The Court of Appeal in Abuja has upheld the conviction and sentencing of a pastor, Apostle Basil Princewill for raping a 14-year old girl and attempting to abort the resultant pregnancy.
Reading a unanimous judgment of a panel on three, on Tuesday, Justice Stephen Adah said the appellate court found nothing wrong with the judgment given on June 25, 2019 by Justice Hussein Baba-Yusuf of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Justice Baba-Yusuf, had in the judgment, convicted Princewill, Founder and General Overseer of the Mountain Mover Fire Ministry of International, Nyanya, Abuja, on two out of the four counts Contained in the charge on which he was tried.
Princewill was sentenced to seven years for rape and five years for attempting to procure abortion, a decision he appealed to the Court of Appeal, marked: CA/A03c/2020, which was dismissed on Tuesday.
In dismissing Princewill’s appeal, Justice Adah noted that the prosecution, led by Simon Lough (a Assistant Commissioner of Police), effectively discharged the burden of proof placed on it by the law.
“The sole issue, identified for determination, is resolved against the the appellant.
“Having gone through the record before the court and the argument of counsel to the parties, we found that the trial court did not do anything wrong in convicting the appellant and sentencing him to 7 years.
“This appeal hereby fails. The conviction and sentencing of the appellant is affirmed,” Justice Adah said.
He dismissed the cross-appeal filed by the prosecution, who had sought a longer term of imprisonment for Princewill.
Justice Adah held that it was the discretion of the trial judge, and added that under the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015, a first offender cannot be given the total term of imprisonment provided by the law.
In his June 25, 2019 judgment, Justice Baba-Yusuf was of the view that ”it is bad for a person to indulge in this kind of devilish act”.
He added that Princewill’s conduct was ”despicable, shameful, degrading and satanic.”
The judge further said: “Those who are supposed to be men of God are expected to be highly religious, exhibit decency and act as role models to their followers.
“Considering the interest of the girl, the interest of the public and the rising cases of rape in the church by those who serve in the Lord’s vineyard, the court must send the signal to the public to serve as a deterrent to others.”
”By this conduct, the accused deserves to be taken to a monastery until he changes to a better man of God.
“It is more worrisome, especially when a person in question is looked up to as a man of God,” the judge said.
The incident took place on July 27, 2011, to December 31, 2011.
The case was filed by the police on June 4, 2012, with the prosecution closing its case on December 9, 2016, after calling five witnesses.
The defendants acted as his only witness.
In analysing the evidence led by parties, Justice Baba-Yusuf noted that from the evidence of prosecution witness(PW) 1 (the victim’s Mother); that of the PW2 (the victim) and the PW3 (Dr Ogunlade Felix), the accused perpetrated the act of rape ”under the pretence of carrying out deliverance and cleansing on the girl on July 27, 2011.”
The judge said he believed the evidence of PW1, PW2 and PW3 because ”the PW2 was very detailed on what happened to her in the defendant’s office and same evidence was corroborated by PW1 and PW2.
”I am impressed by the testimonies of PW1 and PW2; I believe PW2’s story of how the accused raped her.
”The accused did not deny the fact that he invited the 14-year girl to his office for deliverance and cleansing and the fact that he gave a poster to the girl to take.
”I believe PW2 that on July 27, 2011, the apostle, in the guise of deliverance, took advantage of the girl by having sex with her,” the judge said.
Justice Baba-Yusuf said “the fact that the accused took the victim to Fountain Head Medical Centre Nyanya was an indication that ”he knew something about the pregnancy.”
The judge sid he did not believe the testimony of the accused, stressing that apart from being full of contradiction, and was different the testimony he gave while being interrogated by officials of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).
”I find it difficult to believe the accused person’s incoherency, riddled/puzzled testimony.
”Evidence of PW1 about what PW2 told her is direct and positive evidence and not hearsay.
”Defence of the accused is not tenable and is therefore rejected. Proof of the case of rape against the accused is sustained,” the judge said.