The Sexual Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos has fixed February 17 for Nollywood actor, Olanrewaju James, popularly known as Baba Ijesha, to open his defence over allegations of defiling a minor.
Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo, the trial judge, fixed the date on Wednesday following the submission by the defendant’s counsel, Dotun Ajulo, who asked the court to grant a short adjournment date as the senior lawyers in the case, Babatunde Ogala and Dada Awosika, were indisposed and unavailable.
Baba Ijesha is facing six counts bordering on the indecent treatment of a child, sexual assault, attempted sexual assault by penetration, and sexual assault by penetration.
He had pleaded not guilty to all the counts when he was arraigned on June 24 last year.
When the case was called on Wednesday, Ajulo told the court that though the proceedings were scheduled for adoption of the address of a ‘no-case submission’, the defendant had decided to enter a defence.
“The defendant has decided to defend the matter properly, so we didn’t bother to file a no-case submission again,” he said.
In view of this development, the lawyer asked the court to grant a short adjournment, especially because he was quite new to the matter and both senior advocates representing the defendant were not in court.
He added, “Although Babatunde Ogala had informed Mr Awosika that he will not be in court today, Mr Awosika is himself indisposed; he didn’t know that he will not be in court. We apologise to the court for the inconvenience.”
The new Lagos State Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Dr Jide Martins, who had himself just come into the matter following the elevation of the previous DPP, objected to the request for an adjournment.
“The excuse is quite unfortunate,” he said. “There is nothing in our law for conditional appearance.
“He should go ahead and enter his defence. I urge the court to request him to start his case. It’s been over one month since this case was adjourned.”
After listening to both parties, Justice Taiwo agreed that Ajulo had never appeared on the matter.
She stated that the DPP was also new to the matter as the previous DPP, Mrs Olayinka Adeyemi, had been elevated and appointed a judge of the Lagos State High Court.
“I grant the indulgence of the defendant as the senior advocates have always appeared in court,” the judge said. “We cannot drag this matter. If they are not in court at the next adjourned date, we will just have to proceed.”
In response to the court’s enquiries, the defence counsel gave an indication that it intended to call only the defendant as its defence witness.
The court then adjourned till February 17 and 18, for the defendant to open his defence.