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Rising, worrisome cases of jungle justice in Nigeria

By Samson Ezea
19 August 2017   |   4:11 am
It is only in Nigeria that one can still hear of this absurdity. Simply on suspicion, people raise the alarm and somebody gets killed in the process. Only God knows how many innocent persons might have been killed or injured.

On Monday, in Agwan Affi area of Akwanga in Nasarawa State, a soldier Lance Cpl. Ayuba Ali was killed in a mob action. Ali, who was in mufti, was passing through the town on a motorbike from Maiduguri when he hit a hawker unknowingly.

He stopped to pacify the hawker. It was while doing so that altercation ensued between him and some irate youths in the area, who pounced on him and beat him into coma. He was later confirmed dead in the hospital.

On Tuesday, the popular musician, Charly Boy and his co-protesters narrowly escaped mob action when they took their Return Or Resign protest to Wuse Market in Abuja. It took the timely intervention of security agents to save him and others from being lynched, but some were injured.

Also recently in Lagos, some suspected ritualists were killed in different parts of the State in mob actions. Following the development, Police in Lagos on Tuesday paraded 30 persons alleged to have taken part in the mob action along Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway.

The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, while parading the suspects, said they also injured some policemen, who attempted to prevent them from carrying out the act.

Owoseni said: “We want to use this opportunity to warn that the police and other security agencies will not fold their arms and watch people carry out jungle justice on people who may be innocent.

“We want to passionately appeal to the public to report any suspicious place they know as hideouts of suspected ritualists or kidnappers to the police.”

The Nassarawa and Lagos incidents are among the many under-reported mob killings that happen across the country unhindered and unresolved. While some victims of mob killings survive to tell their own side of the story, many of them have been mindlessly and extra-judicially killed even when they were innocent of the crimes they were accused of committing.

The brutal murder of the Aluu four, a necklace lynching of four students of the University of Port Harcourt can also not be forgotten so soon, five years after.

Legally, even if it has been proven that the suspect committed the crime, it is not within the right or power of the mob to kill a suspect, without giving the person a fair hearing. Despite knowing the consequences of engaging in mob action, many Nigerians, especially the street urchins and touts have not been deterred from engaging in the illegal act at any slightest opportunity.

Having not helped matters in this direction are the security agents, who do not respond promptly to such situations, thereby giving room for perpetrators to go scot-free in most cases. But the questions that are begging for answers are; why do people engage in mob action and go scot-free? Why has it become a preferable option among Nigerians? What are the government, security agencies and judiciary doing to halt it? Will Nigerians ever stop engaging in it, considering the fact that they seem to have lost absolute confidence in the security and judiciary system?

It Is Not Justifiable In Any Way, Says Uwoghiren
From Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu, Benin City

There have been reported cases of mob action across Edo State. Even the police have been accused severally of killing suspected criminals without passing them through the judicial process.

Investigations by The Guardian showed that one of the major reasons for such act is lack of confidence in the security and justice system. Many believe that some of the victims are usually hardened criminals or those found to have been involved in very heinous crimes particularly as it pertains to taking of a life. There is also the belief that some of these criminals always find their way back into the society and some buy their freedom.

But a journalist turned-legal practitioner, Jefferson Uwoghiren told The Guardian that there is no justification for mob killing in the laws of Nigeria and that there was need for persons involved in such act to be prosecuted.

“It is a way of going back to old pre-colonial way of taking laws into one’s hands in trying to avenge a wrong. Unfortunately we have since gone past this era of barbaric way of doing things. We have since gone past the era of this barbaric way of doing things like putting fire on people, pouring acid or making people to swim across crocodile-infested water

“People who have been involved in these extra-judicial killings have not been prosecuted to get justice for their victims. It is a criminal act. The constitution provides for the right to life and it is declared that nobody’s life should be taken.”

He expressed disappointment in the society’s perceived tolerance of such act, but insisted that it was wrong. “Any society that tolerates such barbaric conduct shows clearly the level of its judicial development and that is a very clear evidence of a failed state. If you have somebody who is a suspect and alleged to have been involved in a criminal act, the proper thing is to ensure that the police arrest such person and ensure that the police carry out diligent investigation and ensure that they are charged to court and ensure that they have their day in court.

“People are increasingly losing faith in the police investigative system and processes. They think that when these suspects are arrested, they might be freed by the police or released by the courts so the right thing to do is to take the law into their hands, but two wrongs do not make a right. No amount of loss of faith in the judicial process should encourage and tolerate or empower any person to take the laws into his hands. Anybody who does that can be charged for act of conspiracy, murder or attempted murder as the case may be.

“Our criminal justice system has been a very topical issue everywhere in this country. But the slow pace of obtaining justice is not an excuse to delve into the arena of violence and crime. Whoever is opposed to the process and decides to indulge in criminal act will find himself on the wrong side of the law. The era of taking suspected criminals into private custody and killing them has gone. Anybody found doing so is playing with fire.

“Look at the Lagos example, some people were accused of being ritualists or human part dealers. They were subjected to horrendous, barbaric trial by ordeal. They were made to start confessing what they did no do and you know torture is often governed by fear. It is ruled by the arbitrary means of the investigator, so there is nothing useful that can come out from the use of torture. That is why those who are assigned the responsibility and power to check guilt and determine guilt are trained in the art of law.

“That is why for you to become a judge, you must have been called to bar as a lawyer or you must have had some legal training for a reasonable period. You cannot just become a lawyer last year and the next year you become a judge. So if the system is rigorously created, it is meant to determine the guilt of a person is not something in the streets, you need somebody trained in that field,” he said.

‘It Is The Best Way To Get Cheap And Quick Justice’
From Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi, Jos

Former Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Jos Branch, Mr. Sule Kwasau, has traced the jungle justice in the country to its history of impunity. He said that the judiciary is rooted in injustice, adding that because of the red tape bureaucracy it takes to get justice, people have lost confidence in the judiciary and people therefore resort to jungle justice.

According to him, people who always engage in jungle justice as the last resort complained of the high cost of filing cases at the police stations, where they will be asked to bring this and that, pointing out that people who are not patient enough are quick to resort to jungle justice.

He stressed that the judiciary is the last hope of the common man, but people have lost hope in it because government does not obey judgments. He added that unless government obeys judgments, the act of jungle justice against suspected criminals would not abate.

Quoting the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), Kwasau said that it is unlawful to be lawful in a lawless society. He concluded that unless government is ready to obey court judgments, not minding whose ox is gored, this act of lawlessness and impunity called jungle justice will continue in great proportions.

“Everybody is equal before the law, whether it favours you or not,” he declared. On his part, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) of the State Police Command, Tyopev Mathias Terna, said some people said they engaged in jungle justice because of the slow nature of the judicial system, but others said they do so because of the suspicion that they might not get justice.

Tyopev added that some people do that because of uncontrollable anger, advising that they should always report any suspected act of criminality to the police instead of taking the law into their hands.

But, wheelbarrow pusher, Emmanuel Ideh, told The Guardian that jungle justice is the best way to get justice, adding that it is quick and not costly. “If you do it (jungle justice), you forget about it. It will not cost money and you are happy that it has been done.

“But when you report to the police, they just collect money from the criminals and let them go free, while they continue telling lies. They can even say that what the criminals have done is not true. As a poor man, you know, there will be no justice for you. This is very bad. This is even when you have evidence to prove your case. If the other man is rich, he gets police justice and you will be left lamenting. So, we do jungle justice to express our annoyance.”

Experts Blame It On Failure Of Nigerian Institutions
From Oluwaseun Akingboye, Akure

“Eye for eye, tooth for tooth,” Skillashi, as fondly called by his gang and people in one of the slums and hideouts where people of the underworld lay about in Akure, the capital of Ondo State, insisted that there is no better way to reduce the alarming rate of corruption and crime in the society other than through mob action.

The leader of the urchins, who declined to reveal his real name, but for the popular nickname, Skillashi, noted that “on the spot sentence” on anyone found guilty was not only a recompense, but also a big deterrent to others who might have such evil tendencies.

According to him, a Yoruba proverb that depicts a scenario that “if a hen throws off my concoction, I will break its hen,” is too mild and generous. This, he was quick to mention, has over the years abetted and aided more crime in the society because in the allusion, the wicked hen will commit another offence.

He attributed such decision of the people, who resorted to jungle justice to the failure of the government and other duty bearers, which leaves the people with no other alternative than to execute judgment by themselves since most of the institutions saddled with responsibilities for such operate below the expectations of the people.

“To me,” Skillashi said without mincing words, “I will not only break the eggs of the hen that throws off my concoction, but will also kill the hen so that it will not repeat that again or lay another generation of wicked chicks.”

One of the urchins who clouted round the leader and cheered him on the jungle justice approach to fighting crime, drinking local alcohol and smoking “jedi,” a locally wrapped cigarette for bile and waist pain, justified their stance on a popular teaching of Jesus Christ that “it is better to pluck out ones eyes or cut off the hands if it will lead to sin.”

Speaking, a legal practitioner, Niyi Oniyesan, described it is a spontaneous reaction from a person or a group of people to redress pain, afflictions, inflictions, harm and wrongs done to them, other persons or their property whether directly related to them or not.

“It is more often than not done in a fit of anger. People see jungle justice as a sure, quick, direct and satisfactory recompense for the crime committed by suspects.”

Oniyesan pointed out that the administration of justice system is not wholly on the judiciary, submitting that the flagrant failure of security agencies with investigative and prosecutorial powers have hampered the effectiveness and efficiency of administration of criminal justice system in the nation.

“The people have, therefore, before become disillusioned and harbour deep-seated suspicion on the ability of the state (government) to execute justice. Delay in execution of justice is also a bane of our justice system and one of the consequences is resort to jungle justice.”

Most significant among its negative implications, he listed the breakdown of law and order due to its impetuosity, affirming that there may be a continuous chain of criminality where the innocent may become victims and a sad commentary on the justice system.

“It is criminal! It is an affront to constitutional provisions as they relate to right to be presumed innocent, right to be heard before being condemned and a tremendous blur on the fundamental human right of every person,” he said.

Similarly, a retired Commissioner for Police, Mr Samuel Adetuyi, declared that Nigerians’ resort to self-help in dealing with aggrieved situations is unfortunate, always rash and fraught with injustice as actions in this regard are spontaneous and laden with emotions.

His words: “It is a manifestation of a failure in the administration of justice in the country. Over the years, government has paid lip service to security and the needs of the agencies responsible.

“It is a holistic situation, not just a segment. If you consider the long chain of actions by all stakeholders – the victim, witnesses, the police or other security agencies responsible, experts’ investigative opinions, courts and Prisons, to mention but a few; then you will be able to imagine where the fault lies.

“Of course, corruption, impunity and lawlessness in our body politics contribute to the festering malaise. It is of no use blaming any of the sectors, but government that has failed in lifting all sectors in the administration of justice chain.”

He said that the perception of those who believe in jungle justice is strengthened by the daily occurrences around them, lamenting that even the feeble efforts of government through the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to enlighten the public on the evil effects of this scourge is counter-productive, as members of the public do not believe the claims of the agency.

Borne out of practicable realities and experience, the former police boss, who will soon launch his autobiography titled: “Policing in Nigeria: My Story,” exposed the condition under which the police for instance operates in the country today. This, he stressed, cannot bring out the best in them despite their untiring efforts.

He was quick to dispel all the measures put in place by government at all levels to be meretricious, lacking substance and the required strength to cause positive improvements in the country.

“It’s like swimming against the tide. As a way out, there must be a paradigm shift in government attitude towards security particularly with capacity building for the police and other security agencies in line with global best practices. All these window dressing attitude of donating a few Hilux vehicles and thinking that the needs of the Police have been met should be stopped.

“Instead there should be massive provision of customised equipment in a holistic manner such that a synergy emerges. This will strengthen their efforts and their capacity to deal with emerging situations would be enhanced. And ultimately members of the public would then begin to have confidence that complaints would be dealt with as they occur promptly and effectively.

He advocated that all other elements in the security service delivery chain and indeed the administration of justice chain must be similarly upgraded to produce a holistic effect.

“That is why I am through this piece appealing for the umpteenth time, to the National Assembly to approve the Police Trust Fund so that a ready pool of resources would be available to government to provide the necessary tools and necessary equipment for the police,” he said.

Handing Suspected Criminals Over To Police Is A Waste Of Time, Say Lagos Residents
By Tobi Awodipe, Shakirah Adunola and Maria Diamond

A resident of Owode-Ibeshe in Ikorodu where the Badoo killings started, told The Guardian that he would personally supply the tyres, kerosene and matches needed to set any Badoo cultist ablaze. “The police are not useful to us at all. If they were useful, these killings wouldn’t have gone on for years with families being wiped out and people fleeing their homes. You need to see the agony and anger on people’s faces whenever we discover that another family has been wiped out and yet, government and the police fold their arms. You cannot expect us to fold our arms and do nothing, so anyone that is caught must be dealt with immediately.”

Many other residents in other areas where these attacks have taken place share the same sentiment. One suspect caught at Imota was reluctantly handed over to the police after they (the police) prevented the mob from setting him ablaze. The mob almost broke the fence of the police station in a bid to get at the suspect. One of the community leaders (name withheld) told The Guardian that they were yet to hear anything about that suspect till date. “Ever since the police said they arrested him for further interrogation, we are yet to hear anything about the case again. Maybe he has been set free because I wouldn’t put it past them, as that is what they are known for. If we had burnt him that day, at least we would be sure that justice was served.

Upon contacting a top police officer in the Ikorodu division who pleaded anonymity, he said the case was still under investigation and the findings would be made known in due course. He pleaded with residents not to take the law into their hands and contact them for proper apprehension of criminals.

Reacting, a coordinator of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) pointed out that jungle justice was a sign of helplessness. “In other places, when a crime is committed, the chances that the perpetrators will be caught and brought to justice are high, but in Nigeria, nobody is caught and the perpetrators roam about free and even taunt their victims in some cases. People are tired and frustrated, the government makes promises to make the state unbearable for criminals, but it seems the criminals have constructed room and parlour here and are very comfortable.”

“I am not in support of jungle justice but I won’t stop anybody if they want to lynch any criminal. Handing criminals over to the police is not effective, as we have seen over time. Most times, the criminals come back to ‘punish’ the community when they are released from custody, better to get rid of them once and for all,” he said.

Speaking to The Guardian, a young man, who simply introduced himself as Kamoru said, he does not support mob action but Nigerian Police cannot be trusted as most of the criminals end up paying their way out of their custody without any form of punishment or trial, hence, people are angry with the Police over inefficiency and corruption.

According to a motorist, the reason he prefers jungle justice is because of the incompetence of law authorities. The way they handle the case of kidnappers in the country is not creditable. When last did we see police investigate and arrest kidnappers. Our police have been reduced to taking bribe and covering crime.

“Go and report to the police you would be asked to go back and bring the alleged perpetrators.” Miss Iyabo Alade said for many years, our law enforcement agencies have failed in their duties.

“If they arrested criminals, they grant them bails without diligent investigation. These criminals will be released and they will still roam the streets and continue their devilish acts. This is why Nigerians have no confidence in the police and it has greatly increased the rate of jungle justice in Nigeria.”

John Williams lamented the height of lawlessness in the country.
“It is only in Nigeria that one can still hear of this absurdity. Simply on suspicion, people raise the alarm and somebody gets killed in the process. Only God knows how many innocent persons might have been killed or injured. The fact is that all victims of jungle justice are still presumed to be innocent under the law until proven otherwise by a court of competent jurisdiction, no matter the perception people have about the judicial process.”