde, to the orphanage.
The witnesses, (names withheld) aged 13 and 14, had last month, accused Atunde of raping them.
Project Alert, a non-governmental organisation on violence against women, took the case up, prompting Atunde’s arrest and arraignment at the Ota magistrate’s court.
At present, Atunde is being remanded in Ibara prison pending an advice from the state’s Directorate of Public Prosecution.
But the government returned the girls to the orphanage despite its promise to keep them in one of its shelters.
The Commissioner for Women Affairs, Mrs. Elizabeth Sonubi in a telephone interview with PUNCH Metro, said that the girls insisted on their return to the orphanage.
“It was the decision of the girls to return to the orphanage. They were not happy staying with us and said they were no longer interested in going back to Project Alert either.
“They were made to sign an undertaking that the decision was theirs before we took them back,” Sonubi said.
Legal Counsel to Project Alert, Mr. Benjamin Odeh, however, slammed Sonubi’s response.
He said, “I am surprised by the government’s reason. Going by the Child Rights Act, those girls are below 18 and by law, cannot be seen to make adult decisions. Whatever undertaking Sonubi is claiming they wrote is not legally tenable.
“Besides, this case is in court; it is a case by the Ogun state government against Atunde; the same state that is supposed to be protecting and caring for the girls. All it has done by this action is to compromise the case and frustrate the effort of the prosecution.
“One does not need to be a lawyer to understand the legal implications. How can children who have been raped, be returned to the scene of the crime, an orphanage run by the wife of the accused?
Meanwhile sources at Tunde Sebanjo Street, Akute, where the orphanage is situated told PUNCH Metro that the girls were kept in isolation upon their return.
A source said, “The girls were locked up in a room, separate from the other kids for a while. To my knowledge, they have been warned not to speak to anyone concerning the case again.”
Mrs. Atunde however, denied the claims. She said, I don’t know where you got your information from. How could I have locked the girls up? They are children. That allegation is false. I have no further comment.”
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