JUNGLE JUSTICE: AN UNATTENDED TIME BOMB WAITING TO EXPLODE
Olamide Omolede, a 22-year tricycle rider on Monday, July 8, 2019, woke up like every other day to the breaking of another glorious day. In the continuous case of epileptic power supply that ravaged the Nation, Olamide, a resident of Badore, Ajah, Lagos stepped out that fateful evening to a nearby store to drop his phone to be charged for a fee in what has become a regular norm. However, barely had he returned home than a yet to be identified woman barged into Omolede’s residence accompanied by a litany of hoodlums alleging that Olamide stole her phone at the charging venue. Hardly had she finished her accusation than Olamide was mauled to a painful death after being first paraded naked. After his shameful death, the hoodlums threw him inside the lagoon, Premium Times reported.
Alas! Olamide was innocent of the alleged accusations as the said stolen phone was later found with the accuser’s son. Many other families suffer untold psychological and emotional trauma from similar preventable scenarios.
According to Timothy Thomas Fortune, mob law is the most forcible expression of an abnormal public opinion; it is evidence of a demented society. When a society of humans with guiding laws degenerates into a jungle where lawlessness holds sway, then the failed law and order established a priori for upholding justice becomes the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress (Martin Luther King Jr.). Overwhelming laws exist in Nigeria to curb the menace and ills of jungle justice, but then the challenge of its implementation lies with the custodians of these laws.
Nigeria is bedevilled with daily news of gruesome incidents of jungle justice. Ranging from vigilantes killing suspected robbers, to members of the public taking justice in their own hands. The boldness and recklessness with which these executions are carried out in the broad view of all and sundry with no one ever punished is an indication that the legal system and security personnel have utterly lost the confidence of the masses. The loss of confidence may be traced back to the supposed custodians, the political leaders and security operatives who have flagrantly violated these laws unabated. This has led to the emergence of the common phrase: “I will kill you here, and nothing will happen”, a term that has left all who witnessed it not only emotionally distraught but fearfully submissive to all demands that follow after that.
Still reminiscing on the events of October 5, 2012, in Aluu Community of Ikwerre LGA, Rivers State where four promising youths: Ugonna Obuzor, Toku Lloyd, Chiadika Biringa, and Tekena Elkanah, students of the University of Port Harcourt were falsely accused of theft (blackberry phone and a laptop) and had their lives untimely cut off; one would believe that the Government would implement a penalty for perpetrators of these dastardly acts. Nevertheless, the reverse is the case. Hardly had the Nation recovered from the incident, than a litany of others followed suit. The Ejigbo, Lagos incident where some men molested two ladies for allegedly stealing pepper; a teenager, believed to have been burnt to death in the Orile, Alafia Bus stop in Lagos for allegedly stealing a wallet; the controversial 7-year old lynched garri thief, the case of a public necklace-lynching of some suspected members of “Baddo cult” group in Ikorodu, Lagos State and a host of several others. Some of these gruesome murders have generated countless social media debates, with some arrests made in the case of the Ejigbo incident, the Nation Newspaper 2017 reported, but till date, no prosecutions have been made that has left these incidents growing daily unabated.
Jungle justice goes beyond the necklace-lynching of people to include the abuse of power by custodians of law and order. The current dispensation has consistently exhibited disrespect for the rule of law and showed flagrant disregard to the will of the people as seen in the case of Dasuki and Elzakaky.
The fruit of a government that does not listen to its populace came to fore in October when youths across the country, tired of waiting on the government to do the right thing, took to the streets to protest against a unit of the police that has tormented, extorted, and exploited them for years.
Although the government immediately announced that the Special Anti Robbery Squad SARS has been disbanded, the youths did not stop the protests as the government’s slow and indecisive response over the years have cemented a deep seated level of distrust- The government had banned SARS three times in four years.
As the term SARS became associated with a group that constituted a national scourge and machinery used against Nigerian youths, an online call was made in December 2017 for the disbandment of SARS. This 2017 call incident trended on social media and led to nationwide protests within a few days of the release of the video. The youths all over the Country posted unimaginable tortures they suffered at the hands of the SARS operatives. Cases of human parts were butchered in pieces and sold to any interested buyer at the Awkuzu detention camp, while human bodies that did not make it for sale were dumped into the nearest river – the community’s only source of water. Millions of naira were reportedly extorted from families that could afford it, while those that could not afford as much as allowed to see the corpse of their relatives. The 2017 protests quickly expanded from an online hashtag to widespread street protests in a matter of days with popular social media influencers keying to further raise the awareness of the gravity of the issue at hand.
However, instead of scrapping the unit, it was in August 2018, re-baptized Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS), a situation that did not augur well with citizens. Since the change of name does not translate to change of attitude, the dastard acts of violence by SARS operatives reached a crescendo when in October 2020, a SARS police officer shot a young Nigerian man in front of a hotel in Ughelli, Delta State. This culminated in the #ENDSARS protest and #ENDSARS-related deaths.
President Muhammadu Buhari has called on the youths to eschew violence and come for dialogue. Several state governments have called for the same. However, government institutions are victimising the key promoters of #ENDSARS.
The Central Bank of Nigeria in October freezed 20 bank accounts which received money to facilitate the #endsars protests.
Eons Intelligence reported that the CBN filed an ex parte motion in court suggesting that these youths who dared to speak out against SARS extrajudicial killings and extortions might be terrorists.
Police on Saturday, November 7 arrested Eromosele Adene, one of the #endsars promoters right in his home. He was transferred to Abuja without informing his lawyer or his family members, and he is yet to make bail.
Modupe Odele popularly known on Twitter as Moe, was prevented from travelling and her passport seized at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos. Although Moe’s passport has been returned to her, she is yet to know why it was seized in the first place, as the only explanation given by immigration is that she is under investigation.
The Federal government’s bid to regain the trust of its citizens, especially the youths, will continually be thwarted if it keeps trying to bully them. This portends a severe threat to democracy and akin to the jungle justice meted out by mobs on the street.
According to late Prof. Chinua Achebe, when Things fall apart; the centre can no longer hold due to the unstoppable anarchy that would be let loose upon the world. Nigeria is currently sitting on a keg of gunpowder that will invariably explode sooner than expected if nothing is urgently done to quench this inglorious flame waiting to explode.
JUNGLE JUSTICE: An unattended time bomb waiting to explode. The time for the Government to remedy the situation is now.