Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Campaign Against Alarming Trend in Torture, Jungle Justice in Nigeria

This is certainly not the best time to be a suspect, an accused or caught red-handed violating a law or committing a crime in Nigeria, especially for the less privileged. The reason is obvious: torture, jungle (mob or street) justice is spreading across the nook and cranny of Nigeria at an alarming rate.

A seven-year-old boy was recently lynched in Lagos, Nigeria for allegedly stealing Garri.
A survey by NOIPolls in 2014 says about 95 percent of Nigerians affirmed that there was a high prevalence of jungle justice and mob attacks in Nigeria. Similarly, a Deutsche Welle report titled: ‘’When the mob rules: jungle justice in Africa’’ also submits that ‘’jungle justice is rampant across sub-Saharan Africa’’. The report went further to say that, ‘’every day at least one person on the continent faces torture or even death at the hands of irate citizenry determined to be judge, jury and executioner’’. Cameroon and Nigeria are said to have the highest rate of jungle justice in Africa. While affluent Nigerians habitually circumvent justice and get away with colossal stealing, corruption, criminal offences and malfeasance by hiring retinue lawyers, hapless Nigerians are tortured, instantly hacked to death for say, stealing a bicycle, on fanatical religious sentimentalities or for simply been at the wrong place at the wrong time. My earlier essay: ‘’Extra-judicial Killings, Right To Life of Gunshot Victims in Nigeria’’ records extra-judicial killings by security agents, the current essay will dissect acts of torture and jungle justice in Nigeria mainly by private citizens.

Meaning of Torture, Jungle (mob) or Street Justice

Torture is defined as, ‘’the deliberate, systematic, or wanton infliction of physical or mental suffering by one or more persons in an attempt to force another person to yield information or to make a confession or for any other reason’’. On the other hand, jungle Justice refers to: ‘’capital punishment meted out by groups of people without any legal authority on a suspected individual’’.

Torture, Jungle Justice is Illegal, Crime Against Humanity

It is trite that the right to life, freedom from torture are some of the inalienable rights entrenched in the statute books of the United Nations and in the Constitution of most countries. Amongst others, Article 3 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) affirms that, ‘’everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person’’. Article 5 asserts, ‘’no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’’. Also, Article 11 (1) of the UDHR states that,  ‘’everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence’’. Article 19 of the same UN Charter insists that, ‘’everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers’’. Similarly, Section 33 (1) of the Nigerian Constitution posits: “every person has the right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save the execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.” Also, Section 8 (1) of the Administration of Justice Act of 2015 provides as follows: a Suspect SHALL (a) be accorded humane treatment,  having regard to his right to dignity of his person; (b) a suspect must not be subjected to any form of torture, cruel,  inhuman or degrading treatment. 

From the foregoing, it follows that an individual is innocent until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction and no individual(s) has the right to take away the life of another. 

Torture, Jungle Justice is Spreading in Nigeria

In what became known as ‘’ALUU 4’’, on the 5th of October 2012, four undergraduates of the University of Port Harcourt (Uniport) – Ugonna Obuzor, Toku Lloyd, Chiadika Biringa, and Tekena Elkanah, were lynched by an angry mob after been falsely accused of theft in Aluu, a community in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. A video footage showed a police man hitting the victims with the butt of a rifle. Also in 2012, a 12-year-old who was accused of kidnapping a pupil was beaten and burnt alive in Kaduna. In 2014, a middle aged woman was stripped unclad and nearly lynched by a large crowd for allegedly kidnapping a young child in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State. 2016, two members of a seven-man robbery gang were caught in Warri, Delta state and were burnt alive in broad daylight for allegedly stealing or attempting to steal a tricycle. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recounts that over five suspects were killed within two months in Warri and its environs through jungle justice. As recently as the second quarter of 2016, irate Muslims youths in Kano State, lynched a 74-year old woman of Igbo extraction, Mrs. Bridget Aghahime over unfounded allegations that she blasphemed Prophet Muhammad.  Recall that prior to the beheading of Mrs. Bridget Aghahime in the same Kano, a young Igbo trader – Mr. Gideon Akaluka was equally lynched sometime in 1995 by angry Muslim mob for allegedly desecrating the Islamic Koran. Security agents are not also spared in jungle justice in Nigeria. Recently, a policeman - Corporal Robert Ugwanyi, was stoned to death by Nsukka residents for allegedly gunning down a motorcyclist, one Mr. Festus Onah. Two women, one of them called ‘Iyana Ejigbo’ were abused and tortured in Lagos for stealing pepper. A notorious serial rapist named Badoo was burnt alive at Ikorodu, Lagos state by an angry mob on July 23, 2016. A suspected thief was beaten to death for stealing a laptop at Admiralty Way in Lekki, Lagos State. In a related development, a young man said to be in his 20s or early 30s was tortured and burnt to death in Okigwe, Imo State for stealing motorcycle while another was burnt to death for stealing 3-month-old baby in Gboko, Benue State. Like many African countries, Nigeria has zero tolerance for LGBT leaning. While Nigerian law recommends 14 years jail term for homosexuality, a culprit is likely to be lynched if caught by a mob. Lately, two suspected gays escaped death by the whiskers when an angry mob descended on them at Enugu State, South-East, Nigeria. Fast-forward to August 2016, while trying to conclude this essay, news filtered in that students of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Imo state, reportedly lynched and burnt two fellows who allegedly gained entry to their abode and wanted to steal their stuff.

On Monday, 22 August 2016, 8 students of Abdu Gusau Polytechnic, Talata-Mafara, Zamfara State were bestially lynched over an allegation that one of them blasphemed against Islam and Prophet Mohammed.
The foregoing are just random incidents of jungle justice in Nigeria, the practice is pervasive and unrelenting. 

A seven-year-old boy was recently lynched in Lagos, Nigeria for allegedly stealing Garri.

Boy lynched in Lagos for allegedly stealing garri
The foregoing are just random incidents of jungle justice in Nigeria, the practice is pervasive.

Factors Responsible for Jungle Justice in Nigeria

1.     Lack of trust and confidence in law enforcement agencies: A NOIPolls survey submits that, 51 percent of Nigerians attributed the prevalence of jungle justice in the country to “lack of trust in the law enforcement agencies”.
2.     Stick-in-the-mud judicial process and lack of shoddy prosecution: Another factor blamed for jungle justice in Nigeria is the abysmal slow pace of the Nigerian judicial process. It is common to see suspects spend upwards of 10 years awaiting trial. As they say, justice delayed is justice denied due to laxity in diligent prosecution, criminals are likely to wriggle out. In 2014, the Nigerian Prisons Service affirmed it held 56,785 inmates around the country with 38,734 (68%) of them awaiting trial.
3.     Corruption: A times, culprits handed over to or arrested by the police wriggle free from prosecution by bribing their away out. There are also allegations of dangerous but moneyed criminals conniving with prosecution and prison authorities to evade detention, trial.
4.      Illiteracy and paucity of awareness of extant laws:  43 percent of Nigerians in the above survey also blamed the prevalence of jungle justice on, “illiteracy and lack of awareness of laws”.
5.     Anger, Frustration and unemployment: The penchant for Jungle justice in Nigeria also stem from transferred aggression by the army of able-bodied unemployed youths in Nigeria who vent their anger, frustration with the Nigerian establishment via jungle justice.
6.     Religious and cultural beliefs: In parts of the Nigeria, especially in the North, fanatical folks readily mete out jungle justice on the allegation of blasphemy.

How To Forestall Jungle Justice in Nigeria in Nigeria

Prevalence of torture and jungle justice in Nigeria has not cut back crime rate but has rather amplified the number of human right abuses in Nigeria. An inclination for jungle justice in Nigeria can be avoided by:

1.     Timely intervention by the security and enforcement agencies. Security agents must make haste to arrive at crime scenes promptly before jungle justice occurs. Community policing is exigent in Nigeria. This will ensure police officers work the beats and are closer to the people so as to nip crime in the bud.
2.     Strengthen and equip the judiciary and law enforcement agencies. They must not become mere paper-tigers. Justice delayed they say, is justice denied. Now is the time to reform the Nigerian judiciary, the Prison Service and the law enforcement agencies.
3.     Swift and due diligent prosecution of suspects will restore trust and confidence in the judicial process.
4.     Ongoing enlightenment and sensitization campaigns: Nigeria’s National Orientation Agency, other establishments, Civil Society Groups (NGOs) have to step up their game in terms of ongoing public education dissuading torture, jungle justice and enlightening the citizenry on the implications. People must know that ignorance of the law is not an excuse and that extrajudicial killing is a crime in itself. The custodians of religion must remind their fanatical adherents to desist from jungle justice but rather recourse to legal institutions to seek redress.


It is established that torture and jungle justice are barbaric, crimes against humanity and under no guise must Nigeria be associated with such tendencies in this 21st century. The Nigerian security and law enforcement agencies, the judiciary must wake up to their responsibilities. If jungle justice persists in Nigeria, your innocent family member, loved one or friend could be a victim of jungle justice someday. Let’s take back humanity. This is a clarion call and a passionate appeal to ALL Nigerians irrespective of tribe, sex, or religious affiliations, to rise up in unison and say #NoToJungleJustice, #NoToMobJustice, #NoToStreetJustice, #NoToTorture! 

Yours in the service of humanity,
© Don Okereke
(Security Junkie/Analyst/Consultant, Writer/Ex-Serviceman)
Follow me on Twitter: @donokereke
August, 2016