On bling and a prayer: pastor fails to dodge trial
Back to the cells for nattily dressed Nigerian charged with racketeering, human trafficking and rape
Controversial Nigerian pastor Timothy Omotoso failed in a court bid on Monday to have all 63 charges against him and his co-accused quashed in the Port Elizabeth High Court.
Advocate Peter Daubermann, legal counsel for Omotoso, 58, Lusanda Sulani, 36, and Zukiswa Sitho, 28, submitted a notice of objection to the charges as well as an application to have them quashed.
Omotoso – who was decked out in a gold-embellished jacket with matching shoes – Sulani and Sitho face a litany of charges including racketeering, sexual assault, human trafficking and rape, allegedly committed across the country and abroad, including in Nigeria and Israel.
Outside court, his supporters lined the streets with placards bearing slogans such as “Set our leader free!” and “Africa unite!”
Daubermann argued the state had failed to provide the defence with adequate information and details pertaining to the 63 counts. He also claimed the charge sheet was fatally defective, did not abide by the constitution and infringed on his clients’ right to a fair trial.
“At no instance is a date of an alleged offence contained in the indictment … we simply have a year – [neither] does it specify the place where the alleged offences took place,” Daubermann said.
He said there must be specific detail provided to the defence to allow the accused to answer to the charges. This included addresses and not merely towns or countries where the alleged offences took place. As an example, Daubermann cited a rape that was allegedly committed in Israel but the indictment did not specify where in that country or on which date.
“The onus is on the state to put up a proper charge sheet, which it has not,” he said.
Prosecutor Nceba Ntelwa told Judge Mandela Makaula it was not the state’s obligation to provide all of its evidence to the defence.
Ntelwa said the charge sheet contained the periods during which the alleged offences were committed, and the vicinity.
The prosecutor argued that most of the offences took place over a period of time and the complainants, whose ages vary with the youngest being 13, could not recall specific dates for this reason.
“A charge sheet cannot be defective because of the lack of particulars ... the indictment mentions the town,” Ntelwa said.
Daubermann asked: “What is the probability that not a single complainant is able to calculate or work out when she was allegedly raped or sexually assaulted?”
He told the court that without specific information it would be impossible for the accused to raise an alibi or determine who he would need to testify as a witness.
After the court adjourned for Makaula to consider the information, Omotoso was led down to the holding cells with supporters inside the court cheering loudly and calling out “Daddy”, their name for the pastor.
Outside the court about 150 people held placards emblazoned with Omotoso’s face while they sang and danced.
Omotoso’s wife, Taiwo, was escorted from the court to a waiting car while being covered with umbrellas and other items to shield her from photographers.
Omotoso was arrested in April 2017 at Port Elizabeth Airport. He has unsuccessfully applied for bail numerous times. Sulani and Sitho were each granted R2,000 bail in December.
On Monday afternoon, Makaula ruled that all 63 charges still stood and the trial against Omotoso, Sulani and Sitho would go ahead.
Daubermann then submitted an application for further particulars to be made available to the defence by the state. Makaula granted the application but Ntelwa asked for more time for the state to formulate a response. Ntelwa said he would be able to respond on Tuesday morning.
Omotoso’s brother-in-law, Osuagwu Chuks – a high-ranking pastor at his church, Jesus Dominion International – said after the ruling: “The judge’s discretion was based on the Constitution. We believe in the Constitution of this country; if we don’t we wouldn’t have come here.
“[Omotoso] has done a lot of good things but this is an injustice [that the state] doesn’t know the date, time and place [the alleged offences took place].
“It is barbaric – look how they have treated [Omotoso].
“This is a threat to national security and a transgression of human rights,” Chuks said.
Chairperson of the Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Commission, Sheila Khama, said although nothing much had changed certain valid issues had been raised during proceedings, which she praised.
“All we are asking for is for this matter to be concluded in a specific time frame, for the survivors. As long as justice is served and as long as justice is served for the survivors,” Khama said.
National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Tsepo Ndwalaza said Omotoso and his co-accused had a case to answer.
“We have a strong case [against the accused]. We are ready for the right outcome without fear. All we want to see is justice,” Ndwalaza said.
- The EP Herald