I signed my confessional statement under duress, Baba Ijesha tells court
Nollywood actor, James Olanrewaju, also known as Baba Ijesha, has denied his confessional statement in the child defilement case brought against him by the Lagos State government.
Olanrewaju told Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo of the Lagos Special Sexual Offences Court, Ikeja, during his trial-within-trial that he signed the statement under duress.
He said he was beaten with a stick, forced to sit on the floor and to sign the statement.
He told the court that everything in the statement was dictated to the police by the complainant, Ms Damilola Adekola a.k.a Princess.
Led in evidence by his counsel, Mr. Dada Awosika (SAN) during a trial-within-trial to determine the voluntariness of his statement, he said: “My cloth was torn; I was forced to sit on the ground. My body was shaking. They showed me the statement; I did not volunteer the statement. I was just asked to sign it. Princess dictated everything to them.”
He further told the court that when Inspector Oname Abigail arrived Princess’ house on April 19, the day he was arrested, the complainant hid some boys who were beating him inside a room before allowing him to come inside.
Baba Ijesha said that when he was led outside, some boys again came and beat him until he was rescued by some police officers who took him on a bike to Sabo Divisional Police Headquarters and locked him up in a cell after they had removed the handcuffs on his hand.
When he was cross-examined by the prosecuting counsel, Yusuf Sule, Baba Ijesha insisted he did not volunteer the statement, insisting that the content was dictated to the police by the complainant.
He also denied knowledge of the current residence of the complainant, saying he knew only her former residence.
The defendant, however, owned up to the names of his father, mother, primary and secondary schools attended, his age, dropping out of the University of Lagos, Akoka, when he could no longer cope with a course he was studying.
He failed to respond when confronted by the prosecution that the IPO could not have known his details if he did not volunteer any information to her.
Earlier, Inspector Abigail, under examination by Awosika, said the defendant freely volunteered his statement and that it was made without duress.
Abigail told the court that she read cautionary words to Baba Ijesha and that he told her he understood English and everything she read to him.
“The defendant was shaking when I was about to take his statement. I offered him a chair to sit in to relax him but he said he preferred sitting on the floor to enable him to stretch out his legs.
“I calmed him down and told him he has to write his statement. I asked him questions in English and he responded to all of them in English. He requested that I should help him to write his statement as he could not write because he was shaking,” Abigail said.
She further testified that “when we finished, I read the statement to him and he told me he understood everything after which he signed the statement.”
She said after taking the statement of both the complainant and defendant, she took both of them back to the Divisional Police Officer (DPO).
Earlier when the matter was called, Babatunde Ogala (SAN), also a counsel to the defendant, had objected to the admissibility of the confessional statement of Baba Ijesha.
Ogala told the court that he objected to the statement being admitted as evidence against the defendant on the grounds that it was not freely given.
The council told the court that the defendant was sitting on the floor, adding that the IPO failed to sign or disclose that she recorded it contrary to provisions of the Evidence Act.
He had therefore requested for a trial-within-trial to determine the voluntariness of the document.
It could be recalled that Baba Ijesha is facing a six-count charge bordering on allegations of indecent treatment of a child, sexual assault, attempted sexual assault by penetration and sexual assault by penetration brought against him by the state government.
He pleaded not guilty to the six-count charge.