By Uche Amunike
I was heartbroken a couple of days ago when I watched a video clip of two women who stole money from a shop being humiliated by an angry mob. They were stripped of their clothes and beaten up by young men who happily recorded a video clip of their near nude state. They were slapped around and hit from all corners and every tear that dropped pulled at my heart strings. One of them had a substance I suspect is Dettol, poured in her eyes. She was so scared and my heart went out to her as they made her confess before the camera that she was a thief and she stole money. She fearfully hit her chest and said to the camera, 'Yes. I'm a thief'. A lot of things crossed my mind. I thought of her husband. I thought of her children. I thought of her friends also and how they would feel seeing her in that very disgraceful video recording. They were eventually handed over to the police and my question remained, why were they humiliated in the first instance before being handed over to the right authorities? What is this thing about Nigerians enjoying the act of jungle justice? It beats me.
My reason for taking this up this edition is because the spate of violence and bloodshed in our country has gotten to a stage where everyone is almost guilty of being a part of it. Every day you go on air, the news that quickly pops up is herdsmen brutality or gory pictures of how they slaughter men, women and children. If you log in to social media, you'll be shocked to see extreme video clips of these killings. I was unfortunate to watch that of an entire family shot by these herdsmen. They got a woman to strap her baby on her back and made her lie down. They stepped back and shot her several times and then shot her baby with several bullets too. They repeated same manner in killing several others. I also remember seeing a video clip of a long line of Nigerians waiting to be killed. This time, it wasn't by shooting. It was with a sharp double edged sword. A grave was dug and all the victims needed do was walk up to their killers, kneel down and bend their necks which was then sliced like a piece of bread. The moment the head rolled off from the body, the remains were kicked right inside the already dug grave. It is really sad. Watching those videos always made something leave my body. It gave me an intense sad feeling. Need I remind you all about the killings in Yobe, Nimbo, Jos, Kaduna, Abuja and so on over the years starting from the days of Boko Haram to that of the present menace of the fearless and daring herdsmen?
Anyway, this write up isn't about herdsmen or the incessant killings we've been witnessing in the past few years. No. it's about the issue of jungle justice. I merely mentioned the activities of herdsmen and other terrorists in our dear country because I'm wondering if Nigerians have gotten so used to the killing and bloodshed that they no longer care about human life. It's like killing people is no longer a big deal to Nigerians.
Let's look at the mindset Nigerians have in handling thieves when they catch them stealing. I gave an example of the two ladies caught in a shop where they stole some money. The shop owner would have simply invited the police in western climes and then let them do their job of arresting them after which they would be charged to court. There is no way under the sun that the thieves would be humiliated and dehumanized or even killed by an angry mob. It is an act of barbarism and should be discouraged in every way possible. We live in the 21st century and jungle justice should belong to the medieval times.
Another thing that worries me is the fact that even the policemen that should protect these victims end up being helpless in the face of such violence. I don't know if it's fear of being mobbed as well or for some other reasons, but I know that a couple of times, they watch helplessly while these mob actions take place except in a few cases. This readily brings to mind the gruesome killing of the four young undergraduates of the University of Port Harcourt in 2012. When the people of Aluu Community decided they were thieves and deserved to die, they took the law into their hands and tortured those lovely children in a manner I had never seen. They cried out for help, hoping people would hear their own version and accept that they were truly innocent. Nobody listened. The policemen that were present also didn't save them. People rather preferred to record every part of that ugly incident and send to social media. When I watched that clip to aid me in a report I wrote on that incident, back then, I was shocked to see a policeman among the crowd. A policeman that was supposed to protect life and property being sighted in such an atmosphere was one of the most disappointing things I ever experienced while watching that video clip. Didn't he have tear gas? It would have dispersed the crowd. Couldn't he have released two gun shots in the air to scare them away? Couldn't he have gone to his station for reinforcement assuming he was the only officer on ground? These were questions that crossed my mind as I watched that very disturbing video recording. So, it all really seems to boil down to the point that we do not have value for human life.
I remember the case of a seven year old boy who was beaten up and burnt to death in the city of Lagos in 2015. He attempted to steal garri from a trader's shop. That was his crime. Angry Nigerians beat him up mercilessly and put tyre round his neck, poured fuel on him and set him ablaze. It didn't matter to them that he was a minor. It didn't matter to them that he could still have been sent to a reformatory home and might even change for the better. It didn't matter to them that he had a right to live as a child who had his whole future ahead of him. No, it didn't. They decided his fate and meted out their own idea of justice by sending him to a premature grave. Sad, indeed.
I do not support crime by any standards. Don't get me wrong. I am just uncomfortable about people being savage in the 21st century all in the name of ending crime. When I think of the bloodshed in this country, I feel chills running down my spine. Do you remember the days of the Bakassi Boys in Anambra state? Armed robbers were massacred almost on a daily basis and before we knew it, crime reduced as most of them fled the state. It however didn't make the bloodshed right. Our children watch these acts of violence and I wonder what it does to their psyche. We certainly didn't grow up this way.
I remember the case of one Akinnifesi Olubunmi who was caught red handed with a politician. He was gay. The politician lured him with gifts and he accepted to have sexual relations with him. Olubunmi was mobbed, beaten to stupor but was rushed to the hospital. Unfortunately, he died on the following day. Of course the politician went scot free. Olubunmi had to pay for the price of a sin committed by both of them with his life.
Now, this leaves me with the burning question, what about our Politicians? Are they not the real thieves? Who and who have mobbed them? These Nigerians sometimes go out to steal because of the condition that corrupt politicians have put this country in. So, who punishes the corrupt politicians? Who? They tell us a lot of lies and steal our money. They loot the treasury of this country mercilessly and stash the money in foreign bank accounts. When you meet them outside the shores of this country, they spend like crazy and are not discreet about their waste of public funds. Remember, this is tax payer's money we're talking about. Who and who has mobbed them? No one.
Last year, a lot of noise was made about the wealthy kidnapper called Evans. Where is he today?, How are we sure he hasn’t walked away free and unscalded?
I'm simply trying to pass a message here. Jungle justice is wrong and with the increasing rate at which it is practiced in our dear country, people will begin to see life as something not worth preserving. Truthfully enough, it hasn't even reduced crime in any way and never will. Take it or not, no matter what any criminal does, burning them is even a greater evil. It is evil in the eyes of God who created life and in the eyes of man too.
Jungle justice is a violation of human rights. It reduces people's dignity to the lowest ebb which is why so many countries still see us as barbarians no matter how much we go to their countries and act all sophisticated. No sane people can gruesomely degrade people and proudly burn them no matter what crimes they perpetrated. In as much as some of our policemen do not protect these victims of jungle justice, I still want to encourage everyone reading this to be the person to rush and seek help for these victims anytime you find them about being mobbed. Forget about trying to video record for social media. Be the one to save that life. Speaking of which there is a need for us to regulate the kinds of posts we pump into the media.
In conclusion, in condemning jungle justice, I am not in any way supporting criminal acts of any kind. I am merely spreading the message that all lives must be respected, whether that of a criminal or the Pope himself. We do not have any right to take people's lives. The life of every citizen matters. Their well-being matters too. No matter what crime they commit, they are better off alive and reformed than brutally killed on the streets. If we support jungle justice but preach against terrorism and herdsmen, then we are mere hypocrites because we speak the same language as them.
My message is a simple and straight one. Take away the jungle in the justice and regard life and its potentials! Do have a great week. Love you all!!!