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Jungle Justice, A Means To An End

A couple of months ago, there was a global outcry against xenophobic attacks in South Africa by natives who saw foreigners as standing in their way to securing good jobs. The attack recorded many deaths as well as the destruction of lives and properties all in a bid to pass a message acrosssince the government cannot do anything about it, let us do it ourselves, in our own way.

This attitude whereby people take the laws into their hands is not peculiar to South Africans as it is being witnessed even here in Nigeria because people have lost faith in the law enforcement agencies and the to an extent, the judiciary. With technological advancements which birthed the social media, it is mind boggling that people would have the guts to record the execution of this madness called jungle justice and post same to the various social media platforms.

A case in hand is the infamous killing of four undergraduate students of University of Port Harcourt on October 5, 2012 by an angry crowd at Omuokiri- Aluu community following allegations that they were thieves and cultists. This was after they were beaten and stripped of their clothing by a blood -thirsty crowd. Time was, when men of the underworld terrorized Nigerians dispossessing them of their valuables leaving many either dead or maimed in the process.

The Nigerian Police force at that time was ill-equipped to fight the   criminals as such the daredevils usually had a field day whenever they struck. It is situations like this that hardened the minds of those on the street to take laws into their own hands to fight for their safety meaning that once an alleged criminal is caught, he or she is hardly given the right to fair hearing or the opportunity to defend himself before he is either beaten to death or burnt alive.

Jungle justice has been defined as a situation when a people take laws into their hands to execute punishment on alleged offenders of perceived heinous crimes. Wikipedia calls it frontier or street or vigilante justice and defines it as an extrajudicial punishment that is motivated by the non-existence of law and order or dissatisfaction with justice. As author Chinyere Ugoma Eze- Nliam puts it, “the sole reason for jungle justice is simply and squarely the failure of leadership. The average Nigerian is a local government on to himself.

In addition to fending for himself, he provides the most basic amenities for his own comfort and protects himself from undesirable elements. Security of its persons and property which is considered the priority of any decent government has since met its waterloo in Nigeria.” There is no need gain saying the fact that burning and gruesomely killing a fellow human being is evil, degrading and an outright violation of human rights but jungle justice reduces human life and dignity to zero yet it has not in any way succeeded in reducing the crime rate in the country.

Apart from the fact that many Nigerians have decided to mete out justice on deterring members of the society, what is more worrisome is the fact that some of those whose responsibility it is to provide security for the people, are sometimes seen spear heading the killings by irate crowds as was captured in one of Aluu-4 videos though he was later punished for it. If the only option for curbing crime is jungle justice, of what use is the judiciary and the correctional facilities meant to give such an individual a second chance?

Mr. Osas Obediah, a security personnel speaking with our correspondent, opined that despite the fact that some people may have actually thrown caution to   the wind in the perpetration of some heinous crimes, the long arms of the law should be allowed to take its due course. This he said is because “you cannot throw out the baby with the bath water. Much as it is these individuals may have become hardened and daring and have hurt some others in the course of carrying out their dastardly acts, nobody has the right to take another’s life.

The federal government believes in giving them a second chance hence the establishment of correctional facilities to aid rehabilitation. I believe that if given another opportunity, they could repent. If we support the street justice, then we do not have any justification to speak against the activities of insurgents because we speak the same language which is violence which means that we have no value for life.”

Barr Chidi Anyanwu, also condemned jungle justice in its entirety. According to him “a situation whereby the people decide to take laws into their hands to a point of killing others, is very barbaric. Every judicial system understands the importance of the utilitarianism of punishment and there are clearly defined penalties for every crime committed. With these penalties, offenders receive the punishment they deserve who knows, they may change for the better. Yes, the judiciary may be slow but it would definitely give heed to all that calls on it.”

Delay on the part of the judiciary coupled with high level of corruption is the main reason why many have decided to take the law into their hands citing the principle of retributive justice “an eye for an eye” as Stanley Ukeh, a businessman puts it “I believe in jungle justice.

A lot of people have brought so much pain and untold hardship upon others. There is an adage in my place that if a child does not fear feaces to bite me on my buttocks, not only would I bite back, but I would swallow his feaces. This means that the retaliation for every singular act hurts more than the original act itself. Most of these people, who receive jungle justice, deserve it. Unfortunately, there may be some innocent ones among the lot.”

While the crowd may be screaming for the blood of their victim, little or no attention is paid to the children who are also exposed to these killings as spectators. Truth be told, no individual with some level of sanity would remain the same after witnessing the killing of another let alone a child. Thoughts ought to be given to the psychological effect of these attitudes to the general well being of the minors in society.

Funny enough, most of the victims of jungle justice, are petty thieves and low-class offenders while the main criminals operating on a higher pedestal are left untouched. God spoke through his prophet Moses in the book of Exodus 21:24 “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” but did God really intend for this statement to be literarily followed to the letter? If indeed it was meant to be so and retaliation was carried out as proscribed, what would be left of man today?

-Nwakaego Ohaegbulam writes on the negative impact of ‘jungle justice’ on society

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