By Victor Bajah, Godwin Edeh, Ann Ngbea & Martin Iyonguvihi
The spate of jungle justice has taken a worrisome dimension as more cases of mob lynching have persisted in Benue State, within a short period of time.
The Voice gathered that the dastardly act is mostly being perpetrated by commercial motorists following constant snatching of their vehicles by heavily armed criminals.
With the persistent extra-judicial killing of persons by mob through setting ablaze of suspected criminals, there is concern that if the ugly situation is not quickly handled, may degenerate into total state of lawlessness.
Mob lynching, also referred as jungle justice, according to some analysts, is a fast illegal way of serving justice, and to curb criminality. They claimed that mob lynching, also scare intending criminally minded persons.
According to them, the security agencies in Benue state are not doing enough in the fight against crime, especially in the aspect of professionally dealing with the armed robbers. They said motorcycle snatching has become a daily occurrence and security operatives are inept.
Although some persons who spoke to The Voice noted that many states in the country, including Lagos, have experienced such situations which, they said, even though illegal, had assisted greatly in curbing crime especially armed robbery.
However, some persons have contrary views, insisting that to intentionally kill suspected criminals by burning them to death, without proper prosecution or trial to ascertain their guilt, is highly unlawful.
Meanwhile, the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended has no provision as regards the issue of jungle justice.
In Makurdi and its environs, as well as other parts of the state, there has been upsurge in cases of motorcycle snatching and other related crimes leading to mob lynching.
Because of the situation, motorists have resorted to self help. They no longer wait for justice to take its course. They claimed that security agents especially the men of the police always release apprehended criminals without adequate punishment.
Specifically, irate mob recently set ablaze a suspected motorcycle snatcher along Atiku Abubakar road, in front of LGEA Primary School popularly called “Suswam Thank You Primary School” at the Wurukum area of Makurdi, the state capital.
The Voice gathered that, the recent incident happened on a Sunday morning, at about 5:30am. Christians who were heading to the St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Low-Level, for morning mass were delayed by the situation.
Eye witnesses said, the suspect who had posed as a passenger, had waved to stop the motorcyclist popularly called Okada, with pretence to board the bike. But instead of boarding, the suspect had quickly pulled out a gun, pointed it at the rider who obviously had refused to surrender the motorcycle to the suspect.
In the process, the suspected criminal fired gun shots at the motorcycle rider but the bullets could not penetrate probably due to some charms.
Realising that the suspected bike snatcher had exhausted his bullets, the courageous Okada rider raised the alarm which attracted attention of passers-by especially his fellow riders. Some of them identified the suspect as “Yellow” who they said, is a leader of a motorcycle snatching syndicate.
Immediately, some youth had gathered stones and burnt bricks to hit the suspect, and also hung a motor tyre on his neck, poured fuel and quickly set him ablaze. The police reportedly arrived to the scene several hours after the incident occurred.
The Voice investigations further revealed that within less than a month, five of such mob lynching cases were witnessed in different parts of Makurdi.
Similar situations occurred at Yaikyo and North Bank suburbs of Makurdi. At the Yogbo – NASME Barracks road, a notorious flash point known to harbouring criminals, two bike snatchers were allegedly set ablaze.
Also, in December, 2020, one suspect was set ablaze beside the Benue State Civil Service Commission, along Old Otukpo road. He was said to have dispossessed his victim of his motorcycle, from along George Akume road, and in the process to escape, he was arrested by the Vigilante group in the area, before some youths forcefully burnt him to death.
At the moment, it is one incident too many, as the list of such ugly cases is endless due to daily occurence.
Court remands farmer, 33, for beating brother to death
A Chief Magistrate Court in Makurdi has remanded in prison a 33 year-old farmer for allegedly beating one Abel Agbo of Otobi-Akpa in Otukpo Local government to death.
The deceased was served jungle justice after he was suspected to have attempted to steal a staff of office belonging to one Benedict Odeh Achibi, also of Otukpo local government.
The remanded farmer, David Ochi Idoko, who was arraigned on criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide, was reported by one Johnson Edache to have conspired with Benedict Odeh Achibi, Achibi Onah Achibi, and Emmanuel Echi Achibi to beat his nephew, Abel Agbo to death and further deposited his corpse in the river.
According to First information Report tendered in court by the Investigative Police officer IPO, Bem Kangeh, “on 2nd November, 2020 at about 4pm, one Johnson Edache ‘M’ of Otobi-Akpa, Otukpo L.G.A reported at the police station, Otukpo that, on 31st October, 2020 at about 1400hrs, the following persons, (1) Benedict Odeh Achibi ‘M’ (2) Achibi Onah Achibi ‘M’ (3) Emmanuel Echi Achibi ‘M’ and (4)David Oichi Idoko ‘M’ all of the same address.
“Conspired among themselves, beat his Nephew Abel Agbo ‘M’ of the same address with stick and iron rods alleging that he entered Benedict Odeh Achibi’s house and attempted to steal his Staff of Office, and as a result, they said Abel Agbo died and they drop his corpse in the river.
“During Police investigation, Benedict Odeh Achibi, Achibi Onah Achibi and Emmanuel Echi Achibi were arrested and charged to Court while David Ochi Idoko who was at large is now arrested.” He said.
No plea for want of jurisdiction was taken when the case came up in Court as the Prosecutor, Omaye Ujata asked for adjournment to enable prosecution complete investigation while also applying that the suspect be remanded at the Federal correctional facility in Makurdi.
Ruling on the matter, the Magistrate, J.K Akoso, adjourned the matter to 22nd February, 2021 for further mention while ordering the accused be remanded at the Federal correctional facility, Makurdi.
Why we lynch criminals – BEMOA
Meanwhile, commercial motorcyclists have attributed the ugly situation of lynching criminals to constant carting away of their motorcycles by assailants.
Vice Chairman of the Benue Motorcycle Association (BEMOA), Comrade Adema Elijah, in an interview with The Voice, described the situation as unfortunate.
Adema said there were constant attempts by criminals to dispossess them of their motorcycles, a situation he said, has thrown their men into palpable fear and prevented them from operating freely.
“There are several incidents of attempted motorcycle snatching in recent time and it is very unfortunate. Our members have been consistently operating under fear of attack by these criminal elements. Although BEMOA is yet to receive any report on the incidents as no victim has come forward to report the matter,” Elijah stated.
He said: “Some of them are actually Okada riders but are not registered members with the Union, and so we have nothing to do with them. For now, only Comrade Shinyi Aondowase, the association’s Public Relations Officer (PRO) who officially reported the theft of his motocycle at Ankpa Quarters, last week.”
While condemning the rise in cases of jungle justice, Elijah however, appealed to commercial motorists to not take laws into their hands. He urged them to always report such cases to law enforcement agencies, for possible arrest and subsequent prosecution.
Its negative effect of mental health – experts
Meanwhile, health experts have attributed the cause of jungle justice to negative mental effects, and also said the aspect of burning criminals is hazardous to health as it causes environmental pollution.
Head of Department, Oncology and Palliative Care, at the Federal Medical Centre, Makurdi, Dr. Otene Samuel said “seeing dead bodies littered around is an eyesore and not proper.”
Samuel who is State Chairman, Nigerian Medical Association, said: “These dead bodies can cause environmental pollution. The decomposed bodies are hazardous to health because flies can perch on these bodies, and who knows the kind of illnesses these bodies carry, and so, it spreads it on food and drinks transmitting this to humans.”
“You must note that health is not just clinical but mental as well, seeing these dead bodies in such manner can cause a great negative effect on mental health of an individual, especially in children who are not used to such. By these, such bodies should be removed immediately, so as to avoid all of these health hazards.”
Everybody have right to life – legal practitioner
According to Barrister Terfa Daniel Awuna, every human being has the right to life because it is enshrined in the constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria.
The 1999 constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria in section 3(1) provides that “every person has a right to life and no one shall be deprived intentional of his life except in execution of the sentence of a court in respect to a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty.”
According to Awuna, “the implication is that regardless of status, rich or poor, every citizen of the world is entitled to respect for his or her life and safety. Therefore, the intentional killing of human being is regarded abominable in all nations of the world.”
He further revealed that there is a bill on mob lynching that has not been passed yet, since 2017. The bill defines mob lynching (Jungle Justice) as “Three or more persons acting in concert for the purpose of depriving any person of his life without authority of law as a punishment for or to prevent the commission of some actual or supposed public offence.”
Police will not tolerate lawlessness – PPRO
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in Benue State, DSP Catherine Anene, confirmed the ugly incidents and revealed that “three cases were recorded with suspects connected with act of jungle justice, and they are now before the court.”
Anene, however, urged members of the public to desist from taking laws into their hands. She said, “Anyone caught will surely face the wrath of the law as the command will no longer fold its arms to watch an act of lawlessness being committed, especially at this trying moment the state is faced with many security challenges.”