Friday, January 23, 2009

Battle hardened Lagosians can tell you what 'Lagos Justice' is. It is 'street justice', meted out in neighborhoods around the city to alleged criminals if they have the misfortune of not being captured by the police first. 'Lagos Justice' usually involves some very graphic acts of violence. In many cases, the alleged criminal is stuffed into a tyre or two, to prevent him/her (usually men, however) from fleeing. The alleged criminal is then set aflame and left to burn alive. Below is a short 33 second clip of 'Lagos Justice' in action. Please be forewarned that this clip is EXTREMELY GRAPHIC. It should not be viewed in the presence of children and is only shown to give a visual depiction of justice gone very wrong. Feel free to not watch the clip, as the description above could be sufficient in explaining the act.

There are varied explanations for how 'Lagos Justice' came about, but one thing is for sure. This act is a reflection of the community's loss of confidence in the institutions that should protect them. Such institutions, the Police Force and the Justice System to name a few, clearly do not satisfy the needs of these citizens. Hence, they take the law into their own hands and the results can be gruesome. Unfortunately, it is common knowledge that many police officers are underpaid, undertrained, and in some cases, worse than the actual criminals they are meant to capture. As for the legal system, there are many who feel that the justice system is ineffective because like anywhere else in the world, some judges can be bought and swayed.

However, the failure of the police to arrive at a crime scene within a reasonable amount of time, or the belief, be it credible or not, that Judges can easily be bought is not an excuse for one human being to treat another like an animal. Not even in the name of justice. When we as a people, wherever in the world we may be from, resort to such behavior, we lose our humanity and we give permission to others to treat us and the ones we love the same way. Every individual, no matter their sins, must be proven guilty of their alleged crime, and if guilty, can face the music in one of Lagos's many penal institutions, the legendary Kirikiri Prison comes to mind. But, to burn humans alive, be they guilty or not, is absolutely unacceptable.

Consequently, I call on the very progressive Governor Fashola of Lagos State to punish those individuals who would so blatantly take the law into their own hands to maim and murder others in the name of 'justice'. I also call on the good people of Lagos State to dissuade others from carrying out such 'street justice'. Lagos prides itself as the 'City of Excellence' and it has a very rich history and culture. Lagosians cannot lower themselves to such levels of barbarism and intolerance. 'Lagos Justice' must not be allowed to become part of the fabric of what that great city is and will someday be.

Hattip to reader Mola OG of NotJustOk for bringing this issue to my attention and asking my opinion.

Related Articles of Interest:
- Poverty or Peace?
- Money Rituals
- Being Duped By A Family Member
- Nigeria vs. Nigerians
- Are the Poor To Blame For Their Poverty?
- Values
- The Demons That Hold Sway Over Nigeria
- Guilty By Association

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Dee said...

I absolutely agree with you.

When I saw this video 2 days ago on Facebook and was utterly disgusted and traumatized! I couldn’t help but remember seeing something like this in a Lagos market many years ago. They actually didn’t burn the victim (who was a thief caught in the act), I witnessed the market people FLOG the man to death.

There is a reason why we have a justice system in every society. Whether this system works or not it DOES exist in society and makes every man accountable for his actions.
Everyone acknowledges the criminal justice system does not work in Lagos or in Nigeria as a whole but we have no right as individual citizens to BURN a man to death! It is inhuman, barbaric, criminal and absolutely unacceptable in the world of today.

Nigerians need to understand that we live in a global society now; these things cannot be done and swept under the rug like before.

See how quickly the video made it to the internet, the world is really watching.

Chxta said...

I won't attempt to justify jungle justice. I will only attempt to explain it. Jungle justice (read Bakassi boys, OPC) arises when the police and judicial system have failed. That this still happens is an indictment of what passes as a criminal justice system back home.

No matter how much people scream, the terror of what criminals subject their victims to in Naija will mean that jungle justice will remain on the table no matter how many i-Reports are published.

Dinka said...

It's murder. Lagosians who engage in this will be judged, if not by Nigeria's non-existent justice system, then by God. I am so disgusted.

Anonymous said...

You know if someone wanted to make a case that by and large the character of modern day Africans was pre-decided and programmed into us, you can easily make a case using this example because we have the exact same thing with a different name in Kenya ("mob justice").

Ours tends to be that someone shouts Mwizi/ "Thief" and immediately out of nowhere people will start assaulting him, tyres, lighting fluid and igniting material will come out of nowhere and a few minutes later he is dead.

Jinta said...

this was called jungle justice in my time, probably still is.

it is sad, even painful to see the graphic murder of an able bodied man. i was more disturbed about the woman's voice on the clip who kept repeating 'e je ko j'erora' (let him suffer torment). you expect compassion from women; and the man that kept beating his almost lifeless body.

having said that, i do not have any compassion for the murdered man if he was indeed an armed robber or similar. the reason there is jungle justice is because we do not have any semblance of proper defence from the police. even if he were arrested, he would be out the moment he can raise N20,000 to bribe the police.

i lost a new friend in 2007, his name was Goke Awowade, younger brother to one of my closest friends in the uk and at that time, bank manager of fcmb ojuelegba branch. he was a total gentleman who was killed when armed robbers were shooting indiscriminately in VI. none of the robbers were arrested, Goke, with a promising future and 6 months into a marriage was buried.

there is no need to call on fashola to stop mob rule. we need to call on yar'adua to decentralise the police such as is done in advanced countries, and then we can hold fashola responsible if the police do not protect us.

Olufunke said...

I've always had a problem with this 'jungle jsutice' of a thing, I always prays never to see anyone happening 'cos the images and memeories take a long time to leave me.

I passed by when one was taking place, I still remember.....the guy was trying to run away from the fire and people were pushing him back.
It is very disturbing.......

Even though armed robbers are very evil people that deserve the worst purnishment they can get, but jungle justice is not the solution.

I still remember an incidence, in my
estate some few years ago, when a guy came to visit his fiancee (that lives in my estate),he usually visits after work in the evenings, she saw him off to a point and left him to walk towards the bus-stop, unknowingly to them both, a robbery operaiton was going on in the estate, on his way to the bustop,he walked right into the corwd chasing after the robbers, he was apprehended and mistaken for a thief, he was burned alive,and the real robbers escaped.

StandTall-The Activist said...

Just 4 days a go, i was having a conversation about "jungle justice and pple taking laws into their hands" with my boss.

My hubby was saved by God once. Someone had dropped a stolen vehicle into his pocket in a bus. He used his martial art styles to get rid of it before it rang on him. Imagine it had rang on him, he might not have lived to tell the story

I am not sure if our police officers are ready to combat crimes of any kind as they are criminals themselves. If you listen to some of them talk, you will hear the rot in thier mouth and in the system. But we still need them as we cannot continue to have people take laws into thier hands.

Beauty said...

What hell? What Savagery? Yet people will have us believe that hell is another place. Words like progressive cannot describe this place.

For the love of me said...

Hmm, my friend's 9 year old brother was killed by a drunk driver over the xmas holiday. Brutally crushed, his head scattered, brains and intestines everywhere. And his father witnessed it, poor man is still in hospital as he fell into shock. The driver survived. Bottles of whiskey and beer were found in his car. His family keeps changing his hospital, and they had better cos I would kill him myself if I get the chance. Because I know the police won't do jack.

That said, another friend was at Tejuosha and his car wouldn't open(you know those days when we used to drive tuke tuke cars.)Because he kept trying, someone started to chant thief and next he knew, there was a tire on his head and someone had gone to get fuel. He was saved by friends driving past who immediately stopped.

Jungle justice is terrible but it has its place in the Nigerian society where there is no legal system.

Doja said...

I could not watch the video but the still image said a lot.

The picture says nothing about the dying men, but says a million things about their attackers.

Waffarian said...

I am not going to watch the video cos I do not want to get such a babaric image in my head so early in the morning.

Is this civilisation? people treating themselves worse than animals? Its insane.

As chxta said, as long as criminals are allowed to treat innocent human beings like animals, then the people would have no choice but to treat them as such.

People have lost empathy in that country. The struggle for survival has become a savage affair.

We have a long way to go in that country. A long way.

Banke said...

The only thing that will deter this kind of street justice is the threat of the law. But of course, the same law that fails the people also fails to protect alleged criminals. The buck stops once again, with the government and leaders.

Saheed said...

Ive always had this theory that men are no more than animals; the conditions just have to be right. Arent there studies on this?


@ dee: "we have no right as individual citizens to BURN a man to death! It is inhuman, barbaric, criminal and absolutely unacceptable in the world of today."

Can't top that, my sista. Not at all.

@ Chxta: "No matter how much people scream, the terror of what criminals subject their victims to in Naija will mean that jungle justice will remain on the table"

Very true. Its a horrible cycle. Lack of adequate institutions force people to take the law into their hands and it just continues to happen over and over. Very depressing but not undefeatable. Anyway, thanks so much for commenting. Good to see you.

@ Dinka: Yes, I cannot but agree with you. I find the action reprehensible and can only hope that with time it will come to a complete halt.

Thanks for stopping by.

@ Anon: Gosh, I hope you are wrong. I think that character, culture and the like are highly influenced by peers and not necessaruly genetic coding. If that were the case, then we would have to give up our hopes of transforming the African continent into a self-sustaininga nd reliant continent of progressive countries with healthy people and stable institutions. I can't even bear the thought.

So, thief is 'Mwizi' in Swahili, eh? I just learned something new. In Yoruba, the word is 'Ole'.

Thanks so much for joining the discussion. Next time, feel free to not use 'Anonymous', we are all pretty friendly here. I promise.

@ Jinta: Your story about your friend is touching and gives a name to the injustice suffered by far too many in Nigeria. I am sorry for your loss.

"we need to call on yar'adua to decentralise the police such as is done in advanced countries, and then we can hold fashola responsible if the police do not protect us."

Spoken like a true Lagosian. I don't know of any that do not want decentralization. And, I have to say that this reason alone puts me in favor of the idea. We have to be able to take care of our issues, especially a s it is clear that we Lagosians are doing a better job than the FGN. We will all wait and see.

@ Olufunke: "jungle justice is not the solution."

Like you, I do not believe that jungle justice is the answer to our woes. It will take some serious action to get it to stop however. Jinta has recommended decentralization so that Lagos can adequately take care of its crime problem. I still call on fashola to make this issue part of the public discourse and education. Just my 2 cents.

Nice to see you.

@ Standtall: That is scary. Thankfully he was able to escape what could have happened. Wow.

@ Beauty: I understand your disgust, but believe me, Lagos is very progressive in many ways. However, issues like this, in my opinion, hold the state and indeed the nation back, by sacrificing our humanity for the satisfaction of 'justice'.

Not to excuse it, but the realities on ground force the citizens to take extreme measures. There are rampant stories of thieves shooting down anything and everything in sight. In fact, Atutupuyoyo has a recent post about trying to cover a bank robbery and seeing how the cops left so many to die while protecting themselves.

The issue is serious and without significant leadership either from the governor, the FGN or concerned individuals, we will allow this practice to become part of who we are and will still not have created lasting institutions to protect ourselves and the spirit of society we need to create.

@ FTLOM: So good to see you and I am so sorry to hear that bad news. I can understand the frustration and pain that could, in such a situation, force a person or persons to resort to jungle justice.

But, would it not be better to put our efforts into preventing a repeat of such a tragedy? Finding a way to foster discipline amongst the police corps so that they can stop dangerous drivers? Stepping up education against drunk driving so that whoever that man was drinking with would have kept him from driving and thus taking the life of that precious child and in turn destroying a family? I know that it is easy for me to make those suggestions because i was not touched by that senseless loss, but we still have to force ourselves to think about solutions that will not just satisfy our need for vengeance but will satisfy the need for discipline amongst all and hopefully result in a safer society for all of us, no?

Again, I cannot question anyone for feeling so frustrated that they would want to take the law into their own hands. I just know that there are options and we must collectively decide to take them.

Thank you so much for sharing your story and forcing us all to think harder about this issue.

@ Doja: "The picture says nothing about the dying men, but says a million things about their attackers."

Ah, very true. And, if you had watched the clip or just listened to it, it would have haunted you beyond belief, particularly as the observers/participants felt no remorse for the burning individuals.

I hope all is well with you and your family.

@ Waffy: "People have lost empathy in that country. The struggle for survival has become a savage affair."

You have used words to brilliantly capture the concern I have. Thank you. People don't seem to realize that even though thieves should suffer the consequences of their crime, they aren't the main problem. Taking care of the cause will remedy the situation eventually.

@ Banke: There goes that cycle of violence again. But the people can also be to blame, because we choose to act out in vengeance so we are all to blame. Thanks so much for stopping by!

@ Saheed: Actually there are. There was a famous study at UCLA from the 60s or 70s that had to be stopped early. Everyone has it in them. Its like you said the "conditions just have to be right."

Avartsy said...

OMG! That was so traumatizing to watch. People can be so heartless but if you try to reckon with their attackers like that, they'd prob. tell you how heartless the victims must've been. Nevertheless, it' still barbaric. I remember in Festac, on my way to school sometimes, we'd see burnt dead bodies laying in the middle of the road, like it was a dead tree or something. It's sad, I don't think Fashola can do much about it, this speaks to the attackers, all Fashola can do is decree that anyone caught doing something like that will be arrested or sth, but things like this happen quickly, the crowds gather very quickly and disperse very quickly leaving their handi-work behind. Even if the police were to arrive and ask for the culprits, no one would be willing to give them up for fear of repercussions. It speaks to the minds of the attackers and the minds of the criminals, the latter know their fate should they be caught, yet they keep perpetrating and the former are only ever so ready to kill. It's so sad, but it'll take a major re-working of their mind-sets which can only start from the top (gov't) and trickle down to the masses. Cliche as it may sound, the government needs to step up and create opportunities for the youth so they can stop thieving albeit, there will still be a few bad eggs, but then there needs to be in place a better prison/ justice system where these flagrants can be justly punished. It's very very very sad, but I don't see a quick fix for the problem that is jungle justice.


9ja_Kuti said...

they say two wrongs dont make a right. but when the system fails some things might become acceptable. no matter how acceptable it has become, its still MURDER!

THANX a bunch for stopping by my blog, i'll update sooner than i expect since i know i have a reader.

dhayor said...

This nearly got tears down my eyes,the worst is just that some innocent souls are taken in this act,since the fact behind a crime is not properly validated.

N.I.M.M.O said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
N.I.M.M.O said...

I do not know how long ago this video was made (there were no timestamps) but I daresay that it is not recent.

Lagos has moved.

I can say that this does NOT happen in Lagos again. And please don't talk of the Island/Mainland dichotomy. I know it doesn't.

This was rampant between 8 to 25 years ago and particularly during the military years when the psyche of the Lagosian was much brutalized; when the Nigeria Police Force was more of an Occupation Force than a public service. Back then the Police was a foe.

Yes, Lagos took the Law into its own hands and its justice was swifter than 'Operation Swift' but since then things have changed - at least a little.

Lagos has moved. Please.


@ n.i.m.m.o.: Always good to see you.

I have to strongly disagree with your assumption (and that is all it is) that these acts no longer occur. One need simply read the comments above yours to see the testimonies of those whose lives have been touched by such 'justice' in the recent past.

As to your statement that "this was rampant between 8 to 25 years ago" just visit the very good blog MY PEN, MY PAPER. Granted her post is from 2007, but we can all say that that is quite recent in the scheme of things.

While I agree with you that the video is undated, I strongly disagree that Lagosians no longer practice such 'jungle justice'. There is no reason for them to stop. Unless, there is something you know that the rest of us don't. Nevertheless, thanks so much for leaving a comment. I will do what I can to find a date for that video. Hopefully, we'll all get lucky.

How's your family doing?

Beauty said...

SolomonSydelle is available for speaking engagements and is currently working on a book. that I like, a lot.


@ Uncle Beauty: heh heh... You always notice the little things, lol. But, yes, a book is in the works and it is kicking my behind no lie, but I hope to get it done and published. Any thoughts, ideas, recommendation and advice is greatly desired.

Hope all is well.

Beauty said...

Aunt S, please do not spoil beauty, "being of one's hour" with uncle. A flavour of your book via face would be nice. Please note, little things are the only things. Soft is hard and the future belongs to writers, bloggers, poets and those that allow other people´s dreams to flourish.

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