Joshua Gwebe, a legislative aide to a member of the House of Representatives, Philip Agbese, has been killed in Abuja by a mob after he was falsely accused of hijacking a car, the lawmaker has said.
Mr Agbese confirmed the death of his aide to PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday via a phone interview.
He said Mr Gwebe was a victim of a jungle justice over a false allegation.
Narrating the circumstances that led to the tragic event, Mr Agbese said his late aide left his (Agbese) home at Brains and Hammer in Galadinmawa around 9 p.m. and boarded a taxi to his home in ‘One Man Village’, a suburb in the neighbouring Nasarawa State.
He said there was a brawl between Mr Gwebe and the taxi driver following a disagreement in the course of the journey around Galadinmawa.
According to Mr Agbese, during the scuffle, the driver “shouted barawo” the Hausa word for thief. The shout attracted the mob who attacked and lynched Mr Gwebe.
“He left the House and on his way to his house, he had a fight with the driver—which is what the driver is saying. Both of them fought and he (driver) screamed ‘Barawo’ or something, and people gathered and was beaten to stupor,” he said.
Mr Agbese said it took the intervention of the police to disperse the mob after which they took Mr Gwebe to the Federal Medical Centre in Jabi, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
The lawmaker said the driver is currently at the Galadinmala Police Station while investigation is ongoing.
Family holds different accounts of death
Jacob Ayati, a relative of Mr Gwebe, told PREMIUM TIMES that the mob action was not the late aide’s immediate cause of death, but his manhandling by the police.
He said Mr Gwebe was alive at the time police arrived at the scene, but instead of taking him to the hospital, the police officers handcuffed him and hurled him into their vehicle.
“It was not a mob action per se,” Mr Ayati said, adding that the police were complicit in the death of the deceased.
Mr Ayati said the deceased, according to eyewitness accounts, showed his National Assembly identification card to the police but it was dismissed by the police who said it was fake.
“The ASP at the scene took the ID card and said it was fake,” Mr Ayati said.
“So, what we are suspecting is that from the time they lifted him, and threw him into the trunk, that was when he hit his head and died. He was not killed at the scene. He was alive and standing.
“When they got to the station, they asked him to stand up, but he did not, they thought he was pretending. Until they realised that he was foaming in the mouth, that was when they took him to the hospital,” he said.
Mr Ayati said the family did not know about the death of Mr Gwebe until Thursday when the police contacted the family.
He added that the case has been transferred from the Galadinmawa police station where the incident happened to the criminal investigation department of the state command.
PREMIUM TIMES contacted the Galadinma Police Station’s Divisional Police Officer, Abdulahi Nuhu, but he refused to comment on the case.
Position of the law on jungle justice
The lynching of suspected criminals is a regular occurrence in Nigeria and it has its own moniker: jungle justice.
The phenomenon has been on the increase despite the position of relevant laws prohibiting it.
Section 33(1) of the Nigerian constitution states that “Every 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.”
Furthermore, Section 8(1) of Administration of Criminal and Justice Act (2015) states that “A suspect shall: (a) be accorded humane treatment, having regard to his right to dignity of his person;
“(b) not be subjected to any form of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”.
The killing of Mr Gwebe seems to have resulted from a combination of mob action and police brutality.
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