The term “jungle justice” is a highly problematic and potentially offensive one, but we
have largely earned it.
Some may recall an incident which caused a national uproar in 2012. Four young students from the University of Port Harcourt left their campus to collect a debt from the village of Aluu. Rumours circulated in the village that the boys had arrived not to collect a debt but to steal. The innocent students were subsequently stripped naked, beaten with sticks and rocks, and set on fire. The Aluu Four incident was recorded and posted online for a horrified world to see. Following the incident, there was a public outcry about the practice of summary execution and the culture of silence and impunity which allows mob violence to go unchecked. Seven years later, and the outrage seems to have died down, although the problem still persists. We clearly have not learnt our lesson.
Earlier this month, on November 2nd, two robbery suspects were reportedly burnt to death in Delta State. The suspects, accused of robbing a woman of her mobile phone and some money, were beaten by an irate mob and set ablaze. A local resident, said “though it is sad… let it serve as a lesson to others who have the mind of robbing people of their phones and other criminal related activities”.
It is comforting to know that some of the residents were able to show compassion for the accused. However, this does not allow groups to step in when the rule of law fails and take justice into their own hands. In a stable country, nobody can act outside of the confines of the law. If we allow this mob rule to continue, it can easily be co-opted by malicious groups with intent to bring harm to innocent Nigerians. Mrs. Acheju Abuh, a middle-aged local PDP leader in Kogi state, was allegedly locked in her house and burnt alive by thugs who were celebrating the victory of the APC in the state’s governorship election.
It appears that our lack of concern about the persistence of mob violence has allowed the fostering of a society in which it is considered acceptable to celebrate a victory by brutally ending a life. These incidents are hardly shocking at all if you consider the mindset that justifies them.
Mob rule remains a problem because Nigerians have a tendency to defend their social norms and values with an ultraconservative resolution that may easily become violent. As the proud and patriotic people we are, we believe, at heart, that the decisions made by the people are always right. For this reason, it is often difficult to convince people not to resort to summary executions, beatings, or even torture.
We have already seen the dangers of this mentality with the Aluu four and the murder
of Mrs. Abuh. How many more innocents have to die before we call for an end to this violent
and ruthless breed of vigilante justice?
Funmilayo Adetokunbo A-A, a political and International Affairs Analyst, writes from Somerset, England, United Kingdom.