A particular news making the headlines recently has generated quite a lot of controversy. A man ‘Sikiru Oluwaseun Jamiu’ who happened to send a married woman a text that read “Good morning babe” was charged to court in Ijebu Ode, Ogun State. In this article, we would examine if charging the man to court is legal, and what would likely happen to the man who sent such text.
The said offender was charged under Section 249 of the Criminal Code Laws of Ogun State, and was alleged to have caused breach of the peace. The quoted section of the law states that:
“Every person who in any public place conducts himself in a manner likely to cause breach of the peace shall be deemed idle and disorderly persons and may be arrested without warrant , and are guilty of a simple offence and liable to imprisonment for one month”.
From the above section, we can ask two questions:
1. Did the act constituting breach of the peace occur in a public place?
The offender in question was reported to have sent a Whatsapp message to one Mrs Adegbesan. Section 37 of the Nigerian Constitution makes all telephone and telegraphic communications of an individual private.
Whatsapp is a private messaging app and the communication between Jamiu and Mrs Adegbesan was done in private. It was not on a group or platform where a lot of people will be privy to it. It cannot be said that such act was done in public.
2. Does the action of Jamiu constitute a breach of peace?
According to Black’s Law Dictionary, a breach of the peace is defined as a violation of the public tranquility and order. For a person to have been said to cause a breach of the peace, he must have interfered with the public in general and not just one particular person.
When actions done by a person affects his neighbor and causes disputes, they are called civil offences. However, when the action of a person affects the public at large, these actions are criminal offences. A person would not be punished by law for a civil offence.
The charge of Jamiu to court for a criminal offence is baseless, illegal and totally unnecessary. If Mrs Adegbesan wants to seek remedy from the court, she can only bring a civil action against him. Instituting a criminal proceeding is an abuse of court process, and the case would be struck out for frivolity since the act of Jamiu does not constitute an offence.
Jamiu if in custody will be released, and if he has been subjected to any form of degrading treatment while in custody, he can sue for an enforcement of his Fundamental Human Rights.