Thewill Editorial: We Reject Lynching Of Suspected Criminals
SAN FRANCISCO, November 28, (THEWILL) – In every society, the rule of law is the fabric that binds the people together. Without law and order, humankind would degenerate to the animal kingdom, the result of which would be bestial.
Unfortunately, there has been an increase in the rate at which some Nigerians behave like animals as regards resorting to the lynching of anyone suspected to have stolen or committed a crime (jungle justice).
While the issue of jungle justice is not entirely new in Nigeria, particularly in major cities, the recent gory killing and burning of a teenager alleged to have stolen garri in Lagos appear to suggest that Nigerians in that habit have refused to grow along with the civilised world where an accused is presumed innocent until found guilty by a competent court of law.
Instances of lynching of suspects have been reported in places like Port Harcourt, Kano, Calabar, among others. Criminality of any type must not be tolerated if social order must be maintained. It is for this reason that there are the courts and law enforcement agencies to regulate conducts in the society.
When someone is accused of committing a crime, the law enforcement agents must be allowed to do their job. Also, the judiciary is there to try the suspect and pronounce judgment on the matter. Bypassing these vital institutions for mob action should not have a place in any decent society.
Under Section 36(5) of the Constitution, “every person who is charged with a criminal offence is presumed innocent until he is proved guilty,” the interpretation of which lies with the judiciary. It is against this background that THEWILL totally condemns the culture of jungle justice that is fast gaining grounds in the country.
The long arms of the law must not spare when any individual or group choose to take the laws into their hands by taking another person's life on the strength of mere allegations. The police must do more to apprehend those who lynch suspects to death so that such individuals or groups can be charged for murder.
Since jungle justice is a breach of the principle of natural justice, anyone who engages in it, if found guilty, must be handed a death sentence to serve as deterrent to others. We regret the discharge of the five suspected killers of 74 year-old Madam Bridget Agbahime, who was strangulated to death by mob at Kofar Wambai market in Kano over alleged blasphemy last June.
It is unfortunate that the six-month-old trial of the suspected mastermind was cut short by the Chief magistrate, Mr. Jibrin Muhammad, who discharged the five suspects and terminated the case in line with the directive of the attorney general of Kano state.
THEWILL commends the Senate, which has ordered the police to get to the root of rising instances of jungle justice and ensure that the victims, who were denied fair hearing, get justice. The National Assembly must urgently pass a law that will tighten the noose around lawless members of the society who spark lynching of persons.
Until this is done, what it takes for someone to be subjected to a gruesome death is for him or her to be accused of stealing, attempting a kidnap and the likes by another person out of sheer mischief, hatred, malice or mistaken identity. In view of this possibility, no one is really safe, hence the need for a law to prevent this arbitrariness.
Meanwhile, THEWILL advocates a return to the good neighbourliness embedded in the African culture, which makes one the brother's keeper. It is essential that the Federal Government begin an enlightenment campaign, through the National Orientation Agency to highlight the wickedness of jungle justice and the stiff penalty that goes with it. The role of religious bodies is also indispensable in this regard. The traditional rulers must also be involved in dissuading their subjects from engaging in the lynching of suspects.
Some have argued that the cruel practice is often resorted to because of the belief that the accused would buy their freedom in the hands of the police and the judiciary. Therefore, law enforcement agencies and the judiciary must be professional and ensure that justice is seen to be done in cases brought before them. That way, the barbaric resort to jungle justice would give way to civility in how those who offend the law are made to pay for such infraction.