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Jungle justice, a fad?

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THERE is a growing trend in the way of fighting rising cases of robbery and banditry across communities in Anambra State recently.

  Strange as the method could be to modernity and sanity, it has so far proven efficacious in dealing with the forays of hoodlums in some flash point communities of the state.

  That trend is jungle justice or instant burning of any suspected criminal apprehended in the act or sniffed out after the act might have been carried out.

In less than three weeks, about 10 men have been roasted alive in public glare within Onitsha, Obosi and Nkpor areas of Anambra State for terrorising the environs.

  Amongst those who had been handed this summary execution by irate mobs include two unidentified  men killed and burnt at Obosi. One other young man identified as Uche was caught while trying to snatch a woman’s handbag along New Market Road area of Nkpor,  Idemili Local Government Area, killed and burnt at the popular Nkpor Junction..

  Another three young men were killed and burnt at the same venue on Thursday, May 13, 2021   for allegedly robbing an unsuspecting tricycle operator of his tricycle and using same to rob others of their belongings.

  Again, a suspect who attempted to rob a man of his telephone handset was nabbed and set ablaze instantly at Tarzan Junction, along Onitsha, Enugu Expressway a week after.

  The scenario, a reflection of degenerating security situation has gone notches high not only in Anambra State but across the country. This has become a source of worry to many good thinking Nigerians.

  Tipping from what used to be a country on a progressive path with peace and harmony driving her stride to a nation fraught with multiple drawbacks; insecurity leading the lines of her many ills; the society now seeks both conventional and unconventional options to steer itself away from the despicable situation and return Nigeria  to her former glory.

  Shockingly, not much dividend could be said to have been garnered as the country continue her slide down the unfancied trajectory with hopes of full proof security of lives and property of citizens turning very elusive by the day.

  A cursory evaluation of the situation lampoons Boko Haram sect as the brainchild of current level of insecurity. This is premised on the notion that before 2014, when their activities became too pronounced and brazen, terrorism was strange to citizens. The narrative however, changed with the abduction of 276 pupils (all girls) from Federal Government College, in Chibok, Borno State. Many schools of thought believed the incident was only a political game of sort that will fizzle out as soon as elections were over at the time. How wrong they were! The singular event signposted the cataclysm of what lined in waite for explosion. Now the country is locked in soul saving battle. What did not help matter was the approach of the federal government in nipping the crisis in the bud, but rather, opted for romanticising approach that was never primed for good result.

  To compound the seeming compromising position in dealing with the terrorism branded insurgency, the amnesty proposal made the act a lucrative venture and emboldened not the too lily-livered to try their hands in the new gold mine.

  Today, the insurgency has overwhelmed the north and blossomed into full scale terrorism. In the south, particularly southeast, another version in the form of kidnapping rings emerged and soon  dovetailed into attacks on security agencies and government institutions.  Southwest had inter-cult rivalry, robbery and thuggery to deal with.

  Arguably, in the root of these uncharitable developments had been the free reign of killer herdsmen whose stock in trade include invasion of targeted villages, killing of men, raping of women, slaughtering of livestock and looting of property of victims of their attacks. While these criminal herdsmen engaged in these horrid acts, they often got away with the acts scot-free and not made to account for their deeds either by  the  law or gallantry of the law enforcement agents saddled with the responsibility.

  The spinoffs became resort to self-help by the hapless society and disregard for security agencies whose apparent failures continue to stoke strife and embolden killer herdsmen and their impunity.

  In a survival instinct, dangerous weapons got into the hands of people who ordinarily had no business with arms and before many could spell what was coming, the reign of terror had spread across the country, southeast getting its fair share of the  anomie.

  Despite the remarkable investment of Anambra State Government on security in the past seven years, it is heartbreaking that the state fell into siege of hoodlums. The situation got too bad that both the security personnel and civilians alike had no place to hide as the marauders continued to have a field day robbing, kidnapping and harassing the populace.

  Governor Willie Obiano at a point, cried out that the state was under siege but rather than getting respite from the security agencies he had spent huge state fund supporting over the years, not much of solace came his way and bandits renewed their offensives across the nooks and crannies of the state.

  The nadir of this ungodly situation being the killings of three naval officers in Awkuzu on Thursday March 15, two police personnel in Anaocha, two other police officers in Aguata, burning of police stations in Okpoko, Onitsha areas of the state as well as B’ Division Police Headquarters in the capital territory,  breaking of correctional facility in Ekwulobia and release of inmates. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s office in Awka was equally torched, while inter-cult rivalry, leading to a number of civilian deaths and many other vices reigned. .Consequently, the people’s resort to self help prompted instant killing of apprehended culprits without recourse to legal provisions.

  The question that bugs the mind is how this act, no matter how fitting it seems in the present context would remain relevant in addressing the menace of criminality without conflicting with provisions of law which allows an individual the right to fair hearing at competent courts of law before pronouncement of guilt.

  Without deliberate intention to undermine the law, citizens who are appalled by the harvest of crimes, while the law remains docile in its responsibility embraced a preferred course – jungle justice.

  The fact that these criminals beg to be handed over to security operatives when they are faced with summary execution by the angry mob shows that they have their way of beating the law at will – a chance they hardly get once they play into the hands of the mob.

  It could be inferred from the relative peace that pervades the Nkpor and adjoining towns since the re-emergence of jungle justice, that criminals are more afraid of the mob than security operatives and the law.

  Society still remembers the dreadful times when crime was fought through jungle justice administration on culprits and hardly will any sane mind wish for a return to such savage era. The ‘Boys Oye’ era in the early 1980s, and later the BAKASSI boys barbaric reign in the 1990s leave chilly memories of a true dark epoch.

  Now, the society seems to be toeing the old path or at best, reactivating the horrendous system due to the relapsing of the law and its aparatuses, thus promoting jungle justice option. The big question is, if jungle justice becomes an option, will it advance the society’s search for peace and justice?

  Whatever it takes to give citizens sense of security and keep the society at peace is what the law seeks. However, the conundrum here is accepting the adaptation of crude system such as jungle justice as alternative to failing, refined system.

  How far jungle justice could be used as a tool in the fight against criminality is unknown at the moment but certainty is that criminals seem to be retreating to their hidings now that society waves the weapon of jungle justice. If truly in war, all is fair as existing maxim compels the belief, crude system may turn-out an alternative, but checking its abuse could be a tough challenge.

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