Friday Editorial

The authorities have to do more to protect the people

A Lagos-based comedian Chinedu Paul and two others were last week named the latest victims of mob justice. Paul, aka Think Twice, accompanied by two mechanics, was on a mission to retrieve his broken-down vehicle. But the trio was mistaken for members of “Badoo,” a cult group which has been terrorising some areas in Ikorodu, Lagos, and lynched by some angry residents. Within a week, six persons suspected to be members of the cult group were reportedly lynched and set ablaze by a vigilance group in the now notorious and crime-infested Ikorodu axis of Lagos.

 The rate at which the mob has been dispensing “instant and brutal justice” on suspected cultists and kidnappers and the like should worry those in authority as they send disturbing signals of a society where impunity reigns.
A poll by one of Nigeria’s leading poll and survey companies, NOIPolls Ltd, stated sometime ago that majority of Nigerians, about 94 per cent, agreed that there was a high prevalence of jungle justice/mob attack in Nigeria and described it as “a wicked and barbaric act”. But 51 per cent of the respondents, according to the poll, attributed the prevalence of jungle justice in the country to a “lack of trust in the law enforcement agencies”. According to the result, 43 per cent of Nigerians had personally witnessed these acts of jungle justice in their localities while 16 per cent knew the victims of jungle justice/mob attacks.

“Jungle justice/mob attacks are generally characterised by the stripping of accused persons of their fundamental human right of fair hearing and the opportunity to defend themselves. The occurrence and increasing frequency of these attacks which sometimes result in the extra- judicial killing of Nigerians has generated growing concern among the populace”, said the poll which described jungle justice as a situation where “an irate mob, takes into their hands the right to execute punishment on alleged offenders of a heinous crime.”
It is trite to argue that under the law, it is only the state that can punish a criminal, and that is after a proper trial in court to establish that an offence was indeed committed. But under the current situation in our country, it is the mob that identifies and “prosecutes” alleged kidnappers, ritualists, robbers, cultists, etc., and in almost all the cases, the punishment is both instant and severe.

Unfortunately, this recourse to savagery which is fast becoming a national pastime is bewildering as it does not matter the supposed crime being levelled against those caught in the web of this new wave of jungle justice. And as it most often happens, it is the innocent citizens that are victims of mob justice whose dispensers cannot be held accountable. This means that just being on a street corner looking a little like someone accused of a crime the day before or even being a victim of witch-hunt could cost one his or her life.

There is a pertinent question about what is responsible for this ugly development: is it failure of law enforcement or signs of a more dangerous national ailment? Or is it that human life is no longer sacrosanct in Nigeria? The answer of course is simple. It is a combination of the three. What is however rather troubling is that the propensity for dispensing this brand of justice is becoming increasingly high in our cities as many people take the law into their hands. The way things stand today, the government has to do more. They must fund the police and expand their capacity to carry out their constitutionally stipulated responsibility of protecting lives and property while the courts must be alive to their responsibilities.