The social media holds great promise and grave perils

After a trial that lasted almost five years, the Facebook friends who murdered the Nasarawa State University postgraduate student, Miss Cynthia Osokogu, have finally been served justice. In sentencing them to death, Justice Olabisi Akinlade of the Lagos State High Court in Igbosere held that the circumstantial evidence brought by the state in proof of the six counts of conspiracy, murder and stealing against Okwumo Nwabufo and Olisaeloka Ezike were cogent, complete, unequivocal and compelling.

Unfortunately, while that may have brought a sort of closure to an unfortunate saga, it would seem that lessons have not been learnt by many of our young people about the grave perils of the unbridled use of social media.

On July 22, 2012 at a hotel in Festac, Lagos, Cynthia Osokgu, 24, was murdered by her online friends. The two convicted men, according to the police, had lured her to Lagos and killed her in a gruesome manner after giving her a juice drink laced with Rohiypnol, a prescription drug that is not supposed to be sold over the counter. The case was conclusively proved against the two convicted men who preyed on the internet to attack unsuspecting women.

However, as the Osokogu family continues to grieve over the loss of their loved one, it becomes imperative that we evaluate some issues pertaining to the use of social media of communication and their component cyber sites like Facebook, Twitter, Internet Chat groups, etc., for some of our young people who may still be vulnerable to the antics of cyber criminals.

As we have reiterated in the past, no one can deny the several advantages which these technological tools have brought with them. Friendships and lasting relationships are struck on the internet. Business contacts are equally established vide the internet. And the availability gadgets like Blackberry, laptop computers, i-Phones, i-PADs and similar smart phones, contribute to make modern communication a lot easier, irrespective of distance, place or time. Our world has become a global village with the result that what happens 10,000 miles away can instantly be watched live from our living rooms and on our palms using new media gadgets.

For the misguided, the social media platform has also become a veritable avenue through which criminals seek to exploit unsuspecting innocent persons, such as Cynthia. The danger here is the fact that through persistent “chatting” with some strange persons who the victim had not met before, he or she could easily be psychologically “won over” by the predator. Thus, with increased confidence, the victim starts revealing and releasing confidential and sensitive information, including personal data and bank details. And before the targeted person realises it, he or she may have fallen victim, having given out so much information. The lucky ones lose just personal effects, like money, phones and documents. Others, like Cynthia, end up losing their lives.

It is important that parents educate their children and wards on the dangers of the social media and the wolves in sheep’s clothing on the prowl in the cyber space. Much as it is difficult to legislate against the new media, it is important that young people, especially girls, be circumspect when chatting with people whose identity and true motive they do not know. The murderers of Cynthia confessed to the Police that they had previously duped four other girls and tortured them in similar circumstances, although Cynthia, they claimed, was their first fatal case.

With the successful prosecution of the two evil men, we hope other such criminally-minded internet users will learn their lessons while our young citizens should also know about the perils of the social media.