Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo of the Sexual Offences Court In Ikeja, Lagos has began a trial-within-trial to determine the voluntariness of a police statement purportedly made by Nollywood actor, Olanrewaju James alias Baba Ijesha on April 19.
He is standing trial for allegedly defiling a 14-year old girl in 2014 and assaulting her again this year.
Baba Ijesha is facing a six-count charge bordering on allegations of indecent treatment of a child, sexual assault and sexual assault by penetration, which He has pleaded not guilty to.
On Friday, the prosecution’s sixth witness, a police inspector, Abigail Omane, appeared to testify on her role in investigating the case.
Fielding questions from the prosecutor, Yusuf Sule, the witness with Force no. 175153 said she enlisted into the Nigeria Police Force on May 1, 2000 and is presently serving at zone 2, Onikan.
At the time of the defendant’s arrest, she was serving at the Sabo Divisional headquarters on the juvenile desk which attends to cases of child sexual abuse and domestic violence.
The witness said the DPO instructed her to take up a complaint against Baba ijesha at the address of the complainant, comedienne, Damilola Adekoya a.k.a. Princess.
Inspector Omane said she visited the Iwaya home and brought the accused person whose shirt was torn and the complainant to the police station.
There, she said both persons said they were too shaken to write their statements and she wrote it out for them.
“I wrote for the defendant under words of caution, I asked him to sit down but he said he was okay sitting on the floor as he needed to stretch his legs. he read the statement and signed it.
We all went back to the DPO’s office who instructed he be detained while the complainant was given a medical form to take to WARIF center.”
At this point, the prosecutor sought to tender the said statement as exhibit, having been identified by the witness.
But, lead defense counsel, Babatunde Ogala objected to the admissibility of the document saying it appears to be a confessional statement which was obtained under duress and that the officer didn’t sign or put her name or that of the recorder, as is required by law.
In her response, Justice Taiwo immediately ordered a trial within trial, thereby suspending the evidence-in-chief of the witness.
During the trial within trial, the prosecution presented its sole witness, Inspector Omane to testify. She said the statement was recorded
in a one room office and that the defendant was shivering.
“He turned down my request to sit down. I tried calming him down that it’s only a statement he wanted to write but he remained on the floor. I took both parties and the statements back to the dpo and he also told the DPO verbally all that was in his statement, which he also signed.”
During cross examination by co-lead defense counsel, Dada Awoshika (SAN), he asked her whether the defendant appeared deflated or humiliated when he was arrested.
He also asked her what she did further to prepare him for his statement.
“Is it the practice in the Force to take statements from a suspect by allowing him to seat on the floor?
What was the urgency in not allowing him to gather himself first before taking his statement his clothe was torn, who was teleguiding you?”
The witness replied that it was the DPO that ordered her to take the statements, upon the report of the sexual harassment case by one Mr Brown against Baba Ijesha.
“I asked the suspect why he is here, he replied.
He said he molested his friend’s daughter.
I asked for her name, he mentioned the name.
I asked for the age and name of the survivor, he told me. His being shaken didn’t affect his responses. I didn’t sign or write my name, but he did.”
The case is now stood down to enable the defendant present their witnesses on the trial-within-trial.