I join others to condemn the gruesome murder of a boy recently in Lagos. I was devastated by the news of the killing and I kept wondering why people would be so heartless as to take the life of another human being.
There were conflicting accounts of what truly transpired in the boy’s case. For example, an eyewitness said that a mob at the Alafia Busstop in the Orile Iganmu area of Lagos had accused the boy, whose name remains unknown, of stealing a wallet in company with others who managed to escape. The mob almost beat the suspect to a pulp and then, set fire to him.
Another eyewitness claimed that the deceased belonged to a gang of robbers that is notorious for stabbing its victims, while a resident said the deceased was not even the seven-year-old boy that was reportedly burnt to death.
A completely different account also said that the victim and his gang had tried to dispossess a woman of her belongings, but she resisted and screamed for help. The other members of the gang, who quickly appraised the situation, fled the scene to avoid being caught. But the boy had continued to struggle with the woman for her mobile phone. In desperation, the eyewitness recalled, he allegedly brought out a dagger and stabbed the woman.
After a fourth account claimed that the boy was killed because he stole some garri from his neighbour, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, described the story as untrue. He said that the age of the suspected robber should be between 20 and 25 years.
The essence of emphasising the contradictions in the narratives above is to show that discrepancies in evidence could pose a huge challenge to the administration of justice in Nigeria, going by the provisions of the Evidence Act, 2011.
Similar cases of mob killings have occurred within the last few months in different parts of the country. It is possible that many of such worrisome incidents have not been officially reported. For instance, a middle-aged woman was stripped and tortured, on mere suspicion of being a kidnapper, before she was set ablaze by a mob in the Abule Egba area of Lagos. The woman’s assailants claimed that she was caught trying to force some young schoolchildren into a waiting vehicle.
Also, we cannot forget so soon the gruesome murder of four undergraduates of the University of Port Harcourt by a mob at Aluu, a community in Rivers State, on the allegation that they were armed robbers. Later, it was discovered that the slain students were innocent and that their deaths were caused by a mischievous resident of the community.
At this point, perhaps it is safe to conclude that extra-judicial lynching (or ‘jungle justice’) is encouraged by a general lack of confidence in the police and the judicial system. Such actions are not only barbaric; they are unlawful and criminal. Also, they are at variance with the provisions of the criminal code and the penal code that prohibit illegal and arbitrary killing of persons.
Extrajudicial killing still occurs in the country because some people consider it to be a faster way of getting justice. For them, the process of litigation or adjudication is slow, cumbersome and bureaucratic. This thinking is fallacious. Should we then resort to the Dark Age and the Hobbesian state of nature to resolve differences?
Stakeholders in the business of judicial administration should do all they can to ensure that the integrity and due process of the law is always guaranteed.
While I condemn stealing and other social vices, it is instructive to state here that, irrespective of the excuses given by the perpetrators of jungle justice, there is no justification for anyone to either revenge a wrong or take the life of another person under extrajudicial circumstances. This is why law enforcement agents should ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future in any part of the country.
It is equally bad to see other Nigerians rejoicing and recording the misfortune of others with their camera phones and posting same on the social media. Those found abetting, participating and condoning mob killings should be severely punished.
We should realise that anyone could become a victim of mob action tomorrow. For this reason, efforts should be made by every concerned Nigerian to put an end to jungle justice in our society.
Adewale Kupoluyi writes from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.
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