Jungle Justice in Nigeria: Lynching Kano Bombers

Jungle Justice in Nigeria: Lynching Kano Bombers

No newspaper gave it more than a few paragraphs treatment. Two suspected Boko Haram militants riding a tricycle were believed to have detonated an improvised explosive device near the Emir of Kano's palace on Wednesday. A mob, says the report, spotted them and gave chase. The two were apprehended and one of them was immediately lynched – burnt to death, according to the report. The other suspect was then handed over to the police, perhaps for interrogation. If he is lucky, he will have his day in court.

Jungle Justice in Nigeria: Lynching Kano Bombers

Mob action, or, more accurately, jungle justice, was the last piece needed to complete the jigsaw puzzle of Nigeria's lawless landscape. It is not known yet whether the lynching reflects the frustrations of the people of Kano in the fight against Boko Haram or Islamic militancy in general, or whether it is simply a demonstration of the love they have for their emir, who had been attacked once by the fundamentalists. Whatever the cause, it is significant that one of the suspects received jungle justice.

Previously, the country has contended with mindless killings carried out by the Islamic sect, Boko Haram, and, to a little extent, Ansaru, a splinter group, and other adventurous but nameless killers exacting revenge on their victims. After a while, another set of killings was added to the mix, this time from security agents. It began to manifest when the well-known leader of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf, was extra-judicially murdered in 2009 after he was arrested by the army and handed over to the police. After first denying the shocking act, the police eventually owned up, took the offending officers into custody and later charged them in court. The case has become tortuous and winding, further infuriating Boko Haram. In sum, killings by security agents, Boko Haram militants and the civil populace have completed the cycle of lawlessness in the country.

We should be deeply worried that the ruination of our country is virtually complete.

Nigerians were contending with, but never able to make sense of, Boko Haram's mindless killings. Sometimes the killings seemed ethnic, and at other times they seemed sectarian or even political. In any case, no one was immune to the attacks, not Christians, not Muslims, not Yoruba, not Hausa, not Igbo; and no one was too small or too big to be murdered.

The country's anguish was then exacerbated by both the overwhelming force deployed by security agents in battling the insurgency in the north and the deliberate, cold-blooded killings they sometimes perpetrated. But while the country was still trying to prod the government into putting some order and leash on the security agents' rules of engagement, the people themselves, as evidenced by the Kanawa, have decided to take the law into their own hands. It is not as if the Kano episode was the first manifestation of jungle justice in the country, but it is significant that this is the first time Boko Haram suspects would be caught by the people and lynched.

From now onward, there would seem to be no further restraint in the total expression of our murderous instinct and rage.

The Kano mob action may in fact mollify the suspicion of many who had in the past few years felt northerners connived at Boko Haram killings; and others may see it as an attempt to conjure a people's deterrent against the sect. But perhaps, like security agents and Boko Haram militants, the people are also beginning to do away with the last vestige of restraint that entitles us to be described as civilised.

Henceforth, we would no longer be deterred by the fear of lynching innocent people or any suspect who has not been tried in court. Once caught, rightly or wrongly, the suspect will be summarily executed.

It is thus becoming crystal clear that in Nigeria we deserve one another, with everyone running the gauntlet of murderous Boko Haram militants, self-righteous security agents and vengeful mob. Every which way you turn, your goose is cooked, for no one gives you the benefit of the doubt.

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