As the widespread furore, lamentation, outcry, complaints and hullabaloo that accompanied the gruesome massacre,pogrom and genocide alleged to be committed and perpetrated as a reprisal attack on some Local Government Area in Southern Kaduna communities by Fulani Herdsmen is gradually fading out with no clear and firm executive order to condemn the perpetrators of this heinous act from both the Kaduna State Government and the Federal Government of Nigeria, it is pertinent and extremely necessary with utmost importance to push across board a kind of panacea that is popularly applied and acceptable in developed climes but it is observed to be strange and unacceptable in African Societies due to cultural beliefs and other religious limitations coupled with the unclarity of the provision of this panacea in the Nigeria constitution.
Not that the outcry that accompany this injustice and inhumanity is fading out to a large extent, social media platforms are still being engulfed with terrible pictures of this gory incidence that can make someone to faint or throw up.
This panacea is not an end in itself but it is a means to an end.It might reduce the decimal of people that will end up being massacred gruesomely. It has its own excesses and limitations even in developed climes.
Self-defence is a counter measure that involves defending the health and well being of oneself from harm. The use of the right of self-defence as a legal justification for the use of force in times of danger is available in many jurisdictions, but the interpretation varies widely.Approaches to self-defence can be physical,mental and other forms which may include avoidance, de-escalation and personal alarms.
This article will centre around biblical view points and constitutional provisions of self-defence as a panacea to the injustice and inhumanity meted to the people of Southern Kaduna since the main practiced religion is Christianity, emphasis will be laid on biblical interpretation of what self-defence is all about and how a christian can defend lives and properties in the face of life threatening danger which can be premised as felony in legal terms.
CHRISTIANITY :TURNING THE OTHER CHEEK MISCONCEPTION.
In His celebrated Sermon on the Mount, JESUS CHRIST said:
“Do not resist him that is wicked, but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other also to him”–Matthew 5 verse 39.
What did he mean? Was he urging Christians to become passive victims? Are Christians expected to suffer in silence and refuse to seek legal protection?
WHAT JESUS MEANT?
To understand what Jesus meant,we must consider the context of HIS statement, as well as HIS audience. Jesus prefaced HIS counsel quoted above with what HIS listeners already knew from the Holy Scriptures.He noted:
“You heard that it was said,
“Eye for Eye and tooth for tooth”–Matthew 5 verse 38.
The passages JESUS referred to are found at Exodus 21 verse 24 and Leviticus 24 verse 20.It is noteworthy that in harmony with God’s Law, the”Eye for eye”retribution mentioned in those scriptures was properly admininistered only after an offender had stood trial before the priests and judges who weighed the circumstances and the degree of deliberateness of the offense–Deutronomy 19 verse 15-21.
In time, the Jews distorted the application of this law. A 19th century commentary on the Bible by Adam Clarke states:
“It seems that the Jews had made this law (Eye for eye,tooth for tooth) a ground for authorising private resentments,and all the excesses committed by a vindictive spirit. Revenge was often carried to the utmost extremity and more evils returned than what had been received “.
The Scripture, however, did not authorized personal vendettas. JESUS’ teaching in HIS sermon on the mount regarding “turning the other cheek” reflects the true Spirit of God’s Law to Israel. JESUS did not mean that if HIS followers are struck on one side of the face,they should stagger to their feet and offer the other side as a target.
In Bible times,as is often true today,a slap was not intended to injure physically but was an insult intended to provoke a reaction, a confrontation.
Evidently then, JESUS meant that if one person tried to goad another in confrontation with a literal slap-or with stinging sarcasm,the person slapped should avoid retaliating. Instead, he should attempt to avoid what could become a vicious circle of rendering evil for evil–Romans 12 verse 17.
Jesus word were very similar to those of King Solomon:
“Do not say:
“Just as he did to me,so I am going to do to him. I shall repay to each one according to his acting–Proverbs 24 verse 29.
A follower of JESUS would turn the other cheek in the sense of not allowing others to force him as it were,into a “showdown”–Galatians 5 verse 26,footnote.
WHAT ABOUT SELF-DEFENCE?
Turning the other cheek does not mean that a christian would not defend himself against violent assailants. JESUS was not saying that we should never strike offensively, that we should not allow ourselves to be provoked to take revenge. While it is wise to retreat whenever possible in order to avoid a fight, it is proper to take steps to protect ourselves and to seek the help of security operatives if we are a victim of a crime.
PROVISIONS FOR SELF DEFENCE IN NIGERIA CONSTITUTION.
According to the Journal of Law, Policy and Globalisation Vol 28,2014 titled “An examination of the Right of Self-defence and others in Nigeria “authored by ALFRED OLUROPO FILANI–a lecturer in the Department of Public Law,Ekiti States University, Ado-Ekiti,Nigeria.
In its abstract, the study examines the scope of the right of self-defence and the defence of others in criminal trial.The study establishes that a person is justified in using a force to resist anyone who intends to commit a felony against him or any other person in his presence. The study explains the applicable laws in Nigeria to that effect and the position of the judiciary. For a conduct to be justified, the person must have adopted such force as it is necessary to avert the sct if it is absolutely impossible to escape from the attack by retreating.
Recommendations are made on the best approach to be adopted in determining the liability of a person for the use of excess force in self defence.
The right to use force in defence of oneself or another against unjustifiable attack has existed from time immemorial. The rule as to the right of self defence or right of private defence has been stated by Russell on crime thus:
“…a man is justified in resisting by force anyone who manifestly intends and endeavour by violence or surprise to commit a known felony against either his person, habitation or property. In these cases,he is not obliged to retreat and may not merely resist the attack where he stands but may indeed pursue his adversary until the danger is ended and in a conflict between them he happens to kill his attackers such killing is justifiable.
Self-defence or private defence has not been given a statutory definition in Nigeria, but has to be understood in the common law contexts of which there are two aspects:
First, a man may in defence of liberty, person or property use such force as it is necessary to obtain its object and which does not cause injury that is disproportionate to the injury sought to be prevented.
Second,a man may use so much force as is necessary in repelling an unlawful attack on his person or liberty but may not cause grievous bodily harm or death except in defence of life or limb or permanent liberty.
In Nigeria, the right of defending one’s body or the body of any other person is codified in section 32(3) of the criminal code applicable in the Southern States of Nigeria and section 59 of the penal code applicable in the northern states of Nigeria.
It must be said that where the right of private or self defence does not avail an accused, the same facts upon which the plea was raised may support the defence of provocation. It is necessary to bear this in mind because a successful plea of self defence would result in an acquittal, an unsuccessful plea of self defence would result in a conviction for murder. If the defence of provocation is relied upon in the alternative and accepted, a conviction for manslaughter may be entered against the accused.
This article is intended to serve as an eye-opener and an exposition to the importance and application of self defence and other mechanisms that can boost and enhance private defence especially when the demand to protect life and property from imminent danger is ripe.
The article has delved deeply to stir up the basic understanding of what is demanded for every religious and secular Nigerian to do in the face of threat to their life because the religious misconception and constitutional unclarity of self defence as a means of salvaging the life of many Nigerian from massacre,killing and maiming is necessary at this period in our national existence when the passivity of our security personnel in being proactive in protecting the life and property of all Nigerians is crystal clear.
There is a need for every community to develop self-defence mechanism that is knowledge based with provisions of parameters and facilities that will enhance and boost the preservation of life and properties without relying solely on our security operatives and executive order from ASO ROCK.
The only panacea to insecurity, injustice and inhumanity is for every Nigerian communities to make necessary arrangements for self-defence.
Let’s put an end to the slaughtering of innocent souls in Southern Kaduna.
Journals of Law,Policy and Globalisation ISSN 2224-3240(Paper)
ISSN 2224-3259(online) Vol 28,2014.