July 15, 2024

The Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal on Thursday upheld a previous ruling by a Lagos State High Court, confirming a five-year prison sentence for Nollywood actor Olarenwaju James, popularly known as Baba Ijesha, for the sexual assault of a 14-year-old minor.

In a judgment delivered by Justice Folashade Ojo, the Court of Appeal upheld Baba Ijesha’s conviction on two counts of indecent touching and sexual assault of a minor. Justices Abdullahi Bayero and Paul Bassi concurred with Justice Ojo’s decision.

Justice Ojo highlighted that the prosecution’s witness, Damilola Adekoya, provided credible eyewitness testimony of the events that occurred on April 19, 2021. The court dismissed Baba Ijesha’s claim that the incident was merely a theatrical performance, affirming that the interaction between him and the victim was a personal encounter.

The court noted that Baba Ijesha had voluntarily confessed to the crime in two separate statements made at the Sabo Police Station on April 19, 2021, and at the State Criminal Investigation Department, Panti, on April 28, 2021. These confessions were admitted as evidence during the trial.

Justice Ojo emphasized that the evidence presented by the prosecution, including the victim’s testimony and Baba Ijesha’s confessions, was compelling and sufficient to justify the conviction. The court also underscored the importance of the trial court’s first-hand observation of witnesses’ demeanor and credibility.

“The law is certain that there is no other evidence other than admission in the commission of an offence,” Justice Ojo stated. “The appellant’s actions on April 19, 2021, were not a theatrical performance but a real and personal encounter with the victim.”

The court affirmed Baba Ijesha’s conviction for indecent treatment of a child and sexual assault, noting that his actions violated Section 135 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2015. The judge also dismissed the appellant’s claim of merely acting out a script, asserting that the victim’s testimony and evidence indicated a genuine attempt to distance herself from Baba Ijesha during the assault.

The Appeal Court ordered that Baba Ijesha’s five-year imprisonment sentence for indecent treatment of a child and three-year sentence for sexual assault run concurrently. The court also upheld the trial court’s decision, rejecting any interference with its findings.

Baba Ijesha was initially prosecuted by the Lagos State Government on a six-count charge, including indecent treatment of a child, sexual assault, attempted sexual assault by penetration, and sexual assault by penetration. On July 14, 2022, Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo (rtd) of the Ikeja Domestic Violence and Sexual Offences Court sentenced Baba Ijesha to five years in prison.

This ruling by the Court of Appeal reaffirms the commitment of the judiciary to upholding justice and protecting the rights of minors against sexual predators.

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