No crime was committed? Seriously?

Trust me, I truly don’t understand what many persons are saying about this.

Blessing went into a building that is not hers, snap pictures and made videos claiming the house belongs to her. The owner spoke from China that the house is his. Blessing didn’t keep quiet after the owner spoke, she came up again saying the man is talking bullshit and she even started showing everyone some documents to prove that the house is hers. Oga saw that water wan pass garri before his very eyes, he landed from China and called the police on Blessing.

And what are you are saying? That he is wrong? No crime was committed?

Some people are saying what she did is morally wrong and not legally wrong. Some said, yes, it was trespass, but it’s not a crime but a civil wrong. Oh spirit of Lord Denning, come and help us please.

Ladies and gentlemen, several crimes were committed by Blessing’s action. But I will focus on just two in this part and then one in the second part of the write up, to keep it short: criminal trespass and criminal defamation.

And yes, trespass can also be a crime. There are offences that can ground both civil and criminal liabilities or actions. That’s to say, such offences can be both civil and criminal offences or wrongs. In civil wrong, the individual will have to approach the court himself and seek redress; for criminal wrongs, the state, through a law enforcement agency like the police, will arrest the offender and prosecute him.

The aim of civil suits is usually to recover damages while that of criminal suits is to punish the offender, like sending him to jail.

Trespass and defamation are offences that can ground both civil and criminal liabilities or actions.

In the case of SPIESS v. ONI (2016) LPELR-40502(SC); the Supreme Court made some pronouncements on the OFFENCE OF CRIMINAL TRESPASS: What is criminal trespass; Ingredients of criminal trespass. The Supreme Court states inter alia that: “I deem it apt at this stage to reproduce the provisions of Section 342 of the Penal Code on which the appellant was tried, convicted and sentenced, which led to his appeals to the two Courts below and later to this Court. The said provisions read thus…”

So you see Section 342 of the Penal Code defines the offence of criminal trespass. The Blessing saga took place in Enugu, so the Penal Code doesn’t really apply there and I concede that I have not seen a similar provision in the Criminal Code yet. But I brought this up to put a lie to Reno Omokri saying trespass in NOT A CRIME AT ALL IN NIGERIA.

Now let’s look at Criminal Defamation.

Defamation is a civil wrong as well as a crime. The right to institute an action in court for defamation lies with the individual in the case of defamation as a civil wrong whereas in the case of defamation as a crime, the state prosecutes the offence.

Section 373 of the Criminal Code defines and states that 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 an injury to his reputation.

From the definition of Criminal Defamation above, it is clear that Blessing committed the offence of criminal defamation. Her action RIDICULED Onye Eze. Her action is capable of painting the man as a liar, scammer and fraud.

You have a house. Your friends and family know the house is yours. Then one day someone puts up pictures of the house claiming it is hers. Won’t you be shocked, angry and annoyed? When your friends start calling you and saying things like “I thought you said that house is your own na…”, won’t you feel ridiculed and embarrassed? That right there is Criminal Defamation according to section 373 of the Criminal Code.

Somebody has already produced documents to show she owns the house. What can be more embarrassing to the owner? Someone was even saying she has not used the documents to defraud anyone so she has not committed any crime. How simplistic.

Let’s bring this home.

If someone puts up the pictures of your children and says they are his. What will you do? Even if you laugh at first and try to dismiss it and even say something like “they are with me at home. That guy is mad”; what will you do if the man responds by uploading their purported birth certificates, school fees payment receipts and international passports? Will you still laugh it off? Don’t you think many persons will start wondering if you are not the one that stole the children?

What if someone puts up the picture of your husband or wife with the caption “My Hubby of Life”? And then later upload a marriage certificate? You will do nothing right and allow people to start wondering whether you are living with someone else’s partner? Can you live with such ridicule and defamation of your character?

So if someone uploads your car with the plate number and claim it is his, you will do nothing? Wow. Don’t you know that many persons will be seeing that car for the first time not with you but the pictures uploaded? Can you withstand the ridicule of driving your car and getting people to wonder if you stole or borrowed it?

Most of us will act like Onye Eze; we are just pretending now because the burial is far from home. Even if you think you won’t act like Eze, stop making it look as if his actions are not backed by law. Blessing committed criminal defamation (and criminal trespass if she were to be in the North where the Penal Code applies) and by law she can be arrested and prosecuted.

Is it right to have handcuffed her and made her sit on the bare floor? There was absolutely no need for that. The Nigerian Police was just being the Nigerian Police, sadly so.

This idea of humiliating suspects is not backed by any law. It is an infringement of their Fundamental Human Rights. She can also sue for that.

Las, las, make we learn to cut our coat according to our wrapper abeg. From dust we came and unto dust we shall return.

First Baba Isa (FBI) is a Legal Practitioner and writes from Abuja.

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