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In these days of social media, the dispensation of justice has been democratised. Within an hour, more than 300,000 people can mobilise and demand for the head of a criminal. Social media has proven to be a more effective tool than street protests in altering policy directions or calling for justice.

Perhaps, this may not be so if the internet is shut down in particularly troublesome spots as is the case with Ethiopia, Sudan and other flash spots of recent. All the same, these public courts culminating from social media mass action is changing the delivery of justice and amending the modus of accountability from one individual to another.

Such was the case in the online justice being served on alleged criminals like Senator Elisha Abbo. Premium Times, on the 2nd of July, leaked a tape in which the young senator from Adamawa State was caught physically assaulting a woman in Abuja. The tape sparked reactions across several social media platforms in Nigeria, calling for the arrest and prosecution of the senator, so much that it got to the hearing of power brokers and law enforcement. The momentum of the outrage did not abate until the Senate and the police released statements on the matter.

Reports have it now that the Senate has set up a committee to investigate the allegations as seen on the tape. Likewise, the police are said to have detained the senator already for further questioning and interrogation. It must be that the public courts have won in their protest then.

Just this past week, after an allegation of rape against the celebrity pastor of COZA, social media mass action forced the powers that be to mobilise for protests, get him prosecuted as well as get him to step down from the position from where he pastors his church. Such is the potency of the public court powered by the new social media fuel.

By way of jungle justice, all of these men might have been beaten or burnt to death if they were caught right in the act. Last time anyone checked, anyway, the act of jungle justice is still illegal in Nigeria. Innocents sometimes are caught between crossfire and pay for crimes they never committed. But people must still reserve the right to protest certain issues.

The judicial system still maintains the relevance of that famous dictum of “a criminal being innocent until proven guilty”, to avoid instances of jungle justice. This is one of the cases where the public court could be wrong on a matter if it fails to undergo the rigour of a trial at a court of competent jurisdiction.

Therefore, as much as we might want to have scapegoats for particular crimes by punishing notorious criminals, we must also have it at the back of our minds that justice delivered by a law court has the final say.

Though Senator Elisha Abbo has tendered an unreserved apology to the victim of his assault and the public, it is still not enough. The law should now begin to take precedence from the preamble given by the judgement coming from social media.

Maintaining all credit due to the social media and other media channels which precedes it in relevance, as fickle as these public courts could be, it seems the growing popularity in mobilising for justice by this new channel will remain very relevant as a model of resistance for a long time – especially for the sake of our dear country.

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This article was first published on 5th July 2019


Macaddy is mostly a farmer in the day who also dabbles into technology at night, in search of other cutting edge intersections. He's on Twitter @i_fix_you

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