Explainer: What Nigerian Laws Say About Revenge And Child Porn

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These days, it’s become fairly common to see revenge porn or explicit pictures and videos of children circulating online. The latest case is a viral Twitter post on the 9th of May alleging the existence of a group chat on Telegram where boys share explicit images of girls. Following the post, graphic screenshots from the alleged group quickly surfaced. In the past, we have had similar incidents like the leaked explicit video involving Afrobeats singer Tiwa Savage and a 300 level Babcock female student, who was a victim of revenge porn which led to her expulsion from the institution. Like the latter, the focus and the consequences usually fall on the victims rather than the perpetrators whenever these cases pop up. What the perpetrators often fail to realize is that there are laws to protect the victims and punish the people responsible for revenge pornography. Here is a look at the Nigerian laws on revenge and child porn;

What Does The Law Say About Revenge Porn?

For context, revenge porn means sharing obscene images or videos of another person online without their consent to embarrass or blackmail them. People, usually scorned, vengeful lovers, engage in revenge porn to teach the victim a lesson or to ruin their reputation. The perpetrator is aware of the damage and embarrassment of leaking someone’s nudes and takes advantage of it. In a nutshell, the victim is faced with a dilemma. They are stuck between fulfilling the desires of the perpetrator or being embarrassed publicly. In Tiwa Savage’s case, she mentioned during an interview that she was being blackmailed and instead of making payment which would have kept recurring, she chose not to.

Legally, revenge porn is a cybercrime according to the Cybercrime Prohibition and Prevention Act Section 23 approved by the former President, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Section 24 of the 2015 Cybercrime Prohibition and Prevention Act prohibits the illegal sharing of explicit content, with the offence punishable by a maximum of 3 years imprisonment or the perpetrator paying a fine of N7,000,000. The law reads;

Any person who knowingly or intentionally sends a message or other matter by means of computer systems or networks 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) he knows to be false, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, ill will or needless anxiety to another or causes such a message to be sent: 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.

Before this, there was the Criminal Code Act 2004 which made some provisions for revenge porn in Section 170 which states;

Any person who knowingly sends, or attempts to send, by post anything which;

(a)  encloses anything, whether living or inanimate, of such a nature as to be likely to injure any other thing in the course of conveyance, or to injure any person; or

(b) encloses an indecent or obscene print, painting, photograph, lithograph, engraving, book, card, or article, or which has on it, or in it, or on its cover, any indecent, obscene, or grossly offensive words, marks, or designs; 

is guilty of a misdemeanor and is liable to imprisonment for one year.

While the law is a good thing, it is quite flawed. The law prohibits people from distributing revenge porn and not people in possession of the illegal content. The law is only limited to the internet and does not cover revenge porn outside of the internet. Despite the loopholes, the law is still the best weapon for victims of revenge porn. While it can be scary to risk further embarrassment by reporting to the authorities, this is the right move to make because you have the law on your side.  

The Law On Child Pornography

On the 18th of April, there was a sex tape scandal involving students of the Chrisland School in Lagos State. This is a classic case of child pornography covered under the Cybercrime Prohibition and Prevention Act 2015 which prohibits creating, obtaining, sharing, and owning any child pornographic content. The offense is punishable by 10 years imprisonment or a fine of at least N20 million or both, depending on the nature of the offense and the act carried out by the accused persons. 

Child pornography is also covered under the Child Rights Act; federal legislation in Nigeria that authorizes each state to make equivalent rulings. Under this Act, the prescribed punishment for this offense states; “A person who contravenes the provisions of subsection (1) of this Section commits an offense and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of ten years.” Unlike several International laws that expressly criminalize and prohibit child pornography, Nigeria’s Child Rights Act merely prohibits the involvement of children in pornography.  While some states have enacted laws to follow the Act adopted in 2003 to safeguard and defend children below the age of 18, others have not. Many Northern states have refused to domesticate the Act in their states due to several reasons one of which is child marriage which is prohibited by the Act. About 11 states in Nigeria have rejected the formulation of Child’s Right Laws. 

To make up for the loopholes, a Member of the National House of Representatives, Hon. Charles Uduyok advocated for the Internet Child Pornography Prevention Bill. The bill was first studied in the House of Representatives on July 10, 2019. It was introduced to curb the use of the Internet to show, amplify, report or encourage indulgence in illegitimate sexual conduct involving people less than 18 years. Furthermore, the bill permits a mutual accord between the communication minister and any external state that would promote the distribution of information and assistance to stop the circulation of explicit images involving minors online. The bill declares that Internet Service Providers (ISP) authorized by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) are not permitted to utilize its resources irrespective of the method to circulate, view, read, copy or obtain explicit content concerning people below the prescribed age bracket.

Despite the law, many people guilty of sharing explicit content with minors are yet to face the repercussions of their actions.  Speaking with Culture Custodian on the Chrisland scandal, Lawyer Olamide Shaba says; “We have some laws in Nigeria that are not being enforced which I will call silent laws. We have many silent laws in Nigeria because with this incident, lots of people posted the video with impunity and to date, no petition, arrest or possible persecution has been made. As well as the viral video, so many people have posted several things similar to that a couple of times and they are free to date. What is the essence of a law that’s not being enforced?. The law is totally ineffective because laws are meant to be obeyed and whoever breaches the law is supposed to face the wrath of the law.”

Shaba concludes with this;

“People are not aware of the law that’s why they tend to violate the law but generally in law, there is a saying that “ignorance of the law is not an excuse”. Whether you are aware of the law or not, your ignorance of the law is not a defence or an excuse. Also everyone is bound by the law”.

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