The embattled ex-beauty queen and Nollywood actress, Ibinabo Fiberesima, on Thursday got temporary relief, when the Court of Appeal in Lagos granted her bail pending the determination of her appeal at the Supreme Court following the five-year imprisonment slammed on her for manslaughter.
The appellate court, in a two-to-one split judgment, decided that Ibinabo’s application for bail had merit. Justice Samuel Oseji, who read the lead judgment, granted her N2 million bail with two sureties in like sum. The court said the two sureties must be resident in Lagos and must each swear to an affidavit of means. Justice Oseji said he was inclined to exercise discretion in Ibinabo’s favour in view of her health and because there was no record that she had jumped bail in the past.
The judge said it would amount to injustice if after the Nollywood actress had been kept in prison and the Supreme Court later, after about three to four years, decides that the five-year jail term imposed on her should be set aside. Justice Sidi Bage, who presided over the proceedings, aligned himself with the lead judgment but the third member of the panel, Justice Y.B. Nimpar, dissented.
Justice Nimpar said the ill health, as reason upon which Ibinabo anchored her application for bail was untenable. The judge noted that there was no record before the court that Ibinabo had suffered any complication since February when she underwent surgery for breast cancer and April when she brought her application for bail.
Besides, Justice Nimpar said there are adequate medical facilities in the prison to cater for her health needs, adding that the prison hospital could also give her referral for consultancy in the event that she has any condition that could not be taken care of by the prison hospital.
“The surgery was uneventful. The surgery was done in February, now we are here in April and there is no complication.
“The applicant is already convicted and presumption of innocence is no longer available.I personally will not exercise discretion in favour of the applicant,” Justice Nimpar held.
In support of Ibinabo’s bail application filed through her lawyer, Nnaemeka Amaechina, one Victor Eden had deposed to a six-paragraph affidavit stating that Ibinabo recently had a surgical operation for breast cancer.
Eden said in the affidavit that Ibinabo was afraid that her life might be endangered if kept in prison custody.
He had urged the court to grant her bail in the interest of justice.
He said it would best serve the interest of justice to release Ibinabo on bail while the Supreme Court’s decision in her case was being awaited.
Surprisingly, the Lagos State Government, which is prosecuting her, did not oppose the application but asked the court to use its discretion.
The state, represented by Mrs. Rotimi Odutola, held that the concern of the state was the pursuit of the appeal filed by the convict.
She said the basis of the appeal was not on whether Ibinabo was guilty or not, adding that the actress did not dispute her conviction but only appealed the sentence.
Justice Deborah Oluwayemi of the state High Court had in 2009 convicted Ibinabo for manslaughter, submitting that her reckless driving was responsible for an auto crash, which claimed the life of one Dr. Giwa Suraj on the Lekki-Epe expressway.
While sentencing Ibinabo to five years imprisonment, Justice Oluwayemi overruled the decision of the state Magistrates’ Court which had earlier ordered her to pay N100,000 for the offence.
The verdict of the Magistrates’ Court had angered the Lagos State Government, which expressed serious outrage and decided to appeal at the state High Court.
Dissatisfied with Justice Oluwayemi’s verdict, the convict approached the Court of Appeal to nullify the verdict but the court also affirmed it, compelling the embattled Nollywood actress to approach the Supreme Court. The matter is pending before the court.