I could hear myself heave a sigh of relief to read that the story of one of the most gruesome murders of our time, when four students were stripped naked, brutally beaten beyond recognition and then set on fire in front of a cheering crowd ended with convictions.
The gruesome killings of these four students,Ugonna Obuzor, Toku Lloyd, Tekena Elkannah and Chiadika Biringa, was captured on video and it went viral on social media which sparked national outrage
I also feel relief that the judge also held to account the policeman who refused to do anything to end the barbarism. It’s taken five years for justice to be served in a tragic event that immortalises a loss of humanity in Nigeria but surely it has finally been served.
A Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt Monday sentenced to death a Police Sergeant, Mr. Lucky Orji, David Chinasa Ogbada and Ikechukwu Louis Amadi, (aka Kapoon) for their active involvement in the murder of the four students of University of Port Harcourt.
The trial judge explained that role played by the three convicted persons in the murder were unjustifiable, adding that their actions were intended to terminate the lives of the victims, stressing that 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants were guilty of murder.
Making reference to Section 319(1) of the Criminal Code, Cap. 37, Vol. 2, Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria, 1999, Nyordee sentenced the three to death for taking the lives of other persons unjustifiably.
The trial Judge maintained that the death of the four students was the most condemnable and cannot be justified, adding that the victims had great hope and future for their families.
Nyordee lashed out at the security operatives for their failure to take their roles of protection of live and upholding of law seriously, regretting that the security personnel at the scene of the crime could not save the situation and described the situation as the sorry state of the society.
He said no explanation would ever be valid on why the Joint Military Task Force, JTF, the Aluu Police Post, Isiopko Divisional Police Headquarters and C4I security outfit, which were beckoned and were present, could not mobilize to rescue the victims whose allegation of robbery could not be proven during the unlawful prosecution. Nyordee, however, added that the decision of the court would serve as a deterrent to those who take human life without recourse, adding that human life should be protected.
Jungle justice is said to be fuelled by the general lack of faith in the police and the judicial system. People express their frustration by getting a “quick fix” for the perceived injustice they’ve experienced. Basically, this is self-help fuelled by latent anger at a failed system. This is, however, very wrong.
It is barbaric, unlawful and criminal. Such acts are against natural justice, international laws and the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The media is awash with such tragic stories, whatever the motivation. In June 2016, a 45-year-old woman was stabbed to death at Kofar Wambai Market, Kano, by an irate mob, who accused her of blaspheming Prophet Mohammed.
It happened at about 4.30pm when traders were about to close for the day’s business.
The victim,Bridget Agbahime, was attacked by some angry youths who claimed that she blasphemed Prophet Mohammed during a religious argument with some traders in the market. No one is being held to account for this. By November, all five suspects arrested in connection to the crime were released and the judge terminated the case on the advise of the state Attorney General.
In Lagos alone in the last half a year, over two dozen suspected criminals have been lynched and operatives of the Nigeria Police Force cannot seem to put a stop to it.
The extent of the horror is best expressed by an article written by Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria and published in The Vanguard in 2015 which says, and I quote, ” To realise that amongst the perpetrators of jungle justice are persons supposedly educated up to university levels yet when their moments of insanity arrive at the sighting of any suspected thieves, an average Nigerian would pounce on the suspects with ferocity and would deploy every weapon of mass destruction available to the crowd especially disused tyres and fuel to set the suspects ablaze. A lot of innocent persons have been put to their death through human error just because someone shouted ‘thief, thief’ and the next thing is for the crowd to go for the kill.”
My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims of that black day, but I ponder further on a twisted sense of morality and justice in the minds of some every day Nigerians that tells them it’s OK for you to murder anyone on the street on a mere allegation of theft by a random party who melts and disappears into the crowd and yet the same people who carry out this evil brand of “justice” become limp and cannot act when it comes to holding politicians who have looted billions to account.
Ironically, they not only celebrate the political thieves, they decorate them with big titles and take to the streets to protest in their defence whenever anti corruption agents arrest them.
For the proven political looters, mass theft will gain beautiful flowers around the neck, but for the average Nigerian, a mere allegation of theft will earn you a decoration of black tires, petrol and matches. May the Aluu 4 finally rest in peace and only God can provide any kind of comfort and closure for their families.
Onwubiko offers several ideas to fix our broken system. But it takes deep resolve and massive political will….the kind that is extremely rare in Nigerian leadership.
All bad eggs must be weeded out of our criminal justice system and the nation must set up a functional crime data base to store finger prints of convicted criminals so criminals don’t find their ways into the Nigeria Police Force. Nigeria should set up State and Local police through a permanent constitutional reforms that can strengthen the law enforcement professional competences of the men and officers of the policing institutions.
He also recommends that discipline must be restored and in the enforcement of law and order no one should be treated as a sacred.
Let the judiciary be reformed and the practice directions made more twenty first century compliant so accused persons facing criminal charges are expeditiously prosecuted and the process made to run its full logical course without let or hindrance.
He advises that police prosecutors must be dropped so only competently trained and professional criminal prosecution lawyers from the office of the Prosecutor General of the Federation and the respective States are despatched to handle prosecution of criminal cases.
Judges must be supervised by the National Judicial Council to dispense justice swiftly and any trace of laziness or compromise on the part of the judges must be investigated and if indicted the judges should not only be sacked but prosecuted for dereliction of duty and if the case is that of bribery,then the relevant anti graft legislations should be invoked in the determination of the matter to be instituted against such offending judge.
If all these institutional reforms are achieved and made to have a life of their own then public confidence in the law enforcement authority of the National institutions for crime prevention would be restored. Those who perpetrate acts of jungle justice should be prosecuted and punished.
President Muhammadu Buhari stands at a historical threshold to achieve the eradication of the use of jungle justice if all the laws against this primitive practice are enforced but first and foremost the operatives and institutional frameworks for the enforcement of Rule of Law must be made to live above board.
But what is a most critical recommendation is that Nigerians should begin and sustain a campaign against the use of jungle justice as that would indeed promote Nigeria’s democratic profiles.