It was
a sunny Saturday afternoon, I was about 8 and mum was making lunch in the
kitchen while I watched T.V, the house was filled with aunts and uncles who had
come to visit and dad was playing host. Suddenly we heard the shouts from a
large crowd on the street and instinctively we all rushed out to find out what
was going on. Initially, it was hard to figure out what was happening in the
midst of all the people and their different excited voices until we were able
to see ahead to where the crowd had gathered around a middle aged man who was
stark naked, bleeding from different parts of his body and was seriously pleading
for his life, his face covered in tears/blood/sand/. 

quickly reaching me stated that the victim of this mob action had been accused
of stealing hence the inhuman treatment. He was paraded from one end of my street
to the other, accompanied by area boys wielding sticks, whips or whatever they
could get their hands on and not in the least hesitating to use it  on the victim’s bare skin. I wanted to follow
the mob but my parents were having none of it, I was directed to go into the
house and took position by the window trying to see what happened next. Eventually,
the mob moved from the front of our house and half-beat/half – dragged the
alleged thief with them. Later on I learnt the man was forced to drink a
mixture of cement and he was left by the road to die while his insides
solidified as the cement in his lungs and stomach choked him to death. That was
my first experience of mob justice and I still remember it after over 20 years. 

justice is when a large angry mob takes justice into their own hands and it
usually ends with someone getting beating to a pulp, paraded naked in public
and even set on fire or killed. It refers to a situation in which a large
disorganized crowd of people resort to violence and destruction in an attempt
to ensure fairness and equity for themselves without recourse to the
institutionalized public bodies entrusted with this responsibility. It’s a very
barbaric way of dispensing justice and should have no place among common folk.
justice is not however unique to Nigeria and it would be unfair to characterize
it as such. One infamous lynching in particular that really shocked the world
and helped to spark the civil rights movement in the United States was in
August 1955, when 14-year-old Emmett Till was beaten, his eyes gouged and shot
in the head. His body was then thrown in the Tallahatchie River with a 70-pound
cotton gin tied around his neck with barbed wire. His crime? Allegedly
whistling at a white woman.
Mob action
can be attributed to ineffective prosecution, a weak judicial system and
evidence of a culture of impunity. In addition, this judicial failure is prompting
the security agencies to join mob action through the shoot and kill policy.
Factors that contribute to the escalation of mob action include an
under-resourced police personnel, growing crime rate, poor police-civilian
relations as well as impatience on the part of people to wait for the law to
take its course.
justice or mob lynching is a crime and must be castigated.  Section 33(1) of the 1999 Constitution tells
us that “[E]very person has a right to life and no one shall be deprived
intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in
respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.” 
individual according to Section 34 of the Constitution is also entitled to
respect for the dignity of his person and no person shall be subject to torture
or inhuman or degrading treatment; neither shall any person be held in slavery
or servitude; and no person shall be required to perform forced or compulsory
labour.  Also, Section 36 of the Constitution provides that “every person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality. Mob justice is a violation of these rights, so also is torture by the
Nigerian police or any other member of the armed forces/security agencies that
use such ineffective tactics of investigation.
Section 315 of the Criminal code, Cap C38, LFN 
provides that “Any person who unlawfully kills another is guilty of an
offence called murder or manslaughter, according to the circumstances of the
case.” Setting a person on fire or beating a person to a pulp till they die in
the name of mob justice is cold blooded murder and punishable by law. Other elements
of crime involved in mob justice include: assault and battery as stated in
Sections 351-356. Chapter 54 also tells us that it is a criminal offence to
conspire with other persons to commit a crime. Grievous harm (i.e. “bodily hurt
which seriously or permanently injures health, or which is likely so to injure
health, or which extends to permanent disfigurement or to any permanent or
serious injury to any external or internal organ, member, or sense)is an
offence under the criminal code. 
who participate in mob actions either by jeering the crowd or participating in
the actual acts of violence are not left off the hook as Section 7 of the
Criminal Code is very clear that:
“When an offence is committed, each of the
following persons is deemed to have taken part in committing the offence and to
be guilty of the offence, and may be charged with actually committing it, that
is to say-
(a) every person who actually does the act
or makes the omission which constitutes the offence;
(b) every person who does or omits to do any
act for the purpose of enabling or aiding another person to commit the offence;
(c) every person who aids another person in
committing the offence;
(d) any person who counsels or procures any
other person to commit the offence
an end to mob justice will take a collective effort from all levels of
government in sanitizing and informing the public about its ills and the
punishment involved in participating in such acts. Also, effective
public-police relations, strong police accountability and a swift
administration of justice in criminal cases should be maintained. This means the
government should undertake a broad popular education campaign aimed at
improving public understanding of the criminal justice system and discouraging
mob justice. The government should also address the failings in the police and
judicial system.
Onibokun, Esq.
is a legal practitioner in Lagos, Nigeria. He holds a Masters degree in
International Business Law from the University of Bradford and publishes the
Legalnaija law blog