What we all need to know about the rape case between Busola Dakolo and Biodun Fatoyinbo, the Senior Pastor of the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly, is that the case is a preliminary hearing, a proceeding, after a criminal complaint has been filed by the prosecutor, to determine whether there is enough evidence to require a trial, a Nigerian lawyer has said. But a court is saying it shouldn’t go to trial.
Secondly, the case wasn’t thrown out for ‘Lack of evidence’, just as a lot of people are saying, rather, the decision was based on Fatoyinbo’s lawyers’ argument that the case is “Statute barred”.
This means whatever may be the case, assuming without conceding, its legal shelve life has expired. The term, statute barred is used to describe a legal action that cannot be brought to court because too much time has passed.
Pleading “statute-barred” does not mean any case can’t be presented in court if it’s past a time limit. It does not mean you can commit a crime, run away, and if it’s not presented in court in years, you can come back and you won’t be judged, NO.
This is not applicable to criminal cases. The case in question was reportedly filed as a civil case, not a criminal case thus the barred.
Each crime has its own statute of limitations.
According to a legal practitioner, Omoye Joyce Odin, “Statute barred simply means the time within which the case should be instituted in court has elapsed, so u can no longer institute the case.”
When asked if a criminal can get such legal action, the lawyer said No. She further explained that there is no time limit for a criminal case. The prosecution can institute the case at any time so far there is evidence.
Citing example to back up the meaning of the term, Odin said that in a rape case, if a woman is raped in 2019, the law says she must institute the case in court not less than 6years from 2019.
“That means she ought to institute the case on or before 2025. If she then institutes the case in 2026, it has become statute-barred,” she said.
Responding to the latest development in the case of Dakolo and Fatoyinbo, Odin said that “the judgment cannot be accepted as the judge ought to have said there is no evidence rather than saying it is statute-barred.”
She added that “rape is a criminal offence, there is no limit for instituting the case.”
She went on, “however, some states in Nigeria have now domesticated the law surrounding rape cases. Hence, some have their own law on rape cases and they have by themselves created a time limit for instituting such.”
“Perhaps, in Ilorin, Kwara State, where the alleged rape occurred has a law that set the time limit for instituting rape cases. But generally, under the Criminal Code Act, which is applicable to the whole of Nigeria, there is no time limit for instituting a rape case.”
“And in states where a time limit has been set for instituting rape cases, it’s usually between 3 to 30 years,” she added
In a latest development, however, the Nigeria Police Force said the investigation into the allegation of the rape levelled against the Senior Pastor of the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly is still on.
Though, the probe into the allegation of rape is slow because the alleged crime took place 20 years ago.