It was a drama of accusations and counter accusations between the prosecution and the defence as trial commenced in the case of Prophet Alfa Babatunde and others before Justice Olusegun Odusola at an Akure High Court.
Teeming crowd thronged the premises of the Court while the court room was filled to capacity.
There was also heavy presence of security personnel comprising of the police and the Civil Defence Corps around the premises. Many people tried to gain access into the courtroom through the windows but were warded off by the security men.
As the prosecution witnesses in their testimonies claimed to have been brutalized and terrorized by the founder of Sotitobire Praising Chapel and his members, the defence on the other hand fingered the paternal aunt of the missing boy who lived with the parents as the one who picked him from the children department of the church where he had allegedly gone missing.
The prosecution led by the Ondo State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Adekola Olawoye, SAN, told the court that they have seven witnesses to call in the case, but two were in court.
One of the witnesses, one Kemi Kolawole, who was the paternal grandmother of the missing child narrated to the court how some thugs who she alleged worked for Alfa had beaten her up, took her phones and purse.
“It all began on the day my son called me that Eninlaloluwa Gold had gone missing in church.
“I came to the church to meet my son and his wife in flood of tears as the church was not helpful in looking for the missing child.
“I had approached the altar to demand that the prophet do something about my missing grandson, but I was pushed back by stern looking security men who warned me not to provoke the prophet lest he puts a curse on me, she said.”
Mrs Kolawole testified that she became alarmed and decided to go on a spiritual retreat to a mountain where she prayed for the deliverance of her grandson.
According to her, on the third day, her other children accompanied the couple to the Deji of Akure ‘s palace, but they could not see the monarch as he was said to be in a meeting.
She said one of the palace chiefs advised them to go back to the prophet so that they could pray together with an assurance that the missing child would be found.
The witness said they went back to the church, although separately, adding that the children boarded a taxi, while she followed behind on a motorcycle.
But to my greatest shock, when I got near the church, tear gas rented the air which made my eyes watery and I couldn’t see any of my children.
“There were thugs and security operatives on the road, while the road leading to the church was cordoned off with a barricade.”
She said as she was frantically looking around for her children, one of the ushers who was the fourth defendant in the case, one Esther Kayode, pointed her out to the thugs saying, “this is the grandmother, catch her!”
She said the woman usher pulled her closer, while the thugs gave her the beating of her life in the presence of some police officers who stood by watching.
Kolawole alleged that they took her phone and purse containing N8,000 while the police took her inside their car to the B Division after the beating.
She explained, I was later taken to Anti-kidnapping and the state CID where I was detained for two days. It was when some reporters came to ask about the incident that the police released me.
When the prosecuting counsel asked her what offence she committed that warranted police arrest, she said they did not tell her anything.
She heard other police officers at the station saying ” so the parents can even be punished over their missing child”
In tears, she said, “My lord, please save me. Since then, I have been receiving threatening calls from unknown persons that our family will be wiped out if we are not careful. Now, I sleep around because I am afraid to sleep in my house.”
However, all the four defence counsels opted not to cross- examine the witness on her evidence.
The second witness, Esther Kolawole, a paternal aunt to the missing boy, described the attitude of Alfa Babatunde and the church ushers as ‘nonchalant,’ alleging that they did not help in searching for the missing child, Eninlaloluwa Gold Kolawole or announced him missing within the first three hours of his disappearance.
She testified that the boy was taken to the children department of the church by the mother, Modupe Kolawole and that the fifth defendant was the usher that registered the child.
She said she observed that about a quarter to noon, the mother went back to check on the boy, only to discover him missing.
She stated that the prophet had told them to go with the assurance that they would find the boy the next day, adding that they all held a vigil in the church along with the ushers, while the prophet went to the next building called “mercyland” to pass the night.
She informed the court that despite his assurances, Eninlaloluwa Gold was not found till date.
The case took on a twist when the counsel to the 5th and 6th defendants, Akinyemi Omoware put it to the witness during cross-examination that the defence had it on good authority that she was the one that picked the missing child from the church’s children department.
But she responded rhetorically, “if I had come to pick the child, why did the ushers not confront me with it when we were frantically looking for the child?”
The Attorney-General then informed the court that the hearing would be stalled for some time as the first defence counsel, one Olusola Oke, had filed an application for bail of his clients at the Appeal Court Akure Division, following the refusal of the bail application by the High Court, saying the prosecution would have to honour the hearing notices served on them by the Appellate Court.
The trial judge wondered why the defence would take such a stance when both parties had agreed to an accelerated trial.
He therefore urged both counsels to pick dates for continuation of hearing.
However, Olusola Oke later conceded and assured the court that he would withdraw his application at the Appeal Court so that the hearing could continue unhindered.
The judge, therefore, cancelled the March 17 date and adjourned the case till Thursday, March 19, 2020.