The 48-year-old actor, whose real name is Olarenwaju James, was arrested by the Lagos police on April 22, after Princess Adekola Adekanya had reported a case of defilement at Sabo police station. He was thereafter transferred to the gender unit of the state CID, Panti, Yaba for proper investigation.
There was however intense criticism from Nigerians on social media after it was rumoured that he could be released from police custody on Friday.
The backlash was further provoked by a comment from a senior police officer that the CCTV footage which led to the actor’s arrest didn’t establish that he indeed defiled the minor as alleged.
Citing the footage, the officer had argued that the case was that of “indecent sexual harassment” which is subject to bail.
The officer’s statement, however, didn’t go down well with many Nigerians including Iyabo Ojo, Nollywood actor, and Princess, the minor’s foster mother, who protested against the rumoured plan to release their colleague.
This was at about the same time when a video had surfaced in which Baba Ijesha pleaded for forgiveness while confessing to molesting the minor both when she was seven and 14.
Baba Ijesha’s plea would infuriate Abike Dabiri, the chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), who demanded that the actor be “taken to court, fully tried, and handed the maximum sentence”.
“His plea begging on some video I watched should not be acceptable,” she had added.
But Hakeem Odumosu, Lagos police commissioner, pointed out that the actor’s case is that of sexual assault and not rape.
The commissioner added that while the sexual assault offence is bailable, Baba Ijesha would remain in custody pending legal advice from the ministry of justice.
With much already said in the court of public opinion on the Baba Ijesha saga, the question now is what the law of the land says about cases of sexual offences.
What is the position of the law?
Section 260 of the Criminal Law of Lagos state talks about rape as a sexual offence. Section 260(1) defines rape as “any man who has unlawful sexual intercourse with a woman or girl without her consent, commits the offence of rape and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.”
Section 260(2) of the law explains that “a woman or girl does not consent to sexual intercourse if she submits to the act by reason of force, impersonation, threat or intimidation of any kind, fear of harm or false or fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act.”
In 260(3), the law states that “sexual intercourse is complete on the slightest penetration of the vagina.”
In the same vein, section 261 of the law, which talks about sexual assault by penetration, states that “any person who penetrates sexually, the anus, vagina, mouth or any other opening in the body of another person with a part of his body or anything else, without the consent of the person commits a felony and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.”
Section 262 of the law defines what constitutes an attempt to commit rape and sexual assault by penetration as “any person who attempts to commit the offence of rape or sexual assault by penetration commits a felony and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for fourteen (14) years.”
Section 263 examines sexual assault. According to section 263 (1), “any person who sexually touches another person without his consent commits a felony and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for three (3) years.”
Section 263(2) explains that “touching may be done with any part of the body or with anything else.”
Section 264 of the law addresses sexual harassment. According to section 264(1), “any person who sexually harasses another commits a felony and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for three (3) years.”
Section 264(2) provides that “sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favours, and other visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which when submitted to or rejected—
“(a) implicitly or explicitly affects a person’s employment or educational opportunity or unreasonably interferes with the person’s work or educational performance;
“(b) implicitly or explicitly suggests that submission to or rejection of the conduct will be a factor in academic or employment decisions; or
“(c) creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive learning or working environment.”
Section 265 of the law examines punishment for causing a person to engage in sexual activity without consent.
According to 265(1), “any person who causes another to engage in a sexual activity without that other person’s consent commits a felony and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for five (5) years.”
Section 265(2) also states that “where the sexual activity caused involved sexual penetration, the offender commits a felony and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.”
Section 266 of the law explains the meaning of consent. According to section 266(1) “… a person consents if he agrees by choice and has the freedom and capacity to make and communicate that choice.”
Section 266(2), however, states that “in determining whether a person charged had reasonable grounds for believing that another person consented, the court shall have regard to all the circumstances, including any steps taken by the defendant to ascertain whether the woman or girl consented.”
Section 31 of the Lagos state Child Rights Act also puts the age of consent at 18 and stipulates punishment for unlawful sexual intercourse with a child.
“(1) No person shall have sexual intercourse with a child.
(2) A person who contravenes the provision of subsection (1) of this section commits an offence of rape and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for life,” it reads.
“(3) Where a person is charged with an offence under this section, it is immaterial that‐
(a) the offender believed the person to be of or above the age of eighteen years; or
(b) the sexual intercourse was with the consent of the child.”
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