Stanley Alieke, Esq.
There have been numerous cases recently in Nigeria where persons become victims of losing their private videos and pictures to cyber criminals and the private contents getting leaked in the internet space without their approval or consent and it now seem that the order of the day is sextortion ie, obtaining or having someone’s nude or private videos or pictures and threatening to spread it across the internet if the victim refuses to agree to terms which is usually monetary terms or extortion. The negative impact of leaked sex tapes and nudes are always huge on the victim’s life and most times, the victim end up not recovering from the blow and the individual risk losing everything he/she have built and ever worked for.
In November 2019, a female student of a tertiary institution in Nigeria became a hot topic and trend across the internet platforms when her sex video got leaked and made its way to the internet. She lost her studentship as she was rusticated from the school which was a way of the management of the institution disassociating themselves from her. She didn’t just lose her public face, she also lost her family and friends as nobody ever wanted to Identify with her anymore, she lost almost everything she worked for as she was forced to start life afresh.
Recently, a popular female Nigerian pop star, was on the news that a cyber bully got a hold of her private intimate video where she was making out with her spouse and threatened to leak it to the internet if she didn’t pay the money she’s been asked of. She stood her grounds and refused to succumb to the threats of the sextionist, unfortunately the sex tape was released and it has been blazing through the internet like a wild fire.
We can’t pretend that this scandal won’t have a negative impact on the lovable singer’s career and reputation as she risks losing business partners, friends, fans, followers, business deals, contracts and even endorsement deals as most endorsement deals and brand ambassadorships come with moral and decency clauses that give the company right to exit the contract if the celebrity gets involved in any scandal that could tarnish the company’s reputation by mere associating themselves with the celebrity.
It won’t be far from the truth to say that the question bugging everyones’ mind at the moment is; ”is there no law in Nigeria put in place against this kinds of act of obtaining and leaking peoples’ nudes or sex tape without their consents, sextortion, cyberstalking and cyber bullying, voyeurism, unlawful surveillance, violation of person’s privacy and invasion of one’s privacy etc?”
It is pertinent to note that although there’s a need for more legislations on issues like this but there are existing laws already in place covering issues of this nature; The criminal Code Act and the cybercrime Act of 2015 will be of interest to us here.
Chapter 33 of the criminal code Act makes provision for the offense of defamation of ones character and clearly states that defamatory matters are matters that are likely to injure one’s reputation and the defamator risk going to jail for this.
S.373 of the Criminal Code Act which is titled; defamation of character reads thus;
Defamatory matter is matter likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing him to hatred, contempt, or ridicule, or likely to damage any person in his profession or trade by any injury to his reputation.
S. 374 of the Criminal Code Act further provides;
(1) For the purposes of this Code, the publication of defamatory matter is?
(b) ….the exhibiting of it in public, or causing it to be read or seen, or showing or delivering it, or causing it to be shown or delivered, with intent that it may be read or seen by the person defamed or by any other person.
Furthermore, S. 375 of the Criminal Code Act provides;
Subject to the provisions of this Chapter, any person who publishes any defamatory matter, is guilty of a misdemeanor and is liable to imprisonment for one year; and any person who publishes any defamatory matter knowing it to be false, is liable to imprisonment for two years.
Finally, S. 376 of the Act provides;
Any person who publishes, or threatens to publish, or offers to abstain from publishing, or offers to prevent the publication of defamatory matter, with intent to extort money or other property, or with intent to induce any person to give, confer, procure, or attempt to procure, to, upon, or for, any person, any property or benefit of any kind, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for seven years.
These provisions of the Criminal code of chapter 33, specifically from s.373 to s.376 provides for punishment of 1-2 years for the offense of defamation while sextortion or publication of defamatory matter with the intent to extort the victim carry a punishment of up to 7 years.
The provisions of the criminal code act was reemphasized in the cybercrime act of 2015 and we will be highlighting the specific sections of the cybercrime act:
S.23 (2) Cybercrime Act of 2015 states;
Any person who knowingly makes or sends other pornographic images to another computer by way of unsolicited distribution shall be guilty of an offence and upon conviction shall be sentenced to One year imprisonment or a fine of Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira or both. Also, S. 24. Of the Cybercrime Act further provides;
Any person who knowingly or intentionally sends a message or other matter by means of computer systems or network that –
(a) is grossly offensive, pornographic or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character or causes any such message or matter to be so sent; or
(b)…commits an offence under this Act and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of not more than N7,000,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of not more than 3 years or to both such fine and imprisonment.
These legislations have been judicially noticed in a recent case; suit number: MCI/2C/2012 where a boy of 20 years got hold of private pictures and videos of a well known public officer in Imo state, a state in Eastern part of Nigeria and was using the said private pictures to extort the man, the cyberbully was arrested and charged to court. The magistrate court sentenced him to 1 year imprisonment in accordance to s.373 to s.376 of the Criminal code Act and sections 23 & 24 of the cybercrime act 2015 both applicable in Imo state, Nigeria. The presiding magistrate while sentencing the accused was heard to have said; ‘this would serve as a deterrent to other people who may be threading on such dastard path’.
While we agree that due to recent cases of obtaining and leaking of people nudes and sex tapes, cyberbullying/ cyber stalking, invasion of privacy, sextortion, voyeursim etc, there’s a need for more encompassing laws on these issues with more stiffer punishments but individuals shouldn’t be ignorant of the fact that acts like this is not just a civil wrong but also a crime and the criminal risks a jail term of 1-7 years and when it involves an infant or a person who is under age, the punishment is more stiffer as the offender risks getting jailed for a term of 5- 10 years or N10-N20 million naira fine or even both the prison terms and the fine as it was clearly provided S.23 of the cyber crime act, 2015.