Justice Adeyemi Fasanmi of the Ondo State High Court has rejected a request by a lawyer, Steve Adebowale, to bar journalists from covering the trial of two government officials alleged to have stolen a baby delivered by a mentally challenged woman, Deborah Iretioluwa Olorundare.
The government officials, Sarumi Adeyemi and Orisamehin Florence Bosede of the state Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development were arraigned on two count charges of conspiracy to commit felony and child stealing.
Adebowale who is Counsel to Sarumi had informed Justice Fasanmi that the defendants were subject to the scandal by the press alleging that they have been found culpable of the crime.
He queried why journalists brought cameras to cover the proceedings and asked the Judge if journalists had taken permission from the court.
He said, “The press cannot constitute itself to an alternative court. The defendants have been embarrassed.”
But in reply, Justice Fasanmi said journalists do not need permission to be present at any court proceeding.
Fasanmi noted that even at the Supreme Court, there are seats reserved for journalists known as ‘press gallery.’
He said that “This is a case that will deserve public attention. You cannot bar the press from the court.”
“If any press maligns your client, you can sue them. I cannot stop the press from coming to court.”
“I don’t have to know if the press is here. The court does not work on speculation. You have not directed my attention to any adverse publication on this case.”
However, the defendants however pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to them.
The Prosecuting Counsel, Bunmi Koyenikan, informed the court that three witnesses were present in court.
Koyenikan added that items requested by the defence Counsel are with him in court.
The Defence Counsel had requested for the report of the police and DSS that indicated prima facie case against the defendants, a list of documents and materials intended to be relied upon against the defendants and a statement of each and every witness which the prosecution intended to call or rely upon against the defendants.
Justice Fasanmi however granted the defendants bail to the sum of N1m and one surety in like sum who must be a civil servant from level the rank of level 13.
The trial judge gave the defendants one week to perfect their bail conditions and adjourned the case to January 18, 2022, for commencement of trial.
Counsel to Bosede, Victor Olatoyegun, pleaded with journalists not “to prejudge the defendants.
Olatoyegun said they should “present issues as they were without giving the impression that the defendants have been found guilty.
Recall that the prosecution had told the court that the mother of the child gave birth to the child on a street.
Koyenikan told the court that a Good Samaritans took the newly born baby to an orphanage in Ondo while the mother was taken to the State psychiatric hospital by officials of the Women Affairs Ministry who were contacted by the Good Samaritan.
The mother recovered from her insanity after four months and repeatedly demanded her child.
After her recovery and eventual discharge from the facility, the suspects had no option other than to present her with a baby due to pressure from family and the hospital.
A twist was introduced, when the mother rejected the imbecile baby boy brought to her and insisted that her baby was a girl.
The deal was exposed later and it was alleged that the original baby had been given to a couple desperately in need of a baby girl for adoption after payment of about a N1million.
@ Vanguard Newspaper