Some years ago, in the city of Warri, a woman was caught with a child who obviously did not belong to her. The devil being on her case, she was apprehended by people who were already aggrieved by the level of child theft in the area. The woman as is common with anyone caught in an act blamed the devil for her actions. She became aware of the obvious fact that her life was ebbing away as the mammoth crowd lynched her to a pulp.
She pleaded for her life but all her pleas fell on deaf ears. Men in uniform were spotted and were unable to rescue the woman. They probably did not want to interfere; of course sometimes the fury of the people can become unquenchable. Soon the woman was abashed in fuel with tires adorning her. In few minutes, she was set ablaze; abruptly sent to her maker to give account of her escapades on earth. Stories of people, guilty or innocent have always been on the news.
Recently, in Omuo Ekiti headquarters of Ekiti East Local Government area of Ekiti State a middle aged who was caught attempting to kidnap a seven-year-old boy was beaten to death by angry youths. The police command in the state frowned against the act, warning residents to deviate from taking laws into their hands by illegally applying jungle justice on suspects.
On a lighter mood, a young man who scavenges metals went over board and almost met his end. He was unaware that he was being watched as he picked some pieces of roofing sheets from a building under construction. He was given a hot chase. Unfortunately for him, his legs were unable to take a flight, so he was caught. The angry men used different weapons ranging from cutlasses to heavy planks to sniff life out of him.
As the onslaught intensified, he cried for death to take him as the pain became unbearable. No security officer was on ground to rescue him. Observers witnessed the scene from afar, praying that the young man will be able to escape. No one dared to interfere for fear of being noted as an accomplice and incurring the wrath of the angry mob.
Fate smiled on him as his avengers became soft hearted. They dispossessed him of whatever treasures he had harnessed and sternly warned him never to find himself in the environment. A beam of hope shone on him and with the little strength left in him, he ran towards the express way without even a minute stop to take a rest. One will only wonder how the young man will survive given the degrees of injury meted out on him.
Over the years the need to bring criminals to justice has been a major concern. There is a saying that the wheel of the law grinds slowly but surely. However, many people are unready to wait for the law to take its full course and so the law is taken into their hand and instant judgment are passed on adjudged criminals. This is because it is believed that if a particular criminal is caught in the act and is allowed to go scot free, the chances that such heinous crime will recur are high. This has led to the lynching, maiming and killing of criminals or pathetically, suspected criminals. This is what is referred to as jungle justice.
The trend has become rampant in major towns and cities in Nigeria. Stories of people who have been set ablaze, maimed and killed have become rampant.
The question begging for answer abounds. How will you feel if you are accused of a crime and you are not given the opportunity to defend yourself or be defended in the court of law? Are we going back to the dark ages where people had no regards for the law as such pass out jugdemtn on people unduly? Do citizens now have the right to kill a criminal who has not even been tried by a court of law?
It is truism that when a crime is meted out us, the pain is most times unbearable. People should be conscious of the fact that mistakes are common. And chances that the accused may be innocent are high. How can you determine that the accused is innocent especially when there is no proof? Do we realize that our children are out there if we refuse to caution ourselves and curb the trend of jungle justice our children may become victims?
The law enforcement agents are always on ground to nab any reported suspect as well as bring the criminal to justice. Is that not why Nigerian prisons are congested? Or are the prisons congested with animals and not humans. The laws may be slow to pass judgment and bring criminals to justice but it is still the best way to reduce crime in the society.
Proponentso of jungle justice argue that when people are aware that any act of crime they are caught with will send them to instant grave, they will be cautious. This may have a temporal effect on the people but a criminal that is yet to be rehabilitated will always be a criminal. Let’s not go back to the period of barbarism and report every criminal activity to the appropriate quarters. Jungle justice can never be a solution to crime in the society and should be discouraged in its entirety.