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Blasphemy witchcraft: Cases of jungle justice escalate in Nigeria

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Apart from the activities of bloodthirsty bandits, terrorists and other assailants causing mayhem in the country, several citizens have also lost their lives following extrajudicial killings called jungle justice.

Jungle justice, an ugly trend common in most African countries, is a form of public extrajudicial killing where an alleged criminal is publicly humiliated, beaten and subsequently executed by an angry mob.

Many of these incidents are left unreported mostly due to the fact that it occurs often in remote areas.

DAILY POST reports that despite condemnation from relevant authorities, the blameworthy act has continued in many parts of the country over different allegations ranging from blasphemy to witchcraft and robbery.

Worried by the trend, some stakeholders have asked the incumbent administration led by President Bola Tinubu to put up measures that would ensure that Nigerians no longer take laws in their hands.

Blasphemy

Jungle justice over allegations of blasphemy, an act of making a profane talk or speaking sacrilegiously against God, prophets or sacred things has led several persons particularly in the Northern part of the country to their early graves.

Recently, one Usman Buda, a popular butcher at the Sokoto Fish and Vegetable market, otherwise known as Kasuwan Dankure was lynched by a mob comprising his colleagues for alleged blasphemy.

On June 25, Usman Buda, who was in the market for his usual business was surrounded by an angry mob, bombarded with stones, and fatally wounded before he was set ablaze for allegedly speaking against Prophet Mohammed.

The horror scene was captured in a viral video, with even children participating in the gruesome act.

This ugly trend has been recorded in many other parts of the country.

DAILY POST recalls that a similar incident had occurred in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja on April 4, 2022, when a victim identified as Ahmad Usman was stoned to death over an alleged blasphemous comment.

Usman, a 30-year-old resident in the Lugbe area of Abuja, was stoned to death and burnt by a mob over an alleged blasphemous comment against Prophet Muhammed and Allah, in the Lugbe area of the country’s capital city.

Similarly, on May 12, 2022, Deborah Emmanuel, a female student of the Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto State was burnt alive by Islamic extremists over similar allegations.

The 200-level student was set ablaze after she reportedly advised her classmates against posting religious contents on their WhatsApp group which was reportedly created for academic purposes.

Although some persons were nabbed by the police in connection with the censurable act, they were said to have been acquitted by the court.

Witchcraft allegations

Over the years, several old men and women accused of practicing witchcraft have been killed. These abominable acts are usually carried out by community youths who ascribe their misfortunes to witchcraft.

Most of these geriatrics were often denied the privilege of defending themselves when the mob descended on them.

On April 24, 2023, youths in Ikyve community of Konshisha Local Government Area of Benue State buried two aged persons alive for allegedly practising witchcraft.

The victims, according to witnesses, were buried alive following a thunder strike that killed one of the villagers identified as Henry Ihwakaa, his wife and his two-week-old child.

It was learnt that thunder struck in the village, killing Henry, his wife and their infant. The incident triggered suspicion that two elderly persons, Ihwakaa (Henry’s father) and his alleged collaborator, were wizards and responsible for the thunder.

A few days ago, one Madam Martina Okey Itagbor was burnt alive in Akamkpa Local Government Area of Cross River State over the same witchcraft allegation.

According to reports, on the 13th of June, 2023, some youths in the community gathered themselves in a chartered vehicle heading to the inauguration reception of the member representing Akamkpa 1 State Constituency, Hon. Okon Owuna.

Unfortunately, the youths who were suspected to be drunk had an accident and two of them lost their lives on the spot. Many others were injured.

A day after, some of the youths came and dragged Madam Martina out of her house to the main road, alleging she masterminded the accident and the death of the two youths using witchcraft.

The mob reportedly poured fuel on the woman and set her on fire. She was burnt alive despite her cry of innocence.

On Tuesday, the Cross River State Police Command said it has arrested 26 suspects in connection with the unfortunate murder.

Report of the arrest was contained in a statement by the command spokesperson, SP Irene Ugbo which he issued and made available to newsmen in Calabar.

Robbery

Just recently, on June 8, a mob burnt to death a man suspected to have stolen a motorcycle in Otukpo Local Government Area of Benue State.

An eyewitness Adah John, who is also a commercial motorcyclist in the area, told DAILY POST on Saturday that the suspect allegedly killed a commercial motorcyclist around Adoka Street in Otukpo after overpowering the victim, dispossessing him of a new bike.

“After some weeks, he was passing with the motorcycle to another state before luck ran out of him and he was burnt alive.

“Those who know Otukpo very well will know that we don’t support violence. The thing is, those who kill by the sword should also die by the same sword.

“Jungle justice is actually a terrible thing, I personally don’t support it but if you think very well, these bad boys are no longer scared of the police anymore. The only thing they fear now is jungle justice”, he said.

On Thursday, a suspect was apprehended by vigilant youth in Gyado Villa, Makurdi, Benue State capital and was subjected to jungle justice before the authorities intervened.

The incident unfolded when two individuals attempted to snatch a motorcycle from an unsuspecting rider at a busy intersection in Gyado Villa.

Their heinous act did not go unnoticed as the youth present at the scene quickly sprang into action, chasing down the culprit.

With the help of other passersby, the bike snatcher was caught just a few blocks away from the crime scene. Angered by the development and the rising cases of such criminal activities in the area, the enraged youth decided to take matters into their own hands.

Although the suspect was said to have sustained life-threatening injuries, the state Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Catherine Sewuese told DAILY POST that “he is in our custody receiving treatment”.

According to the PPRO, the suspect was close to his grave when the command was informed of the development.

She said operatives of the command were sent to the area when the suspect was about to be set ablaze.

Asked what the command is doing to stop the ugly trend, the PPRO said: “on several occasions, I have been on radio stations and Television stations educating the people on the dangers of jungle justice.

“We have been sensitizing the people against taking the law into their hands and that has been going on for a very long time now. This is not the first time we are having such an incident.

“Most times, the culprits are arrested and even prosecuted to serve as a warning to others.”

She, however, lamented that sometimes, such incidents happen in very remote areas where mobility is relatively impossible.

According to Dr Christopher Ejeh, a psychologist working with the Benue State University, poverty and illiteracy are responsible for jungle justice in the country.

He explained that “the decision to tag old people as witch and wizard is largely because of poverty. When youths in a certain community are not doing well, they begin to inquire what is responsible for their problems.

“It is at this moment that they start suspecting old people. So old age, which should be seen as a blessing, becomes a problem. They will continue to nurse the suspicion until it escalates and they finally put the law into their hands and kill the suspected witch.

“But the question is, does killing solve their problems? No! They have only succeeded in channeling their grievances in the wrong direction.

“People who perpetrate this evil are mostly illiterate. They are obviously living in obscurity. They are not educated so they continue to find primitive ways of solving issues.

“This government should look into this matter seriously, it should give priority to the rural dwellers; they also need a good life. They need social amenities that can aid their business and whatever sources of income they have”.

Meanwhile, on his part, a security columnist, Elder Ben Okezie pointed out that until there is a law that specifies a heavy punishment on the offenders, jungle justice may continue in the country.

He called on the Federal Government and the 10th National Assembly to quickly enact a law that would put an end to the ugly trend.

He said, “This is an issue of legislation, there should be a law that will indicate heavy punishment like life imprisonment for offenders who are found guilty.

“By the time some persons are given life imprisonment, others will see such crime as a serious matter and run away from it.

“The police also have their own role in this matter. When anyone is caught, the person or group should be prosecuted with immediate effect. This is not a lawless country where everyone will be a judge. Nigeria should have gone beyond practicing jungle justice.

“It was even the police that used to be involved in these extrajudicial killings but thank God for EndSARS. It has obviously reduced. But we still need the law to stop it entirely.

“This still goes back to what we have been saying. The country right now cannot survive without state police. When the issue of police is decentralized and the governor and the state lawmakers have power over the police, a lot of things will change.

“Many countries including Britain that brought civilization to us, dwell on this state police to tackle security problems.

“The people perpetrating these crimes are members of one community or the other. When you have state police, the operatives will be natives of where they are serving. This means that they know your name, know your grandfather. You can’t run away from them.

“But in a situation where those in Abuja are determining what should happen in Ebonyi state, there will always be problems.”

Blasphemy, witchcraft: Cases of jungle justice escalate in Nigeria

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