It was the beginning of the trial for a Nollywood actor Omiyinka Olanrewaju popularly known as Baba Ijesha as a Yaba Chief Magistrate Court Wednesday denied him bail, on the ground that the case has already being filed before the Lagos State High Court.
With this, the stage is set for his trial before a judge on alleged child molestation charges.
The court’s decision followed Baba Ijesha’s arraignment by the police and his not guilty plea to a five-count charge bothering on the offences.
The offences are indecent treatment of a child, defilement of a child, attempted sexual assault by penetration, attempted sexual assault by penetration, and sexual assault.
According to the Lahos State Criminal Laws, defilement and sexual assault by penetration carry life imprisonment while three other counts attract seven, three and 14 years imprisonment respectively, under sections 135, 137, 261, 262 and 263 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.
Mr P.E Nwaka, before whom the actor was arraigned, turned down Baba Ijesha’s application for bail on the ground of lack of jurisdiction, noting that the same charges were already before a Lagos State High Court.
Superior courts in Lagos have primacy of jurisdiction over sexual and other serious offences such as armed robbery or other offences carrying life sentences or the death penalty.
As such, magistrates’ courts are required to transfer such cases to high courts for trial, if the Lagos State Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP)’s report indicates a prima facie case against the suspect, like it did against Baba Ijesha on May 4, 2021.
The Yoruba movie star was arrested and detained by the police after he was alleged to have sexually molested a minor at 7 and again at 14.
He was later granted bail on May 17 — after spending about 25 days in police detention — by magistrates in charge of prison decongestion. But he has remained in police custody following his failure to meet the conditions.
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Baba Ijesha was brought into the court premises Wednesday around 12pm, limping.
According to the charge, the defendant committed the offences in 2013 and on April 19, 2021, at No. 13, Wegbo St., Iwaya, Lagos State.
The court heard that he allegedly sexually assaulted the minor in 2013 when she was seven years’ old by using his private part and a key to rub the private part of the minor.
It heard further that the defendant sexually assaulted the minor when she was 14 years’ old by touching all parts of her body indecently and having indecent deals with her that she could not legally consent to.
The actor, who kept bending in the witness box, pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Noticing his discomfort, Mr Nwaka asked: “Are you okay? Do you want to sit down? Give him a chair to sit on.”
Prosecution counsel S.A Adebesin informed the court that the DPP had already filed an information on the matter before the High Court.
Responding, the defendant’s counsel Mr Kayode Olabiran made a fresh application for his client’s bail.
Olabiran said: “On May 17, the Ministry of Justice, the Judiciary, the NBA and the police took an initiative to decongest jam-packed cells across the state.
“My client was one of the beneficiaries, and the conditions given are two sureties, one must be a blood relation and another surety not less than level 16 in the Lagos state government civil service.
“The elder brother to the defendant has appeared as a surety and we have paid the N500, 000 bail bond to the account of the Lagos State government but we have not been able to get a level 16 officer to stand as surety….
“The level 16 officers are afraid of being issued a query and a level 16 is an Assistant Director and upward; they are scarce commodities. We are applying for bail on a compassionate ground and in the interest of justice.”
He said: “I have carefully considered the application of the counsel to the defendant seeking bail for the defendant and the opposition by the counsel from the DPP.
“Since there are indications that the matter is before the high court and the defendant will appear before the court, no bail can be given.
“The defendant must be accorded full medical attention by the authorities pending his arraignment at the high court,” the magistrate said.
Mr Nwaka adjourned the matter till July 13 for mention.
A source in the Ministry of Justice, who spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the file is already before the high court.
“We are only waiting for the case to be transferred so that we can know the exact judge that will handle the matter,” the source said.