Popular Nollywood actor, Olanrewaju James, known by his stage name Baba Ijesha, has completed one year of his 16-year prison sentence.
His crime, child defilement, landed him in the Maximum Security Custodial Centre in Kirikiri, Lagos State.
Baba Ijesha was convicted and sentenced on July 14, 2022, for four of the six charges levelled against him, including indecent treatment of a child, sexual assault, attempted sexual assault by penetration, and sexual assault by penetration.
The actor was first arrested on April 22, 2021, and later appeared before Magistrate P.E. Nwaka of the Yaba Magistrate Court in Lagos on July 16, 2021.
Subsequently, he was charged in the Special Offences and Domestic Violence Court in Ikeja, where Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo delivered the final judgment.
She found the defendant guilty on four of the six counts, announcing, “The defendant is hereby sentenced to five years imprisonment for count two, three years for count three, five years for count four, and three years for count five.”
The high-profile case drew national attention and sparked controversy, dividing the entertainment industry. Some celebrities sided with comedian Princess Adekoya, the custodian of the child involved in the case.
In contrast, others expressed sympathy for Baba Ijesha.
Among those supporting Baba Ijesha were Yomi Fabiyi, Bukky Black, and Lege Miami, with Fabiyi claiming that the actor was ‘ambushed’ into the crime.
On the other hand, actresses Iyabo Ojo and Nkechi Blessing were among the strong supporters of Princess.
Fabiyi in an interview with Punch said, “First, it is difficult for me to deny knowing him. My non-governmental organisation decided to hear his side and do our own little investigation, and what we found out required us to give him a voice, as it looked like he was ‘ambushed into that misfortune’.
“There were too many questions begging for answers, as could be seen at the end of the trial, hence the appeal.”
Maintaining that he had been in constant communication with the beleaguered actor since he was committed to prison, Fabiyi said, “My first visit started from the second day he was sentenced to prison. I also ensure that I regularly communicate with him in prison.”
He added, “I am not in his shoes, but I am trying my best to keep his spirits high and get him not to think of suicide or any vendetta. When his father died (on May 13, 2023), it was a difficult moment.
“However, he is still bothered that the age of the girl was not proven with a birth certificate. The absence of some factors before a guilty verdict was passed gives him serious mental agony. He feels he has been unjustly punished.”