It was Shylock in Williams Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Vernice” who made the famous poser, “is that the law?” Following the public outcry against the planned release of Baba Ijesha on bail, one is tempted to ask, “Is that the law?” Or the question can be put across succinctly, “on whose side is the law?”
The Yoruba actor is set to be released on bail after his arrest for allegedly defiling a minor. A senior officer at the Lagos State Police Command confirmed that an order had been given to secure Baba Ijesha’s release from custody.
Although the case of defilement was reported by Princess Adekola Adekanya at Sabo Police Station, Yaba, Lagos, Baba Ijesha is set to be granted bail on grounds that what was carried out was sexual assault and not defilement. And sexual assault by law is a bailable offence.
According to the senior police officer, “There was no case of defilement. People are just talking out of sentiment. They are not talking from the point of law. We interviewed all parties involved in the case for three hours.
“The mother complained that her child was at the age of seven when she was defiled and the child pointed at Baba Ijesha. But the case was not reported until she was 14 years and under the law, the case has become statute-barred.
“Regarding this new case, the CCTV footage has been assessed and nowhere was it captured that Baba Ijesha defiled her. The footage only showed him touching the victim’s body but it never showed him having any sexual intercourse with the girl. The girl also confirmed the same thing.
“So, in law, it is a case of indecent assault and not sexual harassment, and it is open to bail. So, can we continue to keep him when the offence is subject to bail and when there is no court sitting? That is against his fundamental human rights and the police do not work on sentiments. Directives have been given out for his release on bail.”
The source added that “A test was recently done on the victim and it was discovered that she had penetration. Is it the penetration of seven years that is still evident now, and who penetrated her then? Is there any medical report linking the man (Omiyinka) to the crime?
“The CCTV footage never showed Baba Ijesha defiling her, but he confessed to touching her body indecently and apologised, and the girl confirmed the same.
“Investigation is still ongoing and we have instructed them to conduct a medical examination on the victim at a government recognised medical facility. We are not specialists in the field and we have also sought legal opinion from the Ministry of Justice.”
While Baba Ijesha deserves to be condemned for his sexual malfeasance, it is important to take out sentiments and approach the situation as it is. Punch has published the CCTV footage of the incident, and from what is seen, many observers believe it is a clear case of sexual assault. Stiffer measures should have been taken against the popular Yoruba actor to serve as a deterrent for others. Some months or even a year in prison should have been enough rather than a cheap bail, particularly for an offence that involved a minor.
The point however is that the law doesn’t give prejudice to who is right or wrong. It is who can build and defend a case that emerges victorious. This is the point the law becomes insufficient.
While it is important that objectivity guides the judgment on this controversial case, one must understand that the law is frail. Sometimes, it grants justice to the deserving. Other times, it is the opposite. Most rape cases regrettably are usually in the latter category.
Hence, where does the law stand if it cannot serve justice? Where does one begin to delineate between the law that was created to uphold justice, and that same law that can be upended to get a clear criminal acquittal or less punitive sanctions?
It is a well known fact in the legal field that the law relies on evidence to gain convictions.
Pieces of evidence are what make a case worthy. In other words, you need evidence to build a case, otherwise, it stands little or no chance in court. But where does justice stand when a lack of evidence can bring to a desultory end a criminal case that actually took place, granting victory to the offender, while making a fool of the plaintiff?
The victim stands little or no chance in getting justice if s/he has no evidence to proof let alone back it. Even when there is a piece of evidence, the whole thing is still subject to sound polemics. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you actually committed the crime or not, it all boils down to sound polemics. This was why George Flyod’s murderer had the temerity to go to court and still plead not guilty after the world witnessed live the knee slaughter.
In the case of Baba Ijesha, it didn’t matter that he had defiled the girl in question, while she was seven years. The reason being that it happened seven years ago and at the time it happened, it wasn’t reported. For what we equally do not know, the victim could have been dishonest in her claims. So, while trying to establish the truth, the law could bypass it. At the end of the day, we can only strive to be better people with or without the law. The law can only play its part, especially in a society where values and ethics are fast losing their pristine essence.