3 Simple Ways of Banishing the Scourge OF Jungle Justice In Nigeria.
One of the biggest news story that dominated social media last week was about the ‘7 year old kid’ that was lynched and burnt to death by a baying crowd. News had it that he had stolen some gari( a very cheap West African food) Somehow, the story was supposed to tug at our heart strings, it was supposed to evoke massive emotional response from those who read the initial accounts. It still does, for many still believe a 7 year old was lynched. I have now been able to gather from several more reliable sources that indeed the deceased is NOT 7 years old. However, I have to state that, it doesn’t matter how old he is, what is wrong is wrong and lynching anybody, regardless of age is wrong. Jungle justice has no place in modern society.
I have listened to some stories from victims of vicious attacks perpetrated by hoodlums in some parts of Lagos, Nigeria and you would understand a reaction similar to jungle justice meted out to these hoodlums. You would understand a reaction of instant death if these victims had their way. Some of these victims have lost their lives or seen the lives of loved ones taken or have experienced horrific injuries themselves; so if you put the jungle justice option on the table, of course they’ll snap it up. But that is just an understandable emotional response. I probably would feel the same way too. One thing is obvious with most victims of robbery – they feel indifferent with the instant justice dealt out by members of the public, simply because they have lost all trust in the Nigerian Police as well as the overall judicial system. Though an understandable fact, but consider that they are indifferent; not completely for or completely against.
I have never been in this situation before therefore I must tread very carefully with how I approach the subject. If we allow victims of crime to determine the level of punishment for criminals who have inflicted untold pain and suffering on them or their loved ones, our fragile world will descend into a state of anarchy, this is a fact. This just means jungle justice has no place in a modern society.
OK, what is the solution to this delicate topic? I propose 3 very simple but effective ways to put an end to jungle justice in Nigeria and indeed Africa.
Police accountability – The police must be held accountable. Change in current laws must include an element of criminality leveled against the police in the area an incident of jungle justice happens. In other words, the DPO (Divisional Police Officer) of any locality, county, neighborhood or ‘area’ a human being is lynched and killed as a result of jungle justice should carry some sort of liability. If he knows he’ll be held accountable, his men will know they will do anything possible to prevent public lynching in any area simply because if oga goes down, he will definitely not go down alone.
Community involvement – The Nigerian government in conjunction with Facebook and other large social media companies must work together to 1) scrutinize videos uploaded to the network and identify truly distasteful ones. By not acknowledging these videos by granting them access, there will at least be a limitation of the urge to post videos of gruesome inhumane acts gratifying the heartless in our society. Note – there shouldn’t be a blanket ban on uploading such videos however since they have been instrumental in identifying victims and perpetrators of crimes that might have otherwise gone unsolved. With that in mind, the government and social media companies must work to encourage ‘passerby’s’ who whip out their mobile phones to film heinous crimes to not only film the crime but also the faces of all involved. From those who threw the first rock to those that lit the match. That way every single person is identified, giving the police in the area the much-needed help in identifying members of the baying mob as well as any who have ended a life. This is major because I believe very strongly that this will act as a deterrent to anybody looking to dish out justice outside of the law. If your face is captured on video shared to millions across the world as the one who lit a match or put ‘tyre round the neck of a thief’ then you have no hiding place.
Inclusion in the law – this is quite elementary. Jungle justice must be criminalized. If not for anything but for the sake of innocent victims who have fallen to this monstrous deed. The Nigerian government must not just talk about it, they must do something about it. And by doing something, they must ensure that the penalty for such an act is very strict. Perhaps as strict as the crime itself. Now, I am not advocating the death penalty for jungle justice, but a lengthy jail term won’t be too bad. On the other hand, any criminal rescued from the blood thirsty hands of a mob must also be handed a sentence that befits his crime IF CONVICTED.
As you might have gathered the overriding solution is centered around accountability; and it should be. Accountability from the police, from the judicial system and also from the members of the community at large.