For quite a while, human rights of Nigerian citizens have continued to be taken with less importance either by some government’s agencies or individual members of the society. There are occasions where suspects have been made to face persecution helplessly rather than prosecution in accordance with rule of law. Some have to face jungle justice by virtue of perhaps lack of trust in the justice system of the judiciary or a delayed and frustrated justice in the judiciary by members of the public. Just of recent, two different videos have been circulated via the social media which showed scenes where the female gender of those victims have been dehumanized with people (male and female) gathered to satisfy, celebrate and give their support for the inhuman acts of jungle justice being meted on those helpless and overpowered victims. In one of the videos, a woman was said to have been alleged or suspected to have stolen a phone which she denied but her accusers could not believe her defence. So, she was stripped of her external clothes inclusive of her female under-wears, to include: her bra and pants (permit me to use these words for emphasis). She was beaten along with the forceful stripping of her clothes, till she had no cloth on her to cover her privacy. Then, the persecutors who were seen in the video to be men of lack of human mentality and God’s consciousness, poured and inserted pepper in her private part as she was forcefully drawn to fall on the ground in order for her not to escape and they continued to drag a raw un-grinded pepper and suspected dried grinded pepper into her vagina/female ovary, while she continued to cry in pains helplessly and disappointingly as no one was there to rescue her until this act of inhuman treatment and torture was completed. Not only that, she was made to walk and appear in the public space without wearing any cloth, pant, bra, knickers, trousers, skirt or undies and while standing on her bare foot, with dust and marks of continuous mass beating on her body and her face. Then, the said scenes were filmed and sent viral on the social-media, the said video which is an undeniable piece of evidence against those perpetrators before God Almighty! What is more dehumanizing for a woman than this inhuman treatment?! The other video showed a woman being stripped naked as stated in the video, for abusing or spitting on the vehicle of a politician who was later identified as one of the aide to an influential authority in that particular State of Nigeria. She was stripped naked with no pant or panties, no bra, no undies, no slippers and no particular cloth. She was seen being surrounded by persons with no iota of mercy in such merciless condition (both males and females). Also, she was seen being beaten by different huge and hefty men of overpowering stature, who continuously beat, hit her with a piecing object on her face, head, back, stomach, breasts, laps, legs, knees, and any other possible part of her body as she was also dragged on the bare ground! Also surrounding her were some women of her gender who satisfied their watch of the scenes and refused to rescue her or call for her rescue rather, laid abuses on her for whatever reason. Then, the said dehumanizing video was sent viral on social media. What is more dehumanizing for those women and their gender?! Then there was a report of a man that was beaten to pulp on a wrong alarm raised against him that he kidnapped a child. He was reported to have been beaten to pulp and was about to be burnt in his vehicle before the police rescued him in the hands of his persecutors but despite the rescue, his vehicle was burnt. The story was later discovered to be false about him to the true fact that he was not a kidnapper and did not actually kidnap any person as he had been alleged. The report also confirmed that this man died few days after the incidence! A similar scenario was reported along Dei-Dei Junction, AMAC, Abuja, where some suspected kidnappers were tied in their vehicle and burnt alive in their vehicle to ashes without any rescue, and many more scenarios. These stories confirmed that just as some of the Nigerian government’s security agencies have been accused of unlawfully killings, inhuman torture, maltreatment, oppression, arbitrarily detaining suspects in their custody, etc., the same way we see some individuals carrying out jungle justice on their fellow human being suspected to have committed one criminality or the other. Everyone having his own court of justice where justice is quickly meted out on the suspect. Those who survive the occasion of the jungle justice could not live to tell the story. And for those who survive the public persecution, they remained victimized by their community members and some would have perhaps committed suicide as a result of the fear of victimization.
Furthermore, it has always been said that the court of law is the last hope of the common man. There are several occasions where a suit is filed on human rights violation and the applicant succeeds. Some of the courts award such amount of compensation as low as N50,000, N 100,000, N 200,000, etc, but as little as to be unenforceable. Most bitterly, especially when the judgment is against the government or any of its Ministries, Agencies or Departments, enforcing the compensation is another hurdle, the situation which renders human rights activists who appear before the court to seek compensation for the victim frustrated. That is why the Respondent would tell the Applicant to his face that he should go to court and secure lifeless judgment against it. For instance, after the applicant has secured judgment in his favour for the alleged violation of his right, then, when he applied to court for garnishee proceedings against the government to enforce the compensatory award, then, the same government or the Central Bank of Nigeria would file a preliminary objection that the Judgment Creditor did not seek the consent of the Attorney-General of the Federation or of the State before embarking on his enforcement while the Respondent relies on Section 84 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act, 2004. However, it is noteworthy to observe that the Sheriff and Civil Process Act was a law enacted under the military regime and formed part of the existing law in the democratic Nigeria pursuant to section 315 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). So, the same court that awarded compensation in favour of the Applicant is the same court that subjects the Applicant to the need to seek the consent of the Attorney-General of the Federation or of the State before the compensation can be enforced! Then, the Respondent would tell the Applicant that he has to await budget that would take care of his award subject to the approval of the same government! And at some occasions, substantive suit would go as far as the Supreme Court of Nigeria and at the time of enforcing the judgment, the enforcement would also go on up to the Supreme Court while the entire case goes on up to as long as 5 or more years, yet, the Applicant will still have to be at the mercy of the Respondent. What an injustice!
So, we see how the human rights of Nigerians are being trivialized by both the Nigerian judiciary (our courts), Government and the individual member of the community. Village heads sometimes too hide under customs to carry out jungle justice without considering the democratic nature of Nigeria.
So, that is why I am by this paper asking how long will human rights continue to be trivialized, that is as if they are not important?! And according to the Webster on-line dictionary, the word to ‘trivialise’ means ‘to make (something) seem less important or serious than it actually is’.
Finally, I am of the humble suggestion that government has a lot to do in sensitizing the Nigerian citizens about their rights and duties. Village heads and the royal rulers too should be educated on the restrictions of government’s policy placed on customs. Government too should avoid any act that would make the public to lose trust in the efficacy and efficiency of the investigative agencies and prosecution of alleged suspects. I further recommend that low compensatory award less than a million naira should not even be the option in human rights enforcement suits. Furthermore, I am of the humble submission that Fundamental Rights Enforcement suits have the force of the constitution and are sui generis (of their own rules and procedures), the enforcement of fundamental rights compensation against the government ought to have its special rules and procedures made by the Chief Justice of Nigeria relying on the provision of section 46 of the Constitution. Therefore, I humbly submit that the Chief Justice of Nigeria has the constitutional powers to make rules for the enforcement of awarded compensation in fundamental rights enforcement cases, while departing from section 84 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act. I therefore recommend that the Chief Justice of Nigeria should not delay utilizing this power making these rules so that justice could be seen and manifest to have been done to the successful applicant and in order to redeem the trust that Nigerian citizens have had in the judiciary as the last hope of the common man.