Sexual Assault: Appeal Court Upholds Five-Year Jail Term Of Nollywood Actor Baba Ijesha

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The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos has upheld the decision of the Lagos State High Court, which sentenced Nollywood actor Olanrewaju James, popularly known as Baba Ijesha, to five years in prison for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old minor.

In its lead judgment, presided by Justice Folashade Ojo found the appellant, Baba Ijesha, guilty on counts 4 and 5, which involved indecently touching and sexually assaulting a minor. Justices Abdullahi Bayero and Paul Bassi concurred with this decision.

Recall that the Lagos State Government had charged Baba Ijesha with six counts, including indecent treatment of a child, sexual assault, attempted sexual assault by penetration, and sexual assault by penetration.

On July 14, 2022, the trial judge, Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo of the Ikeja Domestic Violence and Sexual Offences Court, sentenced Baba Ijesha to five years imprisonment.

The court found him guilty of offences committed between 2013 and 2014, contrary to Section 135 of the Lagos State Criminal Law 2015.

Dissatisfied with this verdict, Baba Ijesha’s counsel, Mr Kayode Olabiran, appealed, arguing the prosecution failed to prove the charges and claimed the appellant was merely acting a script.

However, Justice Ojo upheld the conviction for the 2021 incident, citing credible eyewitness testimony from Damilola Adekoya and Baba Ijesha’s voluntary confession. The appellant’s extra-judicial statements made at Sabo Police Station and the State Criminal Investigation Department were also tendered as evidence.

Ruling on the case, Justice Ojo said: “The law is certain that there is no other evidence other than admission in the commission of an offence. From the totality of the evidence of PW2, it can be safely inferred that as of the date of the victim’s testimony, she was at best 15 years old and a child by virtue of Section 261 of the Child’s Rights Law of Lagos State, 2015.

“It is significant to note that the appellant did not challenge PW2’s on the evidence she gave. It is in view of all these that I hold that the prosecution established that PW2, the victim of the offence was a child at the time of the alleged offences in 2021.

“I have carefully looked at the record and unable to agree with the appellant, that he was merely acting a script. The interaction between PW2 and the appellant on the 19th of April, 2021 was not a theatrical performance of make-believe but a personal encounter between the two of them.

“Moreover, PW2’s (victim) body language supported by her oral testimony and documentary evidence clearly shows that she attempted to distance herself from the appellant.

The most inference to draw from the appellant’s action in searching the entire house immediately after PW1 left with her visitors and sexually assaulting PW2 is that he intended to commit the offence, and did committed the offence.

“It’s trite that factual findings of the trial court involving the credibility of witnesses are accorded almost respect. Trial courts have the advantage of first-time observation, which allows them to assess witnesses’ demeanour and manner of testifying during the trial.

“On the event of April 19, 2021, it is my firm belief that the evidence of PW1 does not amount to hearsay, she was an eye witness. My conclusion is that the evidence presented by the prosecution before the trial court on the offence of indecent treatment of a child, and sexual assault committed by the appellant on the 19th of April 2021 is compelling and sufficient to justify the appellant’s conviction.

“In conclusion, I have no hesitation in affirming the appellant’s conviction for the indecent treatment of a child, and sexual assault.

The appellant indecently touched PW2’s body in a sexual manner, in violation of Section 135 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2015. His actions constitute sexual assault against PW2.

“I am of the view that the respondent discharges the burden proving its case beyond reasonable doubt against the appellant on the allegations of April 19, 2021, and I so hold. I have no reason to interfere with the findings of the trial court on the event of April 19, 2021. In all, I hold that this appeal succeeds in part and it accordingly allowed in part.

“The appellant’s conviction, and sentence to five years imprisonment for the offence of indecently touching of a child contrary to Section 135 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State 2011 (count 2 of the charge) is set aside.

“The appellant’s conviction of three years imprisonment for the offence of sexual assault of a child contrary to section 261 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State 2011 (count 3 of the charge) is set aside.

“I affirm the conviction and sentence of the appellant to five years imprisonment for the offence of indecent treatment of a child contrary to section 135 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State 2015 (count 4 of the charge)

“The appellant’s conviction and sentence to 3 years imprisonment for sexual assault contrary to section 263 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State 2011 (count 5 of the information) is also affirmed. The sentences for counts 4 and 5 are to run concurrently”.