One of the terrible events that headlined the year 2016, apart from the claimed defeat of Boko Haram and rise in kidnapping, is the administration of jungle justice on alleged offenders in major cities. This is something that happens almost on a daily basis in cities, especially Lagos, the emerging Mega City.
Sometime in October to early November 2016, a horrific video of a supposed 7-year-old, burnt to death at Orile Iganmu, Lagos went viral on the Internet.
Although reports later said that the victim was a grown up notorious armed robber who specialised in robbing, raping and terrorizing unaccompanied women at night in the area.
A commercial motorcyclist allegedly involved in a robbery operation was also lynched by a mob and burnt to death at Finger Bus Stop on Lagos-Badagry Expressway. Another 12-year-old beggar, Samuel, was sometime ago beaten black and blue and then burnt to death.
He was accused of trying to lure a tot with N50 with the aim of kidnapping the child. As if all these were not enough, the death of a Lagos State Traffic Management Authority official, mobbed in Apapa while conducting his official business of making Apapa traffic-free, really shocked the whole world on how wicked the heart of man can be.
Tajudeen Bakare, a Level 14 LASTMA official was attacked by an irate mob over the death of a motor boy.
The mob plucked out his two eyes, stabbed and stoned him to death while performing his duties of making Apapa safe for motorists and commuters. Tajudeen was killed by the people he was serving.
We condemn in its entirety mob killings or jungle justice in Nigeria. It is unlawful and barbaric to take another man’s life, especially in this century and should be condemned by all. Though some of the lynched victims were alleged wanted notorious criminals, we say they did not deserve to be killed unjustly.
Nobody has a right to take another person’s life, no matter the offence they may have committed. Most of the victims of jungle justice are innocent people killed in error.
Life is cheap in Nigeria. Jungle justice is meant for the jungle or the Stone Age and not cities or mega cities in the 21st century. It is a crime to take life. The Almighty God commanded us in Exodus 20:13; “Thou shall not kill.”
Almighty Allah also condemns taking of life in the Qu’ran 5:32: “Whoever kills a person (unjustly)…it is as though he has killed all mankind.
And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind.” Section 36(1) of the Nigerian Constitution states that a person suspected to have committed an offence must be given fair hearing and brought before a court or tribunal established by law.
Section 36(5) states that “Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until he is proved guilty.”
Suspected criminals should be handed over to the police who, after thorough investigation, should charge such suspects to court which will determine whether they are guilty or not. This, exactly, is where the people’s frustration lies. Justice in Nigeria is so slow and it is for the highest bidder.
Criminals handed over to the police quickly find their way back into the society and return with vengeance to unleash terror on their victims. They either bribe their way out of police stations or they are freed at the court for lack of prosecution or evidence.
This is because nobody has the time or would want to stand as witness during prosecution of these criminals, and so, the courts have no choice than to discharge them.
These criminals now go back after the people that reported them, raping, robbing, wounding and killing their victims to achieve their aim. So when criminals are apprehended, the consensus of the crowd is for such suspects to be killed.
But no matter what reasons people give for mob action, we say it is wrong! We say enough of jungle justice. It is unlawful, it is barbaric and no human being deserves to die that way.
While we commend the security agencies for crime fighting, we urge the police to wake up to its responsibility of crime prevention, investigation and prosecution. The bad eggs that aid criminals in the police should be flushed out.
We understand that the country is not well policed; government should consider the establishment of local police and encourage wellcoordinated vigilante groups to compliment the policing of our communities.
A law protecting or shielding witnesses in court should be promulgated to encourage citizens to testify against notorious criminals.
Lastly, the cleanup started by the former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Mahmud Mohammed, should be continued by the acting CJN, Walter Nkanu Onnoghen. Justice should not be for the highest bidder. The citizens must be made to trust the Judiciary and security agencies and cooperate with them in nipping crime in the bud.