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Impunity, law enforcement inadequacies blamed for rising cases of justice justice

Esther Demshak, the girlfriend of Chinedu Paul, an upcoming comedian, also known as MC Think2ce, who was lynched by members of a vigilante group in Ikorodu in July, tried unsuccessfully to stop the tears and mucus running her eyes and nostrils as she spoke to a TVC reporter.

“He was not a cult member. I didn’t even know what Badoo meant until he was killed. I was even asking people, Who is Badoo? ” she said in between sobs.

Esther explained that Chinedu had gone with two mechanics from Festac to fix his Honda car at Ikorodu because the mechanic they used regularly, was doing a shoddy job. She further explained that about the time Chinedu was lynched she called his number to know his whereabouts, but someone kept rejecting the call.

“His phone was ringing as of that time. Someone was ending the call. It meant the phone had been collected. Maybe they were talking to them then. The mistake they made was that since they knew someone was calling him, they should have answered his call. I knew he would have been shouting that they should pick the call. I knew he would be explaining that it was someone close to him that was calling. The way he saved my name, they would have known it was someone close to him that called. They would have even asked me to come. Maybe I would have come with his family members because it was not far from his house.”
She later rushed to the area where her boyfriend was killed. She claimed she saw a member of the vigilante group holding a blood-stained cutlass who told her they just killed three suspected members of Badoo cult because they found a chain and engine oil in the car.

A cult, known as Badoo has been terrorising residents of Ikorodu, a suburb of Lagos, for weeks killing whole families at night while they slept. Tired of the inability of law enforcement authorities to apprehend the suspected criminals, residents set up vigilante groups.

Media reports are filled with gory pictures of public lynching of people suspected to be members of the Badoo cult. In one instance the, a suspected was snatched from the police before he was lynched in broad daylight.

In most of those cases, all the mob needed to start an orgy of immolation of the suspects was the faintest suspicion. In the case of the brutal killings of Chinedu and the two mechanics – Sunday Owolabi and Ishola Afolashade- they were apparently killed for the most ridiculous reason – the mob was angry enough.

Though the public-lynching of suspected thieves has remained an intractable problem for a very long time in the country, there has been a spike in reported cases of mob-lynching commonly referred to a jungle justice. In past two weeks, no fewer than six people suspected to be criminals have been beaten and then murdered by a mob in daylight hours!

Others have barely escaped with their lives.

In the Ojokoro-Ijaiye area of Lagos, after a street sweeper allegedly claimed to she heard the voice of a woman calling for help from a tunnel. A mob swung into action. Two people living in the tunnel were snatched and lynched publicly. One of those killed was snatched from the police before he was roasted alive.

The other victim didn’t even stand a chance. He was lynched because the mob thought he wasn’t answering questions thrown at him quickly enough.

Two days later, another mob went on a rampage at Ile-Zik, near the Oshodi area, burning a suspected hideout of alleged kidnappers. A nearby warehouse and a church were not spared the anger of the mob who vandalised property, including a Range Rover SUV owned by the pastor of the church.

At end of the day, two persons suspected to be kidnappers were burnt alive.

In both cases, the mob acted on mere suspicion and hearsay. Not a single abducted person was found in either of the hideouts. Also, no human remains were found in both sites. The only items found were bits and bobs of humanity, such as used clothes, and old footwear.

Weak Criminal Justice System

Lagos-based lawyer, Jiti Ogunye, said mob-lynching is extrajudicial murder and those caught perpetrating in it should be prosecuted. He, however, said mob killing will continue if the government does not
improve the criminal justice system.

Ogunye frowned at the reluctance of state governors to sign the death warrants of condemned criminals. He suggested that people indulge in mob-lynching because they do not trust the criminal justice system to mete out appropriate punishment for criminals.

According to Mr. Ogunye, even the police do not trust the criminal justice system, and have been known to carry out extrajudicial killings themselves.

“I’m not an abolitionist. I’m a rule of law person. Of all the armed robbery suspects that are being arrested, how many armed robbery cases do you think are going on in our courts in the country?

“The police also indulge in extra-judicial killings because they believe if they go to court the suspects will be set free. All the people that are paraded as armed robbery suspects, how many of them do you see are taken to court to face armed robbery charges and are prosecuted? So once police found guns with such people they kill them on their own behind their police station. So it is the people now that are uncivilised,” he added.

Similarly, Oluyinka Oyeniji of Human Rights Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, said people participate in jungle justice because they know they can get away with murder.

“First of all, people don’t have the courage to lynch except they are sure they have government backing. No one can take any action except they are sure they will get away with it. That is as a result of a lot of unresolved murders that we have in the country today. Many high profile and everyday murders have remained unresolved. You can get away with killing in Nigeria. So people know when they kill, they can get away with it,” Oyeniji said.

Law Enforcement Inadequacy

Oyeniji said mob-killings are on the increase because the perpetrators hide under the anonymity of their actions. He said more should be done, so perpetrators of jungle justice and other crimes can be easily identified.

“What level of expertise did you have to prosecute for murder? Are you able to conduct proper investigations? Our people are not properly trained to handle a mob situation. And every community will protect their own. The perpetrators of mob violence are not faceless.

“No community goes to hire Area Boys from outside to come and do jungle justice in a community. It is those who reside there. They are not faceless. So law enforcement has to wake up,” he said.

In the same vein, Ogunye said community policing is the only answer to effectively check the mob-lynching of suspected criminals.

“Part of what we need to do is to break up the police force and restructure it. Let every town let every city have its own police force. That way, things like that will not even occur to warrant people massing up to mete jungle justice on anybody. Even if people mete out jungle justice, and they disappear, how many of those people have you heard have been arrested? because the police are coming to the scene do not have knowledge of the people personally so if police are localised it is likely that those who are going to do that are known by the police working in that area and they will go and arrest them in their homes.”

He added that the police capacity to fight crime should be improved with gadgets such as CCTVs in communities to help identify criminals.

“Fundamentally, the state has to take criminal justice seriously. Unless you do that people will see a wide gulf between their own sense of justice and the justice that is meted out by the society and they will continue to exploit this gulf to take laws into their hands in an unfortunate manner.”

Arrests have been made -police

When asked what the police is doing to stem the rising wave of mob-lynching in the country, spokesperson of the Lagos Police Command, Olarinde Famous-Cole, said the police arrested 33 people involved in the Ile-Zik and other recent lynching and have charged them to court.

“We will continue to charge culpable suspects to court. The law is the law. The law says that anybody that killed another person has committed murder and the person is to be charged to court and be prosecuted.”

He said it was not true that the police allow suspected criminals to go free soon after they are handed over to them.

“The police is one of the executive arms of government that charges to court after when we charge to court it is left with the judicial system. If there is enough evidence against someone that is found culpable, then the person will be charged to court. But if you say this man has committed murder and you don’t have any evidence there is not enough to get a conviction. So after a couple of months, you see them back to the community. That is why we always tell people to come forward to give us information to testify.

“There are some other crimes that are being committed that according to the law the punishment for such crimes is three months, six months, some of them are even sanctioned and sent to do community service. So you can’t blame the police when such things happen,” he said.

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