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Sunday 24 March 2019

Jungle Justice

I witnessed firsthand the lynching of a supposed thief on my way to the office the other day. It was horrifying, to say the least. I got to the scene just as the hapless lad was trying to free himself from a rope that was tied around his neck; and with which he was been pulled like an animal. (Erm, this is where you stop reading and jump to the concluding part if you cannot stomach such things). 

As he struggled to free himself, a bottle was smashed on his head and his blood began to flow. Not done with the lynching, the irate mob began raining blows, sticks, stones etc, just about anything they could lay their hands on to inflict their own pound of flesh on the victim. 

Around them, a restive crowd was gathering. These ones seemed excited at seeing the thief being battered. They cheered and applauded as decisive blows were landed on his body. The crowd was made up of mainly young people and they revelled in the punishment being meted out on the young thief. 

In a flash, the picture of Demola came to my mind. Remember Demola? The alleged Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) leader in Ago Palace Way in Lagos, who was beaten to a pulp and left for dead during the recently concluded Presidential elections in Nigeria? 

His offence? Mobilizing his boys to disrupt the ongoing elections by snatching the ballot boxes in that vicinity. That earned him a death sentence in the People's Court of Ago Palace Way. And the sentence was executed swiftly by the same people who sentenced him. He was lynched and his motorbike burnt. Writhing in pain, the whole world watched as Demola attempted to get up on his feet, he was dealt the death blow as a large stone was smashed on his head. 

Game over! Demola crumbled to the ground and didn't move again. Deed accomplished the mob left the motionless body. He is dead; the killer has been killed. But like the proverbial cat with nine lives, Demola survived the assault and was later seen receiving treatment at an undisclosed hospital. I wonder what would be going through the minds of the people that wanted him dead especially now that he is alive! 

Please don't get me wrong! I do not condone stealing, thuggery, election violence or any other kind of social vice. I believe the law should take its course and those who engage in such should be prosecuted. I'm a firm believer in the Law of the land; that NO ONE is above the Law and that the Law applicable to the goose should also apply to the gander My little knowledge of legal matters tells me that a suspect is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. 

If the above statement that "a suspect is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law" is true then why all these barbaric acts of jungle justice? What if the suspect was wrongfully accused and didn't have an opportunity to defend himself before life was snuffed out of him? 

And even if the accusations against him are valid and true, should that translate to an automatic death sentence? Is our value for life so minuscule? What thrills us so much in the loss of human life? Could it be a lack of faith in our law enforcement and judicial institutions? How do we remedy this ugly trend? Questions, questions and more questions!

Human life is precious and should be treated as such. 
Amnesty International holds that the death penalty breaches human rights, in particular the right to life and the right to live free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Both rights are protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN in 1948.
Read more about that here. 

Hence we should desist from this flippant taking of life at the slightest provocation. That victim is someone's relation - father, husband, brother, friend etc. No matter how despicable he is, ending his life indiscriminately will cause sorrow and pain to those that are related to him. 

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  1. I strongly agree with your position on this matter of jungle justice we live in a society where thou shall not be caught is the most potent law. Those perpetuating the act are as guilty as the victim because they just committed murder on a murderer who gave them the permission to take lives. In my opinion I think the reason for the barbaric act is because of our lack of value for life. Life looks so cheap to us that we could offer a person's life for wealth that won't last beyond the person's lifetime, take actions that will render others impotent in their life ambitions, and the list is endless. It is a pity my only prayer is that we won't fall in the hands of people who won't value our lives

    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment Dimeji.
      My question still remains "how did we get here as a people?" And most importantly, "how do we transit from this sordid mindset going forward?"

  2. Great thoughts. The greatest fear of jungle is a great possibility of miscarriage of justice. We have recorded cases of mistaken identity. I understand there is an axiom in law which says it is better to let 99 criminals escape than for one innocent man to unjustly punished (something like that). There in lies the folly of jungle justice - the whole absence of fair hearing and the inappropriateness of the punishment (sometimes). Jungle justice is barbaric. Application of justice is a serious matter and cannot be left in the hands of a mob whose state of mind cannot be ascertained. When you try to educate folks like you've just done, proponents of jungle justice will come up with the usual defense lines: "Good for them". "It will serve as a deterrent", "we cannot trust law enforcement agents to do the needful" etc etc. As soothing as these excuses sound, they still cannot make what is obviously wrong right. I however appeal to the police and every one in our justice chain to sit up and make the system both credible and trustworthy. There needs to be a thorough overhaul of the justice system. A lot of Nigerians are not convinced they can get justice, The narrative is that justice can be bought. The long delays and adjournment of cases do not help the matter. Isn't the law people who say justice delayed is justice denied?

    1. I appreciate your comment. Thank you. Indeed our law enforcement agents need to be awake to their responsibilities and help curb this menace. Its however obvious that two wrongs cannot make a right


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