It is less painful if you’re a victim of a crime compared to being a victim of injustice. The latter is more dangerous!
I read in utter dismay as Nigerians on Social Media yet talked about the issue of jungle justice again. This is not the first time and will definitely not be the last time that Nigerians will take the laws into their own hands by meting out ‘justice’ defined by their emotions.
The reason I have been quite indifferent about the recent jungle justice incident making the rounds, which involved an alleged 7 year old boy who was set ablaze when caught trying to steal Garri is because; Nigerians are expected to make so much noise about a situation which has become a norm in the society, and then after a few days, we go back to sleep, waiting for the next time another of such incident to reoccur. Never has it been a responsibility for us to ensure the impossibility of a recurrence.
Jungle justice is basically the resultant outcome of a failed judicial system but trust Nigerians to only scratch the surface of a deep problem and then proffer temporary solutions to it. Jungle justice is a ripple resultant effect of an institutional failure which is deeply rooted in injustice spread over a period of time.
Jungle justice is not new in Nigeria, as a matter of fact, it has become a culture among a lot of Nigerians. It is seen as the best method of getting justice especially in a society where the downtrodden has never enjoyed what justice feels like.
I had a conversation with a friend some weeks ago about corruption in the judiciary and the unconventional way the Presidency has chosen to fight it and I remember saying in these specific words; “Let us bask in mediocrity for a while, corruption in the Executive arm of the government is inexcusable but can still afford to be treated with levity, same goes for the Legislative arm. However, corruption in the Judicial arm of government is the most dangerous basically because the sanity of a society is dependent on that last line of defense – the Judiciary. When all else fails, the Judiciary cannot afford to fail because without justice, there can never be peace and without peace, a society is as good as gone.”
In every civilized society, the judiciary is expected to be the last hope of the common man and as such cannot afford to be corrupt. The power to declare a man innocent or guilty, the power to determine whether a man lives or dies is endowed unto the judiciary as the custodians of the constitution. The judicial arm of the government is the most sensitive because the balance and survival of a society depends on it.
Decades of injustice, perverted justice, delayed justice has brought about the situation where people resort to self-help. Humans are wired to always find a way to get what they want and that is a law of nature that cannot be over-emphasized. One of the tenets of creating a civilized and organized society is to curtail the excesses of man and that is why we have laws that govern us. The balance in the world today, despite how tilted it is today, is held together at the center because we still have law and order in place. Take out law and order and all you have left is anarchy and barbarism, and that, right there is where we what the Nigerian society is rooting for.
Without excusing jungle justice, I will say that we may need to look into the root causes of this problem before we can ever talk about solutions. I have read people totally condemn jungle justice without reference whatsoever to what might have been the cause, and that, for me is equal to ignoring Leprosy to treat Ringworm infection. Deeply tucked under, is a compilation of unsettled grudges and injustice. For jungle justice to thrive this much in societies that have moved faraway from the cave days, there must be something we’re not addressing – injustice.
Recent revelations clearly shows that justice is for sale in Nigeria and worst part is; it actually does not have a price as it’s sale is dependent on how much you’re willing to sacrifice to get it. In other words, justice goes to the highest bidder. Now, let us put the situation into proper perspective. If the majority of Nigerians are poor, that also means they will not be able to afford the price for justice. So technically, justice belong to the rich who happen to be the minority. Imagine how many millions of people are downtrodden by the system on a daily basis. Quite a lot, if you got the calculations well. There you have one viable reason for jungle justice.
Looking a bit further away from the technicalities, remember that in the second paragraph of this piece, there’s a mention of a 7 year old who was set ablaze by an angry mob for allegedly stealing Garri. This morning, a citizen shared his experience which shed more light and a new perspective to the “Garri Thief” story. The circulated story was actually not true. The suspect is an adult male and was not trying to steal Garri. However, he narrated a story about a robbery that led to the death of his younger brother. It was such a compelling and sad story. It is one story that makes any human feel that uncontrollable rush of anger and decide to take drastic measures to get justice. Apparently, the narrator’s brother was accosted in public by armed robbers and without warning, was stabbed in the neck and stripped of a mobile device. He was rushed to nearby hospitals where his condition was met with several rejections. He lost so much blood in the process and eventually died. Bringing untold pain and anguish to his family, yet months later, he never got justice. Now, imagine how the victim’s family will feel, especially knowing that killer of their son is still out there and the possibility of him being made to face the law is as thin as a thread. Just think about the pain and heartache that may never have closure. Think about the irresistible urge to have vengeance on the one person who threw a whole family into mourning just because of a mobile device. Think about how much they want to see their son’s murderer suffer as much as they have suffered.
I have also had personal experiences and I’m sure a good number of Nigerians have in one time or a couple, had same experiences. I have seen situations where a criminal is caught and handed over to the Police, days later, same criminal is back on the streets, carrying out same nefarious activity he was initially apprehended for, without fear for the law and consequences.
Injustice is simply lack of fairness or justice and in situations where there is injustice, the room for grudges and tendencies for self-help grows bigger and it keeps growing in as much as there continues to be injustice until the down-trodden cannot stomach it anymore. And there you have jungle justice becoming the only way viable to get justice.
However, where jungle justice thrives, the possibilities of victimizing innocent people comes into play. As much as I have seen jungle justice meted out to criminals caught in the act, I have also read about innocent people being victims of jungle justice. However, paying lip service to the scourge has not and will never help put an end to it. Instead, the Nigerian people should rise up to the responsibilities of demanding for justice for all. Selective justice, justice on the shelf and total injustice are just about the perfect recipe for jungle justice and until we have achieved an upright judiciary which does not only treat people equally but also ensures justice is served appropriately and at the right time, jungle justice is here to stay. No amount of noise or human emotions will take a way a problem that just needs common sense to fix.
We cannot continue to ask people to shun jungle justice while the reality out there is a fertile ground for jungle justice to grow. We’ll just be running around in circles while innocent people are being victimized for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There is no point trying to melt the tip of an iceberg ignoring the massive chunk of ice underneath the water. It makes no sense applying cosmetic solutions to fundamental problems. The judiciary should rise up to the occasion and live up to it’s responsibility of creating a just society.
Until we are able to ensure immediate consequences for criminal activities and law-breaking, we may just be prancing around. We all should rise as Nigerians to not only pay lip service but also identify and fight the constraints militating against the attainment of a just society, a society where justice does not just belong to the rich but everybody, a society where everybody, irrespective of their social statuses can have a sense of belonging and ownership not leaving out the expectation of being protected by the law when the need arises.