Message from our CEO
Before reading further we feel it is necessary you understand our view on killing and murder of any kind. We at do not and will never support killing or murder, whether it is done legally or illegally. We believe in solving problems through discourse but recognise that in certain situations this might not be feasible. As civilised people we need to work within the parameters of the law and ensure we understand the consequences of our actions, economically, socially and environmentally speaking. Take a second to think before you act, because that second might not only stop you from doing something you regret, it could also save the life of someone else. If history is something we should learn from, then violence will always beget violence and those who live by the sword usually die by it. The western world created the stereotype of the "Angry Black Man" but we don't have to feed into it. Taking the laws into your own hands and resulting to violence every time something doesn't go your way, only feeds into the stereotype of the "Angry Black Man". Africans and black people in general, are not wild animals, and we should not be painted so, just because of a few bad eggs.
What is Jungle Justice
Jungle justice also known as mob justice is a form of public vigilantism in Sub-Saharan Africa, most notably in Nigeria and Cameroon, where an alleged criminal is lynched by the public, beaten, humiliated and publicly executed. The forms of execution vary from stoning to death, to being burnt alive with a car tyre thrown over their head. In some cases they are severely beating and their skulls are bashed in, in other cases like the death of formal president Gaddafi, they are sexually assaulted and humiliated.
The common excuse for this form of street justice is that the judiciary system and law enforcement bodies are so corrupt that they lose all credibility in the eyes of the people.
Stats show that everyday at least one person in Africa faces torture or even death at the hands of irate citizens determined to be judge, jury and executioner. Cameroon and Nigeria are said to have the highest rate of jungle justice killings across Africa. Hauwa Yusuf a criminologist at the Kaduna state University in Nigeria, told DW that most jungle justice victims are innocent of the crimes for which they are accused and punished. He is quoted saying:
A lot of innocent Africans have fallen victim to jungle justice," Yusuf said.
In this article we are going to look at three cases of the barbaric practice of jungle justice in Africa. Please be warned that the vivid descriptions in this article are gruesome. All three examples used are from Nigeria, but Jungle justice is also an African issue.
Bakassi Boys of Nigeria
Bakassi boys were a vigilante group responsible for murdering hundreds of people across eastern Nigeria in the name of vigilantism. According to the Journal of Democracy and Development, Bakassi boys were created in 1998 by traders in the city of Aba, located in Abia state, Nigeria. These traders felt the need to protect themselves because Abia state police were not doing enough to reduce the number of robbery incidents in the city.
While the rise of Bakassi boys helped reduce crime in the state, it came at significantly loss of life, as they left a death toll in their wake. They became stuff of folklore that kids told among themselves. For those who committed the slightest offensive, Bakassi boys became a nightmare they couldn’t wake up from.
In a way, you could say the Bakassi boys created a brand for themselves, one that the country bought into. They dressed mostly in black clothing and wore red berets. They were known to use machetes but also brandished guns and wore visible charms made from cowries and feathers. They claimed their charms/Juju gave them powers to stop bullets from harming them and also helped them find criminals.
Bakassi boys were also known to torture their victims, this included cutting off body parts while their victims were alive. Through their brutal and inhumane torture they would extract confessions from their victims. There was no way of verifying if these confessions were true, as anyone would say they are guilty of a crime to avoid being chopped into pieces.
Once they had successfully extracted a confession, they would ensure their victims confess to the public before executing them in public viewing. They executed their victims mostly by beheading and by burning them. In some cases it was reported that they also cut the body parts of their victims into pieces and would spread these body parts across streets.
Bakassi boys were the judge, jury and executioners of alleged criminals in eastern Nigeria. They did no investigation, there was nothing scientific about how they identified criminals. There was no evidence or a trial, just word of mouth accusations, hearsay and allegations which could not be substantiated with actual proof.
The only reason crime reduced drastically in Abia state was because everyone thought Bakassi boys had powers that allowed them to detect and find criminals. The fear and brutality tactics used by Bakassi boys was so effective in reducing crime, that other eastern states in Nigeria invited them to rid their cities of crime. For a moment it was like taking a page out of a Batman movie.
Nigeria as a whole was enthralled and enamoured by the Bakassi boy brand and bought into the idea of them being a superhero vigilante group powered by black magic, sorcery and Juju. It was so bad that Nollywood, Nigeria’s version of Hollywood, created a series of movies called “Issakaba“ to reenact the alleged heroic tales of Bakassi Boys. Unfortunately, like most cases of jungle justice, Bakassi boys probably killed more innocent people than guilty ones. Guilty or not, the law is put in place to ensure no one person is judge, jury and executioner.
In recent times, due to pressure from groups like Amnesty International and the international community, the Nigerian government started clamping down on vigilant activities committed by Bakassi boys. For example, in July 2018, the Nigerian Supreme Court affirmed the death penalty imposed on three members of Bakassi Boys in 2006. In their appeal, they claimed they only committed the murders because they were incited by the Abia state government. The Supreme Court dismissed their appeal citing it lacked any merit.
In present day, the Bakassi boys have now successfully rebranded themselves into the Anambra State Vigilante Service, Imo State Vigilante Service and Abia State Vigilante Service. These three incarnations of Bakassi boys don’t have the same authority or leeway as they use to before. They are also being closely monitored by the Nigerian authorities, who will not hesitate to take punitive action, if required, or so they alleged.
Aluu Four Lynching
This example of jungle justice was one of the most brutal stories I had ever read. I still cry for the four kids that were murdered that day. It reminded me of Africa’s dark side, which still exist, till today. The lives of four promising university students were snuffed out by a lynching mob, all because the community thought they were thieves.
Chiadika Biringa, Lloyd Toku Mike, Tekena Erikena and Ugonna Obuzor were friends, occasional roommates and students of University of Port Harcourt. Ugonna was owed an undisclosed amount of money by a man named Bright. Bright didn’t pay the money back, so Ugonna went looking for him in a community called Aluu. He sought help from his cousin Lloyd, childhood and longtime friend Tekena and roommate Chiadika. Together, all four of them embarked on a journey of no return.
When the four students arrived at Bright’s lodging, it was at about midnight. Unconfirmed reports state that one or more of the students might have had a weapon on them to threaten Bright into settling his debt. An argument apparently ensued over the money and a fight broke out.
Bright’s neighbor heard the noise and started screaming, claiming that the students were there to steal laptops and mobile phones. The Aluu community had previously been plagued by armed thieves, so they setup a vigilante group to protect themselves as they had lost confidence in the police. When the vigilante group was alerted by the shouting, they thought the students were robbers trying to steal from the community.
Before the Vigilante group arrived at the scene, an angry mobs had already started chasing the four students through the streets with stick and other weapons. When they caught the students, they stripped them naked, beat them up and tortured them till they were almost unconscious. Apparently, there were police officers at the seen, who stood by and did nothing while this crazy mob, dragged these students through the mud, had concrete slabs dropped on their heads and car tires filled with petrol wrapped around their necks before burning them.
The ENDSARs protest in Nigeria made global media headlines. On the 20th of October 2020, Nigerian security operatives allegedly opened fire on peaceful protester at Lekki Toll Gate, killing protesters. The official death toll at the end of this protest was 51 Civilians, 11 policemen and 7 soldiers. Without putting categories on lives, 69 people, 69 human beings, 69 Nigerians lost their lives during this protest.
While the media locally and internationally reported on the Lekki toll gate killings, nobody covered the vigilante killings that happened across Nigeria. Two police officers were murdered in Ebonyi State by alleged protesters. One of them according to Premium Times Nigeria, had his genitals cut off.
Seven police officers were lynched and killed by rioters in Lagos, while trying to protect public property. They left behind wives and kids
The Oyo State police commander reported in December 2020, that Jungle justice killing increased in Oyo state after the ENDSARs protest. He announced that two civilians were burnt alive, while a third escaped.
To be absolutely clear, jungle justice is not a problem for Nigeria alone, it is an African problem. This is further exacerbated by the inadequate forensic knowledge in African countries. African security forces need to rebuild trust with their local community. They need to assure them that they are reliable and effective. Still, there is no excuse for any civilIan in Africa to make themselves, judge, jury and executioner. Even if your local police force is unreliable, taking the life of another should never an option.