Stemming the tide of jungle justice in Nigeria
Kingsley Mba, October 19, 2016
Nigeria has become one of the countries of the world where citizens spurn the rule of law and abuse inalienable rights of fellow citizens especially the right which stipulates that an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of law as guaranteed in section 36(5) of 1999 constitution.
Sadly, Nigerians and even the police whose duties involve protecting citizens and defending the constitution often neglect the adherence to this constitutional provision and resort to the despicable act of jungle justice and abuse of rule of law. There are many cases where alleged criminals are denied justice and instead have varying degrees of mob actions meted out to them depending on the mob mentality among the oppressors.
Almost on daily basis, the media are awash with news of victims of jungle justice and it goes to show how barbaric our people have become. For reason far beyond common sense, we have become notorious in seizing every chance to draw the blood of our fellow citizens and most of the times under flimsy and awkward reasons.
We wake up almost every day to behold startling incidents of mob actions where the perpetrators took laws into their hands in the most bizarre manner. Just a few years back, we were confronted with the shocking episode of the Aluu four where four promising young men were hacked to the death on the orders of murderous community leaders under spurious allegations. It left to be seen the kind of punitive measure the court will place on the perpetrators of the Aluu killings to assuage such insensitive waste of precious lives.
A few weeks ago, a young man had his wrist chopped off in Uyo, Akwa- Ibom state by a callous mob under the flimsy accusation that he was caught trying to steal a plasma television from a football viewing centre. What about the case of the woman in Ejigbo market and her daughter who were ruthlessly brutalized by some demented market leaders who claimed she stole a basket of pepper. Her case was so pathetic because not only was she brutalized but was also sexually molested with her daughter who was said to have died as a result of that incident.
A walk through the streets of major cities in Nigeria will show how debased our sense of humanity and civilization has become. Even a false alarm in Nigeria attracts heavy response albeit in a negative manner and you would see how clusters of people would swing into action and form an emergency crime-busting syndicates with each suggesting toughest punishment to be unleashed on the victim which may include outright killing.
The 2014 Rule of Law index report released by the World Justice Project passed a damning verdict on Nigeria, ranking Nigeria among the countries with the lowest respect for rule of law. Out of the 99 countries assessed by the report, Nigeria ranked 93 just a little ahead of countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan.
More worrisome is the seeming culpability of the law enforcement agencies, especially the police force whose extrajudicial killings is a public knowledge and well documented by Amnesty International and other human rights agencies.
It is a matter of grave concern that the provision of Section 35 of the constitution that “A person accused of a crime is presumed innocent until proven otherwise", is being violated by the police. How can persons accused of a crime are paraded on the television and in the full glare of the public where such individuals have not been convicted by any court. What happens where the individual is found not guilty of the alleged crime? Again damning evidence abounds of police aiding and abetting perpetrators of jungle justice. The case of Aluu four where it was alleged that the police came to the community where the killings took place and after speaking with the leaders of the vigilante group that carried out the gruesome killing drove off without rescuing the boys. Also, most mob killings have been discovered to happen not too far from the police posts.
Nigeria has to wake up and rid itself of this cankerworm and embrace the rule of law and standards that conform to international best practices. Nigeria should stop making itself a laughing stock among the comity of nations. Enough of the mindless killings! Enough of the senseless waste of precious lives!