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Stemming tides of jungle justice

By Babatunde Ayedoju

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Jungle justice has assumed an alarming rate in Nigeria, as it occurs in many states across the country. It takes the form of such suspects being beaten by a mob until they lose consciousness and finally die. In some cases, the suspect is burnt alive after the crowd must have put a tyre across the neck and pour petrol on him to make him burn faster.

Media reports indicate that such mobs usually turn deaf ears to whatever explanation the suspects give, and even when the police arrive the scene to intervene, it may be too late. The implication is that the culpability of such suspects is not verifiable. Therefore, it may not always be certain that such individuals committed the offences they were accused of.

For example, in October last year,  Kogi State Police Command arrested Haruna Adamu, Yakubu Mohammed and Harisu Abdulrasheed for raising false alarm against one Usman Abubakar and lynching him to death. They had accused Abubakar of robbing one of them of his manhood.

Police investigation revealed that the deceased who was an Okada rider from Ayetoro conveyed a passenger from Kabba to Ayetoro, then seized the opportunity to visit his friend, one Haruna Adamu of Ayetoro.

While he was in Haruna Adamu’s shop, he met other suspects with whom he had an handshake. Immediately, the suspects raised a false alarm that the deceased took the manhood of one of them, which attracted the mob that lynched the deceased and burnt him to death. The police said that the suspects confessed to the crime.

Likewise, in the same month, a middle aged man was mobbed to death at Ikot Ansa Bus-Stop, Calabar Municipal Local Government Area, Cross River State, for allegedly breaking into a house through the roof. This man’s case added to the list of jungle justice incidents recorded in that area within three years. There had been a case of one Mrs. Iquo Edet Eyo and four others who were in October 2022 tied, tortured, killed, and buried in the forest in Odukpani LGA of the State for alleged witchcraft.

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A man in his late 20s identified as Eyo was in April 2023 set ablaze for allegedly stealing a phone at Edim Otop by Stream Road, Calabar Municipal Local Government Area. Similarly, three suspected armed robbers were in April 2022 killed and set ablaze in Calabar South and Municipality of the state. Two were burnt to death at Mayne Avenue by Azikiwe Street, opposite Hart Street, Calabar South Local Government Area, having been accused of robbery.

The fate of Ebimotimi Freedom from Bayelsa State was not different, as he got lynched to death July last year by a mob which accused him of stealing a loaf of bread. The Bayelsa State Police Command arrested three suspects in connection with this incident. Meanwhile, three months earlier, some youths in the state capital – Yenagoa – lynched a commercial tricycle rider for stabbing a young man, ThankGod Douglas, to death over N50; even as a mob burnt in January 2020 within the same city two suspects who were accused of trying to rob a Point of Sale (POS) operator.

Not to be forgotten in a hurry is the story of a seven year old boy who in November 2016 was said to have been burnt to death in Lagos after he was accused of stealing cassava flakes known as garri. However, the Lagos State Commissioner for Information at that time, Steve Anjorin, denied that the incident happened. He said that the Lagos State Police Command had duly issued a statement questioning the authenticity of the story, asking for eye witness or anyone with verifiable information to come forward with it, as the police continued with their investigation.

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Another version of the story was that the victim was not a seven- year-old boy accused of stealing garri, but a member of a robbery syndicate operating in Orile axis of Lagos. He was said to have attacked a woman, alongside two of his accomplice, in an attempt to dispossess her of her wallet and phone. According to this account, the alarm raised by the woman attracted the mob. While the two other suspected robbers escaped, the boy in question was not so lucky.

The then Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, Dolapo Badmus, said that the police had ordered an investigation into the incident.

Coming to our doorstep here, about a week ago, a man disguised as a scavenger was arrested by men of Amotekun Corps for trying to kidnap an eight year old girl. The Ondo State Amotekun boss, Akogun Adetunji Adeleye, while addressing newsmen, said that the suspected kidnapper hit the little girl with a charm and immediately put her in a sack, about to escape, when he ran out of luck.

He said, “the suspect pretended as if he’s a scavenger picking rubbles, but luckily, the grandmother of the child heard the cry of the girl and when they looked round, they saw somebody stepping away with the child inside the sack.

“So, when they raised the alarm, he attacked them with different objects, including a burning firewood he picked from a woman cooking nearby, but they were able to quickly alert Amotekun operatives and he was arrested. Upon interrogation, we discovered that he is actually a kidnapper and he confessed that he has been in the trade for a while.”

Dr Mrs. Kemi Adebola, a sociologist, attributed the menace of jungle justice in Nigeria to the fact that Nigerians no longer have faith in the government and the nation’s justice system. She pointed out that when a suspect is arrested and handed over to law enforcement agents, it takes a very long time before the law will take its toll on them; and most of them find themselves being released back into the society. This, according to her, is because some of those suspects have godfathers who can easily facilitate their release when arrested.

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Mrs. Adebola noted that without quick dispensation of justice, people who perpetrate crimes will continue with their unlawful habits which may also prompt frustrated members of the public to continue taking law into their hands.

Chief Samuel Adetuyi, a retired Commissioner of Police, stated that jungle justice is one out of many problems facing Nigeria and is actually a global phenomenon. While noting that jungle justice is not new, the retired police chief added that it is not acceptable anywhere in the world, Nigeria inclusive. According to him, jungle justice is prevalent because people believe that if they cannot get justice through the conventional or legitimate means, they should take the law into their hands.

The seasoned security expert opined that jungle justice is not the best in any civilised society because it does not solve any problem. He said, “The offence might have been committed by accident or ignorantly. Moreso, there could be a case of mistaken identity. Above all, two wrongs cannot make a right.”

Chief Adetuyi recommended that people who perpetrate jungle justice should be punished, to serve as a deterrence to others. He also said that it is important to encourage justice in our society, so that people’s hope in the country’s justice system can be restored.

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