By Maria Famakinwa
The increasing reported cases of jungle justice across the country are assuming a frightening dimension and calling for urgent attention, to nip the ugly trend in the bud.
The reign of jungle justice continued in the country unabated, despite several warnings from the security agencies that the law of the land does not permit anyone to kill or lynch anybody, no matter the gravity of offence committed, but instead any suspected case should be reported to the appropriate authority for prompt action. It seems that many did not yield to this warning, given the recent cases of jungle justice reported.
In October 2020, it was reported that angry youths set ablaze a young man suspected to be an armed robber terrorizing Abak road and NEPA Line axis in Uyo metropolis of Akwa Ibom State, while trying to snatch an android phone. In November of the same year, the Benue State police command said that a middle-aged man was burnt to death by some angry youths while attempting to snatch a motorcycle in Makurdi.
Early December last year, an angry mob was also reported to have set ablaze two suspected armed robbers along Okumagbe Avenue by Emebiren junction in Warri, Delta State. Another ugly incident was recorded in Ibadan, December of the same year, when a suspected robber was set ablaze by angry youths along Agodi Government Secretariat. It was also reported that another suspect was lynched, after being tortured by angry youths in the same community.
In the same month, Police authority in Osun State also confirmed that a mob in Ile-Ife area of the State set another armed robbery suspect ablaze for allegedly snatching a motorcycle from the owner. This was coming weeks after two suspects were also lynched by a mob around Lagere area of the town, after failed attempt to snatch a motorcycle, just as two female suspects were reportedly burnt to death by a mob at Iwo area of the State for allegedly attempting to kidnap a child.
The Hope spoke with a lawyer, Barr Gabriel Omoyajowo, on the position of the law regarding jungle justice. The lawyer explained that jungle justice was wrong that no matter the angle it’s being assessed, because it does not give the victim an opportunity to defend him/herself. He added,” Everyone is presumed innocent under the law until proven otherwise by a court of competent jurisdiction, by virtue of section 36(5) of the 1999 constitution. There is no justification for mob killing in the laws of Nigeria. Though they can arrest any suspect and hand them over to law enforcement agencies, they cannot take laws into their hands. Jungle justice is a barbaric way of doing things , because people involved in the 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.”
Barr Omoyajowo who blamed jungle justice on the failure of the Nigeria police, court, and individual concerned, advised that the system of criminal justice administration must be totally overhauled. He said, “Jungle justice is not what can be corrected over night. To curb it, we will need to address our criminal justice system and ensure that the people have confidence in the system, that whenever a suspect is arrested, the victim will get justice.”
The Hope spoke to some citizens on why jungle justice has become a preferable option among Nigerians. In the contribution of a social commentator, Mr Kenneth Eke, he explained that one of the major reasons for such act is lack of confidence in the security and justice system of the country. He said 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. His words,”There is also the belief that some of these criminals always find their way back into the society and some buy their freedom.”
Sharing a similar sentiment, a private school teacher, Mrs Bola Oluwole, though, condemned the act of jungle justice based on the fact that not all victims were guilty, revealed that the barbaric trend persists because people are increasingly losing faith in the police’s investigative system and processes. She said, “People think that when 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.
“Jungle justice is the unlawful killing of suspects in a most brutal manner without trial , which is against the law of the country and I equally stand against it but to nip it in the bud, the security operatives must justify the confidence the people have in them. Otherwise, innocent citizens will continue to be victims. What do you make of a situation when a law enforcement agent arrestS a suspect for a crime, only for the suspect to be released without any prosecution. This action no doubt will fuel violence and people in the know of the case might plan to set the released suspect ablaze, to pacify the victim. There have been claims that suspects bribe policemen to have their way and return to the society to continue tormenting innocent citizens. Law enforcement agencies should up their game to stop jungle justice.”
Also, a businessman, Mr Henry Abolade, blamed the government for the recorded cases of jungle justice in the country as he hinted that people have lost faith in government to protect their lives and property, which is the reason they resorted to violence to protect themselves. His words, “That is the best way many think they can get cheap and quick justice. People who always engage in jungle justice as the last resort complain of high cost of filing cases at the police station. The belief that justice delayed is justice denied pushes many to take law into their hands. If people are properly educated through the various mass media against taking law into their hands, and the government arrests and prosecute anyone caught in the act of jungle justice it will go a long way to pass a message to would be perpetrators.”
Abolade also urged security agencies to always respond promptly to such situations in other to save the suspect from being burnt by angry mob and also arrest those planning to carry out the lynching as he observed that failure of security agents to respond quickly to cases of jungle justice most times paved way for perpetrators of the heinous crimes to go scot-free. “With the increased rate of reports of people being set ablaze, how are we sure that some of them are not innocent? Many can hide under this to kill perceived enemies. That is the more reason government should act now.”