Tuesday, June 3, 2014 2:22 pm
It was early morning, 15 May. Many residents of Aduke Street, Ahmadiyya, Lagos were jolted from sleep by persistent shouts of ‘Thief’. Some that had already woken up and were preparing to leave their homes jetted back inside, while the courageous ones ran toward the direction the shouts came from. Soon, two men were nabbed and immediately handed over to the police. But a third suspect, who had gone into hiding, was soon found and the crowd decided on jungle justice.After beating him mercilessly with whatever they could lay their hands on, the crowd hung a used tyre on his neck, emptied a can of petrol on him and then allowed him to speak for the last time. Ajibade, as he called himself, said he was not at the robbery scene. The two other suspects had burgled a shop on the street and brought the yield, a bag of clothes and mobile phones, to him. But fate had decreed that his end was not that morning; while still confessing, the police came in a van and rescued him.
Few days before the incident, a 50-year-old grandmother escaped death by the whiskers in Ajegunle, a densely populated area of Lagos State, when a mob descended on her after she was seen carrying a day-old baby. The mob thought she was too old to be the mother of the baby she was cuddling. They approached her and, before she could tell her story, descended on her and started the process of lynching her. Yet, the unidentified woman continued to shout, explaining that the baby was her grandchild, whose mother was still in the hospital.
The arrival of policemen at the scene saved the woman. She was rescued and whisked away by the law enforcement agents only to discover she had told the truth. The medical doctor who took delivery of the baby later told the police that he had instructed the woman to take the baby home for better care while its mother recuperated at the hospital. The doctor, according to police sources, said the baby’s mother developed complications after delivery and could not breastfeed the child, who needed care. “The doctor said the baby was delivered around 8.45am and that any attempt by his mother to breastfeed it could lead to her death because she had lost so much blood and was weak and pale,” the police source quoted the doctor as saying.
But by the time the truth surfaced, the baby was already bleeding from the cord, a result of the mob’s attempt to seize it from the woman.
Incidents relating to jungle justice have recently taken a part of national discourse. Within three months, over 38 cases of jungle justice have been recorded around the country, with the south-western part experiencing more incidents. While some have survived to tell stories of their experience, others, unfortunately, have been lynched or burnt beyond recognition.
One of such incidents happened along Ekoro Road in the Abule-Egba area of Lagos. As reported by P.M. NEWS, sister publication to TheNEWS, the elderly woman involved was attacked by a mob on the morning of 6 May, based on the suspicion that she tried to kidnap three schoolchildren on their way to school. Her alleged plan was foiled when a bread seller, who suspected her movement, raised the alarm. As reported, the woman was stripped nude and beaten to a pulp. Her assailants were further incensed when information got to them that the woman was the owner of a sport utility vehicle in which some dead children had been discovered. The merciless crowd hung a tyre around her neck, poured petrol on her and set her ablaze in the presence of hapless policemen. The security men had actually been drafted to quell the violence against the unknown woman, but they met stiff resistance from the agitated crowd.
After the deed, it was discovered that the woman had no car, as the frenzied crowd had been made to believe. “She may have been innocent,” Idowu Sanni, a resident of the area told this magazine. “We only looked on in pity as blood flowed from her body. At a time, she could no longer talk. She merely looked as they set her on fire. But we have been told that she had no car and in fact, could be innocent of this allegation that led to her being gruesomely killed.”
The suspect, a witness had said, was asked where he was headed with the girl, but he provided answers that were not satisfactory. The crowd then searched his bag and, the witness said, found four phone sim cards and a jackknife. That was enough to pounce on him. Even the police officers who rushed to the scene to rescue him were not spared by the irate crowd. Some of them sustained injuries.
Ngozi Braide, the Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, in Lagos State, said in a press release on 5 May, that policemen attached to Ipaja Division had saved one Samsondeen Yusuf from being lynched by an angry mob at Adefemi Junction in the Ipaja area of Lagos State, for allegedly attempting to kidnap a teenager, Salawat Sonubi. The police, she said, acted based on a distress call. The team took the seriously injured suspect for treatment at the Oke-Odo General Hospital of the state. The statement said on 6 May, same day the unknown woman was murdered along Ekoro Road, the police stormed the Ile-Iwe Bus Stop, Egbe, Lagos, where they rescued a woman, Chinaya Nancy Okafor. By the time the police got to the scene, she had been stripped naked and was about to be lynched by a mob, on the claim that she attempted to kidnap a child.
That same day, 34-year-old Mufutau Kosoko was rescued by the police after a failed attempt to lynch him for allegedly abducting a five-year-old boy, Prosper Kingsley, at the Idimu end of Lagos.
In Ijoko, Ogun State, three men were set ablaze after they were stripped naked and thoroughly beaten for allegedly kidnapping 26-year-old Elizabeth, a resident of Atan-Ota, Ogun State. The story was that the victim boarded the car in which the three suspects were travelling to Ewekoro, but suddenly found herself at the Gas Line in Ijoko, a different route from her supposed destination. And she raised an alarm. “She screamed from the vehicle in which she was being taken to their den when she observed that she was in another place and the people in the area blocked the vehicle, beat the occupants, killed them and burnt them to ashes. The victim is being interrogated…,” Muyiwa Adejobi, the Police Public Relations Officer in Ogun State, said.
On Tuesday, 29, April in Abeokuta, officers of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, rescued Favor Okoye, a middle aged woman, who would have been lynched by an angry mob. She was alleged to have kidnapped a baby around Toroto Street of the Ogun State capital that afternoon. Olanrewaju Kareem, the Public Relations Officer of the NSCDC in the state, said it was a taxi driver that alerted officers of the NSCDC of the plight of the woman in the hands of the mob. “The men quickly raced to the scene to rescue the woman but all efforts and appeals by corps members to allow the suspected kidnapper face the consequence through the legal process were ignored by the mob, which insisted on killing the woman. Because of this development, the civil defence officer called the office for reinforcement, as a result of which armed men were deployed to the scene,” Kareem said.
Surprisingly, as the NSCDC men carried the suspect toward Akin-Olugbade area in order to get a vehicle to convey her to a safe place, the crowd continued to charge at them, insistent on instant death for the woman. “The situation became more violent when the armed NSCDC men arrived. They threw available objects, including bottles, planks, stones among others. Though the mob succeeded in breaking the windscreen of civil defence vehicle, we were able to rescue the woman from being killed,” Kareem said, disclosing that the woman, who was at that stage in a state of coma, was rushed to the Federal Medical Centre in Abeokuta.
In Ikere-Ekiti, Ekiti State, irate youths recently arrested a suspected kidnapper, who was reportedly in his late forties. He was said to have been in the possession of a child’s body as early as 7.40am. After the youths arrested him, they handed him over to the men of the Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, an organisation whose role, among others, includes securing the environment. But the restless youths hated the time-wasting by the OPC. They took the laws into their hands. “The man was initially handed over to the Oodua local vigilance group. We expected them to torture him but they [he vigilance group members] did no such thing. They kept him there and wasted our time. At a point we got angry and took him to the main road and burnt him,” one of the perpetrators told journalists.
Osun and Oyo states in the western part of the country have not been spared of residents who believe in jungle justice. On 5 May, two suspected kidnappers were burnt in separate incidents in Ikire and Apomu, two towns in Irewole Local Government Area of Osun State. This was just weeks after a similar incident forced Governor Rauf Aregbesola to issue a stern warning to the residents against taking the laws into their hands. While one of the suspects was burnt to death at N.U.D. Primary School, Sango area of Ikire for not being able to defend why he was there, the other suspect was lynched for alleged confession that he was a kidnapper.
Earlier in the same state, three suspected kidnappers had been roasted with a fourth one beaten to a pulp. One of the suspects was reportedly arrested at the Orita Olaiya area of the state while attempting to kidnap a child at a market. Again, on 19 May, another suspect was rescued in the state from a crowd that had perfected plans to lynch him for attempting to kidnap an eight-year-old girl in Ota-Olokan, Osogbo. The mob had taken on the suspect, who allegedlly had with him weapons, including cutlasses and knives. DSP Folasade Odoro, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, confirmed the incident and promised that the police would investigate it.
Just a few days days ago, residents of Sabo in Atiba Local Government Area of Oyo State reportedly set one Lateef Gbadegesin, a former councillor in the old Oyo Local Government, and Abideen, popularly called ‘Blood’, ablaze for attempting to kidnap one Anike, a young girl who they allegedly had convinced to take them somewhere. However, the family of Gbadegesin are now demanding justice, arguing that their family member was not a kidnapper but a customer to Anike’s mother. The same day the two suspects were killed, a middle-aged woman, popularly called Aya Baba, who was believed to be mentally ill, was set ablaze by youths in Ondo West Local Government Area of Ondo State for an alleged failed attempt to kidnap a teenage boy.
In Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, a magistrates’ court has remanded six persons in prison for allegedly setting one Saka Sheu ablaze, in what is believed to be jungle justice.
Some Nigerians say taking the laws into one’s hands is not the best way to ensure justice. One of them, Aziegbe Ehis, even called for a strong media campaign. “The police should come up with media campaign because they cannot stop this jungle justice.”
The police are not of much help in such situations, as a result of the loss of confidence the people have in the security agencies. Reacting to the development, Sherry Osakwe, a lawyer, said it is an indictment on the judiciary and the police. She said the people are getting impatient because of sad experiences in court. She said the action of the people now calls for the judiciary to wake up and dispense justice without delay and controversiy. “A situation the court will delay matters through flimsy excuses- – adjournents, attending other meetings or the police not doing the right thing – points to the fact that the people no longer have confidence in those institutions,” Osakwe noted.
According to her, jungle justice is dangerous because of its consequences because, with time, it becomes a tool to avenge targets. She lamented its rise and suggested the strengthening of all institutions responsible for maintenance of security, peace and justice in Nigeria.
In most cases, as Adejobi put it, jungle justice often affects police investigations. Describing the scene at Ijoko, he said: “It was a heavy inferno; they put tyres on the suspects and set them ablaze. We have evacuated their ashes. We have taken over the matter; we are still investigating the matter. We condemn jungle justice; people should desist from the act.”
Like him, all other police PROs of affected states have condemned it, with Mohammed Abubakar, the Inspector-General of Police, reading the riot act to perpetrators recently. In a statement signed by Frank Mba, Force PRO, the IG tasked all zonal Assistant Inspectors-General as well as Commissioners of Police to protect citizens’ rights.
The statement stressed: “Deeply concerned about the increasing tendency by some citizens to resort to extra-judicial killings – Jungle Justice – against those suspected to have committed one crime or another in Nigeria, the Inspector-General of Police, MD Abubakar, has warned citizens to desist from such reprehensible acts… The IGP warns that any person found to be involved in any acts of impunity or jungle justice must bear the full wrath of the law as two wrongs cannot make a right.”
Abubakar said anyone arrested on suspicion of committing a crime must be handed over to the police, which would prosecute such suspected persons. He also called on the human rights community and civil society organisations to live up to their responsibility of enlightening the public on the dangers and consequences associated with engaging in jungle justice.
The Lagos State Government has also sounded a warning through Ade Ipaye, the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice. “The full weight of the law would be brought to bear on anyone henceforth caught engaging in jungle justice, no matter what the alleged criminal could have done. The mob may well be wrong and the helpless victim may be anyone’s child or relative. Even if they did commit the alleged offence, there is a process for prosecuting and showing the evidence in court so that proven criminals can be properly punished according to law,” he said in a statement.
How far will Nigerians heed these warnings?
Additional report by Cyriacus Izuekwe.