-Warns against jungle justice
LAGOS State Police Command’s spokesperson, DSP Ngozi Braide has warned the public against jungle justice, which, according to the brilliant cop, is a criminal offence. She opened up on this and other burning national issues relating to security of lives and property in the state when ENCOMIUM Weekly visited her GRA, Ikeja, Lagos office on Friday, May 23, 2014.
The last time we had a chat on security situation in Lagos, your response was good enough to convince Lagosians that all was well, but all of a sudden, there arose palpable fear of kidnapping and few other criminal offences bothering on security threat…
(Cuts in) I don’t know. I am still where I am. I still maintain that crime in Lagos is not on the increase at all. It’s not about kidnapping, it’s unfortunate that people have started meting jungle justice to suspected individuals. The fact still remains that nobody has the right to take the life of a fellow human being, no matter the offence. We have laws guiding the land. It’s out-rightly illegal for anybody to be involved in what is described as jungle justice. We just discovered recently that people will see somebody, maybe with a little child, and the next thing is that they will gang up and lynch that person without even giving him or her room for any explanation.
Let me give you two cases: Last week, a woman was rescued from being lynched by an angry mob. They saw her with a day old baby and a basket. She had the baby in one hand and held the basket with the other. They accosted her. They didn’t even give her any opportunity to explain herself, they just descended on her. I think somebody around just alerted the police. The police got to the scene and rescued the woman. The woman claimed to be the grandmother of the little baby with her. She said the mother just put to bed that morning but her condition was not stable. Then, the doctor advised that she should take the baby home until the mother recovers. And the police invited the doctor, he corroborated what the woman said. You can imagine what could have happened to this innocent woman if the police had not gotten to the place on time. There was another case in Shasha, the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) Shasha, Lagos called me that there was a young man taking a little girl of about three years to school, and the girl was crying as they were going. The next thing was that they descended on the boy, until the Baale of Shasha contacted the DPO. Before the police reached the place, the man had been manhandled. He was found in the pool of his blood. And what actually happened was that the man was assisting the parents of this little girl. When they invited the parents, they confirmed that it was true. They said they even begged him to assist drop the girl in the school since the man was passing that route. You can also imagine what could have happened if not for the quick intervention of the police.
What do you think could have been responsible for all these?
I still attribute this to moral decadence, when many people have lost their moral values. They don’t have values for human life anymore. People don’t just care any longer. Just because they saw the little girl crying, they didn’t wait to hear the guy’s explanation, they began to suspect that he was a kidnapper. And you know how mob operates, one person may start it, before you know other people will join him, without confirming what’s actually happening. So, not that kidnapping has been on the increase, it’s just that people have been taking laws into their hands. I believe most of what they do is framing up people because you want to mete jungle justice to the person. It’s highly unacceptable. Now, the police are all out to wage war against that. Very soon, somebody will be used as a scapegoat because we have spoken to the people on that many times via the print and non-print media. We have warned that nobody should be involved in anything of such. Nobody has the power to take the law into his or her hand. If you suspect that a person has committed a crime, the next and best thing to do is to report to the nearest police station.
Few days ago, they nearly lynched an old woman. They said the woman turned to a bird. It happened in Ajegunle but the woman was later rescued. Anyway, the police condemn jungle justice in its totality, and I don’t think kidnapping is on the increase. But if anybody feels somebody has kidnapped a person, the best thing is to report the case to the police.
But there was this report that a woman was burnt with her car after she was suspected of kidnapping two kids…
(Cuts in) That’s one of the things I have been telling you. It’s a crime for anybody to have done that. It’s a condemnable act and we must all join hands to fight it. You don’t have to do that because you suspect a person of committing a crime. Why burning the woman? When you’re sure that she actually committed the crime, why not report to the police? And you know one funny thing, when they are staging their mob action, the moment they see the police coming, they will all take to their heels. They run because they know what they are doing is wrong. Jungle justice is a criminal offence, and anybody found guilty will be dealt with according to the law.
It’s a very straight forward thing. It’s a murder case because you don’t have any right to kill. It’s only when the law pronounces that a person can be killed that such a person can be killed, and not by mob action. It’s only the court of law that can pronounce that. Nobody, I still repeat myself, has the right to terminate another person’s life. If you suspect anybody of any criminal offence, you just have to hand over the person to the police.
Maybe because some people have lost confidence in the police, they may be thinking that if such a case is reported to the police, the next thing they would hear is that the suspect has been released. What’s your reaction to this?
It’s unfortunate to say they don’t have confidence in their own police. I have cited some examples. Look at the one that happened in Shasha, Lagos, if they had handed this man to the police, are we not going to release him if he was innocent? That’s just it. Also, the case in Ajegunle, are we still going to charge the woman after we had investigated the matter and we confirmed she was innocent? That’s why police conduct investigations. We’re trained to find out what actually transpired, to ascertain the truth in any situation. At times, some people will just come to the station and frame up charges against other persons, but by the time you step into the matter, you discover that there is no iota of truth in their claim. The reverse will actually be the case in most cases. So, what are we talking about? When people hand over a suspect to us, we must investigate the case thoroughly, and if the person’s hands are not clean, we will charge him or her to court. But when we discover the person didn’t commit the crime, we will let him or her off the hook.
What advice do you have for the public, especially parents as regards this kind of confusion?
Parents should just train their kids. They should let their children know what’s good and what’s not. But it’s so unfortunate that some parents, mature people are also engaged in lynching.
But those that are involved in that kind of criminal act are youths?
No, not only youths. Mature men that even have children are also involved. And at the rate it’s going, some people will pay direly for it one day. When they pay for this, they will serve as deterrent to others.
What’s your advice for parents about keeping their children safe from being kidnapped because we can’t rule it out that there is no kidnapping at all in Lagos State?
It depends on what you call kidnapping because you see that some of the things that are usually attached to kidnapping revolve around this issue of ransom. When you’re taken away, you see them asking for a particular amount before you’re released. I don’t know if we have recorded any kidnapping this year.
What of the one in Iyana Ipaja which I just mentioned and also another incident like that happened in Aboru, not far from Iyana Ipaya also…
These ones you’re talking about lacked evidence because there was no victim. There was no complainant. And the person they burnt is no more to defend herself. So, how do we establish it? There was nothing to show that those burnt actually committed the crime. So, it’s a great offence to embark on jungle justice just because you suspect somebody for one crime or the other. So, parents also should take good care of their kids. They should accompany them to school. And those that are minors should not be exposed to danger by just sending them on errand anyhow. They should not be allowed to walk alone. Not even about kidnapping, they are susceptible to accident on the road, something else could happen to them. Let children also know that they are not supposed to mingle with strangers or collect anything from them. And when they notice any strange movement in their areas, they should alert their parents immediately.
Let’s talk about human parts dealers that seem to be everywhere now.
I don’t know what you mean by everywhere. Those that we paraded last year and this year were arrested in Ogun State and Badagry area. Some of these people are herbalists and occultists, I don’t believe in diabolism or metabolism. I believe in the physical because we law enforcement agents work with the physical. I learnt they were native doctors. And how they get these human parts, I learnt they don’t go killing. The one of last year and that of 2014 followed the same pattern. They go to the people guarding the cemeteries and negotiate how they can be getting human parts from them. They have all the prices, there is a particular fee for a hand, there is also for the skull and other parts of the body. They say it’s all for spiritual things which I don’t know. And I don’t work with such things.
Is it also a criminal offence to deal in human parts so far they don’t have to kill to get those parts?
It’s a criminal offence for one to collect human parts and sell them.
What’s the penalty for such?
That will be determined by the magistrate court.
What efforts are the police still putting in place to ensure safety of lives and property because most Lagosians are still living in palpable fear on account of all what have been happening and what they hear at times concerning the security situation in the country generally.
Yes, people came up with a rumour the other time, they fabricated that some pupils were kidnapped in one school at Bariga and Ijesha. By the time we got to those schools, we found out that there was nothing like that. But the main problem we have now is the social media. Many people are not using the social media responsibly. It is supposed to be a platform where important issues will be brought to the public. A platform that’s very educative and informative. But these days, you see some wicked minds fabricating something capable of causing panic. And before you know it, the thing goes viral. However, any information we get as a responsible agency, we don’t trivialize it. No matter how minute it is, we must work on the information, and we have been very proactive in that respect because we also understand the situation in the country at the moment. We have gone further to strengthen security in the state. And we are paying a lot of attention to religious places, markets and some other places, including motor parks, financial institutions and others. We have a lot of undercover operations going on now. The state intelligence is also working round the clock in the aspect of intelligence gathering. So, we’re all working together to ensure adequate security in the state. So, so far so good. I think we’re on point.
– TADE ASIFAT