Nigeria: The rule of law and the lynching of four students

Published on The Africa Report, November 30, 2012.

Summary executions of criminal suspects in Nigeria, is a social cancer that is getting little attention from the government and the International Criminal Court.

Nigeria’s relatively weak security structure may have encouraged the prevalence of vigilante groups, but the ample disregard for human dignity, rights and life, often displayed by vigilante groups leaves questions to be answered by the West African country and the international community.  

Jungle justice is not unique to Nigeria, but it is prevalent across the country’s tribal regions, from big cities to small villages. Thomas Hobbes once said, without the rule of law, life was brutish, nasty and short.

In Nigeria, however, vigilante justice is taking over the rule of law as a culture of immunity grows to undermine the justifications for the evolution of modern societies.

According to Human Rights Watch, Nigerian communities are abandoning the rule of law. which exists to protect human life, property and liberty.

However, the life of a criminal suspect has become valueless, cheap and readily disposable. And this state of affairs is exacerbated by a failing security system.

Nigerian researcher at Human Rights Watch, Eric Guttschuss recently reported that when victims of crimes go to the police in Nigeria, they are often asked to fund the criminal investigation, and the case is dropped if one is unable to fund or bribe the police.

Analysts say that institutions established for the control and management of crimes and criminality have lost their credibility and capacities to carry out their institutional.

This reality, locals argue, explains the increase in extrajudicial executions that take place across Africa’s most populous nation.

The steady decline of state authority or the reality of state failure has made jungle justice an attractive framework to those who have been systematically alienated from the formal state processes.

Civility and stability in Nigeria cannot be attained without the tackling of mob justice.

Nigerian police spokesman Frank Mba says while Nigeria’s police force is not perfect, the police “are committed to improving our competency through training and retraining and to improve our service, deliver to protect law and order and to stabilise democracy in Africa’s largest country”.

The lynching of four students: … (full text).

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