Reprisals Can Only Be Legitimized Against The Government


What is a reprisal? It is defined as the resorting to the use of force, short of war, in retaliation for damage or loss suffered. Typically the term is used to refer to instances where a disaffected community takes the law into its own hands and attacks the “other” community from whence it has judged that the perpetrators of the injustice it suffered hail.

A reprisal is however a double and often worse crime than the initial offence. Whereas the initial offence may have been accidental and may have had fewer victims, more innocent victims are killed deliberately in typical reprisal attacks. There is premeditation with reprisal violence.

Reprisal attacks follow the Genocidal Killing theory where all people belonging to the group from within which perpetrators are suspected to have emanated, are automatically judged culpable in the acts of harm inflicted on a member or members of the now retaliating clan.

In reality, under a functional State, they are not reprisals but new barbaric aggressions. Not a single innocent victim who did not participate in the crime should ever be hurt or killed for a crime he was not directly part of and perhaps even objected to and protested against.

…let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear God.” Quran 5:8

Perpetrators must only be convicted by legitimate courts. If the police fail to investigate and the courts fail to convict, then the crime has been transferred to the State which loses its legitimacy. The State becomes the perpetrator, the absolute culprit and “enemy.”

The only long lasting solution to the illegal and immoral acts of reprisal mob justice is a government that postures itself to stop people becoming barbaric terrorists in response to a lack of *governance. Note the real infraction–a lack of governance. The reprisal act does not address or cure the infraction(s) but rather exacerbates societal chaos and progresses the failure of society.

A good government must strive to provide two key things/changes:

1. Adequate recourse for victims while ensuring trust in the system.
2. Must loudly broadcast that counter-perpetrators (reprisalists) who take the law into their hands no matter the injustice they have faced will be severely punished. And it must be serious about this an seriously proceed to enforce this prohibition.

On the part of the victims, they must realize that the real enemy, when they are maltreated by a citizen and the State fails to investigate and give them justice is no longer simply the perpetrator and definitely not his clan, but the injustice has now been transferred to the State. If they must personally seek recourse and redress, it must be with and against the State and not the clan.

Nigerians wait for a good government.

Dr. Peregrino Brimah @EveryNigerian