Crime suspects should be given speedy trials and the guilty must be punished

The frequency of mob killings in Nigeria demonstrates that we are teetering towards a lawless society, with all the frightening implications for peace and security. Just recently, two men were set ablaze and burnt beyond recognition. The allegation was that they robbed a Point of Sale (PoS) attendant in the Igando area of Lagos. “Police arrived at the scene, but the mob had fled. The investigation has commenced,” the state police command’s spokesperson, Benjamin Hundeyin said, although nothing has been heard about the case since then. What is most worrying is that a lot of times, innocent citizens are often the victims of this brand of mob justice.     

Meanwhile, the rule of law, as opposed to that of the jungle, presupposes that whatever may be the situation, everybody is entitled to a fair trial before punishment can be meted if found guilty. But as more and more Nigerians shun the instrumentality of the law in the settlement of disputes, many innocent citizens are getting maimed and killed. It is therefore important that Nigerians rein in all impulses to violence, self-help, or any other form of extra-judicial killings in the settlement of disputes. Under the rule of law, it is the sacred duty of the judiciary to safeguard the rights and liberty of citizens. And the right to life is the ultimate measure of all rights.    

Authorities should be concerned that across the country, many Nigerians are increasingly taking the law into their hands and delivering ‘instant’ and brutal justice without recourse to the law. Mere suspicion of offenses ranging from robbery, rape to witchcraft can lead to ‘death sentence’ without victims given any chance to defend themselves. Even more odious, many of these brutal killings are often filmed and circulated on social media. Not long ago, no fewer than four suspected kidnappers who were alleged to have feigned insanity were killed in mob attacks in Ilorin, Kwara State. The hapless victims were beaten to a coma before being burnt alive.     

The spike in cases of jungle justice raises some pertinent questions. Why are more people resorting to mob justice? Why is the public becoming increasingly impatient in following the dictates of the law? Are many losing confidence in law enforcement agencies or are these signs of a more dangerous national ailment? Is human life no longer sacrosanct in Nigeria?    

The answer of course is simple. It is a combination of all. There is some form of jungle justice in many societies, but what is troubling here is that the propensity for dispensing this brand of justice is becoming increasingly high. We therefore believe that the government should crack down on the perpetrators of such heinous acts to ensure that only the courts can give a guilty verdict and stipulate the commensurate punishment. But we are also aware that the judiciary is also part of the problem. Some criminal trials go on almost indefinitely such that victims are left with the notion that they can never secure justice. Even in cases that end in court, there are hardly diligent prosecutions such that many criminals go away unpunished. And for that reason, many Nigerians do not see anything wrong in taking the law into their own hands.     

To redress the situation, there is an urgent need for critical stakeholders in the justice sector to investigate all the problem areas. The police and the courts must collaborate to ensure that crime suspects are given speedy trials at the end of which those found guilty must be punished according to law. That is the only way to end the barbaric regime of jungle justice.    

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