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Ijapa Meta: Nigerian culture of fake news,jungle justice

By Mary Agidi

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“Ijapa meta la ba ninu moto e ati posi kekere.( We found three tortoises and small- sized coffin in his car.”).

The above were words of a young artisan, Lamidi Jeremiah who unapologetically testified in a viral video interview against late  25-year-old Tope Olorunfemi, who was killed by angry mob after he recklessly drove and killed a pedestrian in Akure and injured six, on the Easter Monday of year 2023.

The angry mob in Ijoka axis of Akure, descended on him, and tagged him Yahoo Yahoo who deliberately killed the victim in order to renew his money ritual potency. He was stoned, beaten with hard objects till he lost his breath and his car was set ablaze, leaving no evidence to ascertain their claims that he had fetish objects.

Upon the arrival of journalists to the scene of the incident, the aforementioned eye-witness young man was interviewed. In his bid to justify the action of the irate mob for killing the young man, he testified outrightly, that he saw ‘Ijapa meta’ (three tortoises), one small sized coffin, and other fetish-like items in his car, hence, the reason they concluded that he was a Yahoo  plus boy and it resorted to jungle justice. The energy he exerted in dishing out information to journalists in the video that went viral, has made the two words “Ijapa Meta”, a social media slang for the past one year.

Exactly a year after the Ondo Police command announced the arrest of the ‘Ijapa Meta’ eye-witness after he opened up that he did not see any tortoise as he claimed in the trending video.

He confessed to not sighting ‘ijapa meta` or any other fetish objects while speaking on Erikanmi Programme on Crest FM, Akure.

He claimed that he only overheard what transpired from people at the scene of the incident and ‘volunteered` to be their spokesperson to the journalists by narrating what happened as if he witnessed it. The video went viral, caught the attention of the Police and he was placed on the wanted list since then, as his testimony indicted him as one of the mob who killed the young man.

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He provided information based on hearsay; but when the Police started hunting for him, he tried to vindicate himself by saying the mob had already killed the young man before he granted the interview to newsmen, stressing that his interview was not the cause of the mob’s action.

According to him, he overheard from people that the young man told some passersby that he had to kill some people that day. His testimony was based on hearsay.

He was consequently arraigned before a Magistrate Court over three counts charge of felony, unlawful murder and arson which took him to Olokuta correctional centre to join others who had earlier been remanded for killing the young man.

This is one of the numerous instances of false witnessing, exaggeration in providing information, and the outcome of the general conclusion that all young guys who drive exotic cars are internet fraudsters. The death of the young Temitope was another evidence of jungle justice approach in Nigeria.

The case of a missing child at the Sotitobire church Oshinle Akure in 2019, was another instance of mob action which was based on unconfirmed report.

About 20 young men who partook in setting the church building ablaze and lawlessly killed a police officer who was on a peace mission to the church,  were arrested and jailed. Their action was based on hearsay without allowing the security agents to conclude investigation.

Another painful and pathetic case of a mob justice was the killing of four University of Port-Harcourt students on October 12,2012 ‘Aluu 4’, over alleged theft of laptops.

According to Wikipedia, mob justice called jungle justice is rampant in Nigeria and Cameroon, which is a form of public extra judicial killings where an alleged criminal is publicly humiliated, beaten, and summarily executed by an angry mob.

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A survey conducted by NOI polls revealed that 43percent of Nigerians had personally witnessed mob attack. Between 2019 and mid 2022, SB Morgen’s report recorded 279 mob justice incidents leading to the death of at least 391 individuals. While some of the jungle justice actors are indeed eyewitnesses, some are just bystanders, street guys who joined the act for fun, without bothering if the victim really commit the offense he is being attacked for.

According to Oputa, JSC, in Josiah v the State: “Jungle justice is also against the right to inhumane and degrading treatment. This right is provided for under Section 34(1 & 2) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 7 of the ICCPR, and Article 1, Paragraph 1 of the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

“In essence, all these legal sources clearly emphasize that any torture or severe physical and mental pain shall not be inflicted upon any person (crime suspect) to punish extrajudicially or obtain a confession from them during a criminal investigation. “Mob justice infringes this right as it involves alleged suspects being subjected to physical violence, torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, which consequently results in mental and physical health complications

“In the same vein, section 36 (4, 5 and 6) of the Constitution also makes an emphasis on the procedures and due process to take regarding conviction of a suspect. In the apple eye of the law, every person charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until proved guilty with the offence by a competent court of law — even if the person is caught doing the act. In essence, anything outside the provisions of the said section of the constitution is tantamount to infringement upon freedom to fair hearing as enshrined in the constitution, and jungle justice will not stand otherwise”.

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He hinted that the implication of the above sections of the constitution is that any person caught or arrested participating or engaging in mob justice may face relevant criminal charges.

Despite the position of the law on the mob justice approach, Nigerians have not  desisted from the act.

 Could it be due to ignorance of the inherent punishment? Opinions of some individuals attributed the continuous involvement of Nigerians in mob justice to lack of awareness about the position of the law.

Proffering solutions to the problem through her opinionated piece on “ jungle justice and the need for national reorientation, ” an economist and researcher, Busayo Aderounmu, highlighted some possible solutions to curbing mob justice and called for citizens’ awareness. According to Aderounmu, citizens should be more aware of their surroundings and the rules that bind them to protect their own lives and both the lives and property of others. There should be proper public education about their constitutional authority to arrest and detain a criminal suspect pending official prosecution.

“Citizens need to be re-oriented and educated regarding the rule of law, equality before the law, and the protection of human rights.

“The people should never favour swift justice and always unite against it when apprehending a criminal suspect. The public should be aware that anyone might be a victim of jungle justice and that criminal suspects should be handed over to the police for a thorough investigation.

“The community security groups, particularly vigilantes, should be taught that jungle justice is a crime in and of itself, and it is their responsibility to stop it. Town groups, such as landlord associations, youth organisations, and clubs, among many others, should preach against any form of jungle justice in their community”, says Aderounmu.

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