The Aluu Ikwerre community lies in the heart of Rivers State, which is situated in the South-South region of Nigeria. This region accounts for more than half of the crude oil Nigeria produces, and typical of the oil producing communities in Africa, and Nigeria in general, has suffered several environmental and biological degradations with the Nigerian government not offering much help. The health, welfare, and wellbeing of the inhabitants of the Aluu Ikwerre have been affected, destroying their means of livelihood. According to Etuonovbe, “these areas are often heavily damaged by the oil leaks where drinking water is polluted, people become ill, and farmers lose their income because they can no longer cultivate the soil” (Etuonovbe, 2009). This could be said to be a total disregard for human rights and absolute neglect of environmental and biological sustainability.
In the capital of Rivers State of Nigeria, which is Port Harcourt, is one of the eighty-eight tertiary institutions in the country, the University of Port Harcourt. In Nigeria, where student cultism on campus is still rife, communities like the Aluu Ikwerre, where many students live, have always complained of rape, robbery, students’ harassment and all other forms of violence against them. In a developing country like Nigeria, where government lacks the wherewithal to combat crime, especially in rural areas, people in most of the local communities have resulted to jungle justice in dealing with caught in the act culprits. With a population of 160 million people, the Nigerian police tend to focus more on the urban centers at the total detriment of rural areas. The people of Aluu Ikwerre community, who are mostly commercial fishermen by the virtue of the water bodies in the area, host a considerable number of the University of Port Harcourt students. With student accommodation not surplus on campus, the UNIPORT students spread to neighboring areas to seek shelter and accommodation. While this could be said to be a symbiotic relationship, the students often complained of severe hostility towards them from their hosts, while the hosts accused them of robbing them of their belongings and at times raping some of their daughters. This had been going on for a period of time until the situation finally escalated into one of the unexampled levels of human ferociousness, cruelty, and a barbaric application of archaic jungle justice which was meted out to four of the students of the University of Port Harcourt. In one day, four promising students were mobbed, lynched and burnt to death for allegedly stealing a laptop computer and a Blackberry phone. According to Onwubiko, the head of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria, “the police, State Security Service, and the joint military task force were nowhere to be seen to rescue these four young Nigerians who were left to be butchered by some irrational and insane anarchists” (Onwubiko, 2012).
Although different versions of the story have been posted on social media and websites, the real facts have shown the lynched students were not guilty of the crime of stealing they were alleged to have committed. It was only another case of a costly miscarriage of justice, which is a consequence of a failed judicial system in a developing country like Nigeria. “Disillusioned with their police force, Nigerians sometimes take justice into their own hands and lynch suspected robbers but the brutality – and the fact this incident was filmed and published on the Internet –has shocked the whole country” (BBC News Africa, 2012). A day which started like every normal day for the students had them begging for their lives by dusk before they were clubbed and burnt to death. After being accused of stealing meager electronic gadgets, the mob stripped and paraded them naked for hours before they were taken to the head of the community for justice to be passed. Bruised, bloodied, tired and numb, the students pleaded their innocence but they were met with cudgels each time they opened their mouths. The mob never gave them a chance to speak. With no law enforcement agents around, their fates seem to have been sealed as the mob insisted on executing them. Even eye witnesses who came out after the incident have spoken of the animalistic fury the mob showed as events unfolded on that day, with a sister to one of the victims claiming she watched as they beat and eventually burnt the victims alive (John, 2012).
With justice passed by the head of the Aluu Ikwerre community, and no help in sight, the four victims knew the end had come, prayed for the repose of their own souls, and braced for what lay ahead of them. The mob that had become more excited at the prospects of a jungle justice they were about to carry out, shoved and dragged the four victims to a “burrow pit”, where they were to finally breathe their last. With a few more blows delivered to the heads of the dying victims, used tires were hung on their necks and gasoline was poured. There is no evidence regarding the identity of a person, who struck the matchstick, but still the spark found its way to the gasoline doused tires, causing the victims to burn alive on stake, like in the gruesome medieval times.
Pundits and critics in Nigeria, and indeed all over the world, have criticized the dastardly act, calling for the trial and conviction of all those involved. It is important to note that the rule of law should be emphasized in all countries of the world, and most especially developing nations, where mobbing, lynching, and jungle justice still happen. Each human being regardless of race, creed or color has a right to life and also an exclusive right to be tried in a competent court of law before being declared guilty as in the case of the Aluu 4. Even though events like this are likely occurrences where the rule of law is not being respected, world organizations like the United Nations should punish and sanction governments who fail to uphold the judicial process and rule of law. The recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world (“The universal declaration,” 1948). This underlines the sanctity of human lives, essence of democracy, and the absolute power of the rule of law.