18 November 2012

Nigeria: Jungle Justice - That Evil Must End


Some Nigerians no longer ... hold value for human lives and respect for the law of the land by resorting to jungle justice as the best judgement for any criminal that falls into their hands. In this piece, Kehinde Ajobiewe takes you through some opinions of experts on how such barbaric acts can be addressed.

Just like the families and friends of Ugonna, Lloyd, Tekena and Chidiaka, who were victims of the brutal mob lynching in Aluu community of Rivers State recently, so many families had been thrown into mourning and made to be haunted by the gruesome manner in which their loved ones were killed.

In every civilized society, the law usually makes provision for arrest and prosecution of criminals, be they armed robbers, murderers or any form of criminality. In a situation, however, where citizens no longer have respect for the law of the land, primitive behaviors such as mob lynching and extra judicial killings may set in.

The Nigerian Police Force has been saddled with the responsibilities of arresting and gathering evidences to speedy prosecution of criminals. But it seems the citizenry no longer have confidence in this law enforcement agents because of the allegations that hardened criminals bribe their ways out of the police cells and walk the streets to perpetrate more crimes.

LEADERSHIP SUNDAY's findings reveal that the decadence in the justice system in Nigeria is the reason why some citizens now resort to the most primitive act of mob lynching, thereby taking the laws into their own hands to beat and kill someone for a crime. In many cases, innocent people are also victims.

Although the Aluu 4 killing has raised so much outrage from Nigerians because of the brutality involved and the role played by the social media, there have been cases of such wicked acts in the past in villages, cities and university environments where such acts are perpetrated with impunity without any opportunity of self defence.

In an interview with the LEADERSHIP SUNDAY, a human right activist, Emmanuel Onwubiko, said that there is no justification whatsoever, for jungle justice or mob justice. According to him, "There is no justification whatsoever whether in law, in practice, or from the perspective of our culture, there is no logical explanation for mob justice.

It is animalistic, it's illegal, it is not constitutional, and those who engage in such acts should be prosecuted for murder. It is a misconception to attach the word justice to lynching; when you lynch a human being ,why are you calling it justice? It should not be called mob justice, but murder", he said.

He added that people try to justify this action because of the decadence in the Nigerian judicial system, this , according to him, is because when criminals are arrested , the police will not do a diligent investigation to prosecute the criminals and the criminals sometimes bribe their ways out and come back to the public to unleash further violence.

"Yes these are facts, the criminal justice system in Nigeria has collapsed, but that is not a sufficient justification for what happened in Aluu, Rivers State. It is primitive and totally condemnable and even the way the Police is going about it, is just their normal, 'business-as-usual' kind of operation.

Have they collected any forensic evidence so far? You don't just go to the street to arrest people and parade them on the media, that is not how to go about it. I'm even afraid that if care is not taken, the police will mess up this case," he stated.

However, Onwuibiko opined that for mob killings to be addressed, the Nigerian Police Force must be restructured because the institution has collapsed. "We have a dead police force, it is because Nigeria has a dysfunctional police force that the Inspector General of Police has the temerity to tell Nigerians that the crowd chased the police with stones from the scene of Aluu lynching and the man is still sitting down today as the IG of police.

How can you say that armed police men were chased out by people who were carrying stones, Does it make any sense? The Commissioner of Police in Rivers State and the Divisional Police Officer by now should have been arrested and prosecuted," he said.

The FCT Commissioner of Police, Mr Adenrele Shinaba however said that people resort to jungle justice especially when some of them have been victims of these criminals in the past; they take it as an opportunity to pay back.

He further added that some may feel that if such a criminal is handed over to the police, the police will investigate and at the end of the day, take them to court, and rather than the police to take them to court, the people believe they should be left to deal with the situation as it is on ground.

"But that is not the issue, what the law says is that every accused person is deemed innocent until proven guilty, so, the police will have to take the person to court and by doing that, the decision of the court is no longer in the hands of the police, because all the police need to do is to present the fact and lay it bare before the open court to take a decision.

But at times, the people may lack the understanding of what the law says and if a particular case does not attract the punishment they feel it should attract, they will say this person has been released and so they take the law into their hands," he stated.

When asked what could be done to address the situation, Shinaba said that although mob lynching is barbaric, it can be stopped, adding that "If everybody does his job right, If a police man arrests a criminal, investigates thoroughly and presents the fact before the court, I think we will have less of jungle justice".

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