The sentencing of Nollywood actor, Olanrewaju James, popularly known as Baba Ijesha, to 16 years imprisonment for sexually assaulting a 14 year-old girl leaves a sour taste in the mouth. It is a case of abuse of public adulation for a celebrity to abuse a minor. Though we think only of political offices when we rail against impunity in high places, this is one of such. Regrettably, Baba Ijesha took advantage of the celebrity status he enjoys to abuse the trust that goes with it.

His conviction and sentencing to four years of imprisonment per each of the four counts, which will run concurrently,  serves to confirm that the law is no respecter of persons regardless of one’s social standing in the society. It also illustrates the potential dangers children are exposed to in the hands of devious celebrities. And because of social media and television, the young ones are unduly attracted to celebrities, regardless of their moral standing. Of course, we recognise that there are celebrities who deserve all the adulations and their social standing.

Thankfully, the Directorate of Public Prosecution, Ministry of Justice, Lagos State, was tenacious in the pursuit of justice for the young girl, even when there was an attempt to reduce the sad experience to a crude joke, including the attempt by the culprit to make light of it as if it never happened. We commend Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo for refusing to be distracted by the celebrity status of the culprit. Before her court, Baba Ijesha was charged with a six-count of child defilement that included indecent treatment of child, sexual assault, attempted sexual assault by penetration and sexual assault by penetration.

While the court convicted Baba Ijesha of indecent treatment of a child, sexual assault and attempted sexual assault, he was discharged and acquitted of the offences of sexual assault by penetration and attempted sexual assault by penetration. It is important to note that the improvements in the Lagos State sexual offences laws was helpful in the trial of the culprit. If it was under the old criminal laws, wherein sexual offences revolved only around rape, there would have been no conviction, without establishing penetration.

That undue restriction of what constitutes sexual offence to only rape, which requires the proof of penetration, has been the bane of the sexual offences laws in many other states, and such difficulty aids rapists to get away with ease.  So, the conviction of Baba Ijesha for other types of sexual offences should serve as an encouragement to other states to enact modern sexual offences laws. Of course, such modernisation should include modern Child Rights Laws.

It is only when there are laws to cover all manners of sexual-related offences and other types of abuses of children that we can lay claim to being a modern society.

The archaic reliance on the difficulty of proving penetration, and the usual absence of collaboration or medical evidence, which allows scores of rapists, child molesters and abuses to escape the arm of justice must stop. Again, the era of allowing families of victims to compromise rape related cases must stop, and police and public prosecutors should be trained on how to garner evidence and prosecute.

We hope the conviction of Baba Ijesha would put other child molesters on notice that there are consequences for such grave indulgence. It should also serve as notice to such persons that where the state is determined, such wickedness would attract due comeuppance. We urge for vigilance amongst parents on whom they entrust their children to, and they should not be swayed by glamour and make belief. After all, all that glitters is not gold.