August 4, 2017

Jungle justice as a time bomb

Jungle justice is a practice that is especially rampant in different parts of Africa. It is a practice where alleged criminal is severely beaten, humiliated or in some cases murdered without recourse to judicial procedure. Nigeria has had her own fair share of diverse ugly jungle justice episode.

While growing up, I once witnessed, perhaps, the scariest scene ever, when a group of young men ruthlessly stoned a middle aged woman to death.

It was such a gory scene that one is not likely to forget in a hurry. As the woman was being ferociously bombarded by rains of stones, she made an attempt to crawl away as she was now deeply drenched in the pool of her own blood. But exhausted and worn out, her strength failed her and she simply surrendered to the brutal reality of an agonizing death.

Reality of an  agonizing death

But then, since her assailants couldn’t certify her medically dead, they moved to the next phase of their mob action. A set of abandoned motor tires were hurriedly assembled and drenched with some petrol to set the lifeless body of the woman ablaze like a goat being made ready for barbeque. Confused and saddened by the whole gory affair, I sought to find out what the woman could have done to deserve such brutal treatment. And behold, the response I got further left me completely bewildered.

Her offence? She was a ‘witch’!    Such is the extremism of exponents of jungle justice. They are sometimes extremely irrational and overtly emotional. Those who engage in the ugly act readily justify their action on the premise of complications involved in getting criminals punished through the legal process. They often express gross disdain for the justice sector which they tag as ‘corrupt’ and ‘inept’.

Security operatives, especially the police are usually accused of conniving with criminals to pervert the course of justice, alleging that many at times, criminals who are handed over to the police are usually released in questionable circumstances. Hence, it is this lack of confidence in the judicial system that many often hide under to commit all sorts of atrocities in the name of securing extra judicial resolution.

However, irrespective of whatever logic that is behind jungle justice, it is nothing but a totally lawless and condemnable act. It is a dangerous act with the prospect of turning a society into an animal kingdom. It is the height of lawlessness and barbarism.   In most cases, those who perpetrate the act only ride on popular emotion to get at perceived enemies or detractors. Over time, it has been discovered that victims of jungle justice are often innocent and harmless people who are just unfortunate.

It is sad and disgusting that a society could really slide into such extreme acts of barbarism in the 21st century. We must respect the sanctity of human life which is anchored on the sacred nature of life and the fact that no one has the right to take it away, except God. According to David P. Gusgee, a Professor of Christian Ethics and Executive Director of the Center for Theology and Public Life Mercer University, Atlanta & Macon  , USA, all human beings, of any and every race, color, ethnicity, level of intelligence, religion, language, gender, character, behavior, physical ability/disability, potential, class, social status, etc,   are to be perceived as persons of equal and immeasurable worth and of inviolable dignity and therefore must be treated and protected in a manner, commensurate with this moral status.

It is, perhaps, based on this notion that most nations of the world now frown at capital punishment. While it is true that capital punishment has been used in almost every part of the world, in the last few decades, many countries have abolished it. The crusade for the abolition of capital punishment is to further entrench the sacred nature of life. It is part of the need to protect the human life that nations of the world spend so much annually on security, health and other life related concerns. In most developed countries, much is being done to ensure that man live in conditions that are best suited for human development as against the survival of the fittest mode of living that operates in most third world countries.

The human life is by far too invaluable to be subjected to such gory experience as the one earlier illustrated above. Irrespective of any grouse against the nation’s justice sector, strict adherence to law and order remains the only sane way through which our society could operate. Any contrary method would only lead to anarchy which eventually portends a great danger to everyone.

It is, nevertheless, important to stress that the justice sector in the country must be completely overhauled for the law to really take its due course. Those who deliberately put a clog in the wheel of justice for selfish reasons are not in any way different from those who engage in jungle justice. In-fact, the one who intentionally hinders the course of justice is more guilty of jungle justice. In order for us to build a society that is effectively premised on law and order, the justice sector must be revamped. That is the only way forward.

Though, past experiences tend to suggest that the law might no longer be sufficient in the war against criminality, the truth, however, is that criminality is not bigger than the law. There are enough provisions in the law book to annihilate criminals and crime from the land. We only need to take decisive steps to reform the administration of justice in the country. The judiciary is, unfortunately, as corrupt as every other institution in the country.

Allegations of fraudulent deals and gross misuse of office by judicial officers have continued to increase. Not a few judges have been accused of collaborating with criminals to undermine the judicial process. At every stage in the judicial system, one is confronted with unbelievable monumental acts of complicity. From the Investigating Police Officer, IPO, to other judicial officers involved, at one stage or the other, in a criminal case, one is bound to come face to face with the awesome ingenuity of dishonesty machinery in the country. Therefore, we need to do a total overhaul of the nation’s legal institution. Justice cannot be said to be served in a system that allows ‘small’ thieves to rot in prison while ‘big’ ones walk in absolute freedom. Equally important is the need for accelerated hearing of all manners of cases at all tiers of Courts.

The law is meant to trounce evil and evil doers. In any society where the reverse is the case, injustice would reign supreme. If we are to move forward and be taken serious as a people, we must change our ways.

Tayo Ogunbiyi a public servant wrote from Lagos.