The judgment of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Wednesday, August 2, 2023, sentencing a TikToker identified as Okoye Blessing Nwakaego, to three years imprisonment or a fine of one hundred and fifty thousand naira only for cyberstalking Nollywood actress Eniola Badmus through a social media app, TikTok, sheds light on the significance of upholding online safety and holding individuals accountable for their actions in the digital realm. The prevalence of social media in today’s world as a platform for communication and sharing ideas has also come with attendant side effects which range from cyberbullying to sharing false information and stalking. This has necessitated the need for institutions like the courts to enforce our laws to curb incidents that do not allow for the smooth flow of information and communication around the media space. This review aims to analyze the court’s decision on Okoye Blessing’s case and its implications for combating cyberstalking and protecting individuals from online harassment.
Summary of the Case:
The case revolved around a TikToker identified as Okoye Blessing Nwakaego, who engaged in cyberstalking activities against Eniola Badmus, a well-known personality. The accused repeatedly targeted Badmus by posting offensive and defamatory content, spreading false information, and threatening her through various social media platforms. Badmus, rightfully concerned about her safety and reputation, decided to take legal action against the perpetrator.
The two-count charge preferred against Okoye Blessing and one Chimabia ( now at large) read as follows:
COUNT 1; That you, Okoye Blessing Nwakaego ‘f’, and, one Chimabia now at large, between December 2022 to July 2023, in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of the Honourable Court, did conspire with one Chimabia (surname unknown) to commit felony to wit: cyberstalking and thereby committed an offense punishable under Section 27 of the Cybercrimes (prohibition, prevention, ETC) Act, 2015.
COUNT 2; That you, Okoye Blessing Nwakaego ‘f and one Chimabia now at large, between December 2022 to July 2023, in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of the Honourable Court, did knowingly cause the transmission of communication via Tiktok, gossip mill tv, remedy blog, and other social media network, with your mobile line no. 09125225742 which is grossly offensive, false, and to cause annoyance, inconvenience danger, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, and needless anxiety to the prejudice of one Eniola Badmus and thereby committed an offense punishable under Section 24(1)(b)(2)(a)(c) of the Cybercrimes (prohibition, prevention, ETC) Act, 2015.
The Court’s Judgment:
The Court per Justice Nicholas Oweibo, after carefully examining the evidence, and considering the gravity of the offense, delivered a judgment in favor of Eniola Badmus. The accused was found guilty of cyberstalking and was subsequently sentenced to 3 years imprisonment or a fine of N150,000. This decision of the court was reached after the convict pleaded guilty to the two counts charge and an allocutus was made seeking the court to temper justice with mercy because the convict is a first-time offender
The court’s decision sends a strong message that cyberstalking and online harassment will not be tolerated, and those responsible will be held accountable for their actions.
Importance of the Judgment:
The judgment in this case holds tremendous significance in several ways. Firstly, it reaffirms society’s commitment to safeguarding the well-being of individuals in the digital space. Cyberstalking is a pervasive issue that has profound psychological and emotional consequences for victims. By penalizing the offender, the court has taken a firm stance against such behavior, emphasizing that everyone deserves a safe online environment.
Secondly, the judgment serves as a deterrent to potential cyberstalkers and individuals engaging in online harassment. It sends a clear signal that harmful actions on social media platforms will face severe legal repercussions. This judgement serves to protect not only public figures like Eniola Badmus but also ordinary individuals who may be vulnerable to online abuse.
Furthermore, the court’s decision highlights the importance of digital literacy and responsible online behavior. It emphasizes the need for individuals to understand the boundaries of acceptable conduct in the online realm and the potential consequences of crossing those boundaries. This judgement serves as a reminder that freedom of expression should not be misused to harm or harass others.
The court’s judgment on the cyberstalking case against TikToker targeting Eniola Badmus is a significant step forward in ensuring online safety and protecting individuals from harassment. By holding the offender accountable for their actions, the court has reaffirmed the importance of maintaining a respectful and secure digital environment. This judgement not only provides justice to the victim but also serves as a deterrent to potential cyberstalkers, fostering a safer and more inclusive online community for all.