Nigeria once again witnessed a shocking and despicable descent into anarchy and condemnable barbarism when three people were lynched in the Ikorodu area of Lagos State recently on the suspicion of being members of the notorious gang of serial ritual killers commonly referred to as Badoo. Sadly, it would turn out that the victims were just innocent Nigerians going about their business, but were set upon by an angry and mindless mob.
Mob action has become increasingly commonplace across Nigeria and Lagos in particular. When a person is not being attacked and killed on the basis of being a kidnapper or offending members of a particular religious faith, then it has to be on account of petty theft or being responsible for the disappearance somebody’s manhood or accidentally knocking somebody down while driving. It is usually characterised by its spontaneity and the absence of any moderating influence. But this particular case in Ikorodu, just as in other cases, proffers a very good reason why it is very dangerous and uncivilised.
The society has been disgraced by a streak of unspeakable acts of savagery. Four days after suspected Badoo cultists killed a couple and two of their three children in Ikorodu, residents of the community apprehended and lynched a suspect accused of belonging to the group. On July 5, residents of Magbo, Ogijo, in the Sagamu Local Government Area of Ogun State, also set ablaze a middle-aged man suspected to be a member of Badoo.
The latest event was the loathsome act of murder carried out against three young promising youths. From what was gathered the day after the incident, one of the victims was a budding comedian, whose car had broken down and was, in company with two others, on his way to recover the vehicle. As is common with mob action, the vigilante group that stopped them – and the motley crowd that joined later – was so eager to take the law into their own hands that they would neither listen to the explanations nor entreaties of their victims. They reportedly beat the living daylights out of them before proceeding to set them ablaze, after dousing them in petrol. This could only have happened in an ungoverned society, where there is no rule of law.
In civilised societies, law enforcement officials are usually only a phone call away from the scene of such violent disorder. Unfortunately, on that day, just like in many other days, they were not on hand to save the lives of some innocent citizens when their fellow citizens were visiting the most appalling acts of savagery upon them.
Lynching, naturally, is a symptom of an uncivilised society or a practice associated more with the past, which, with modernisation and passage of time, is soon jettisoned and consigned to history. There is a clear problem of lack of confidence and trust in the justice system. For instance, in the United States, it was rampant in the 18th and 19th centuries with a report chronicling nearly 4,000 lynchings of black people in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950.
But happenings in Nigeria show that the country is still neck deep in this despicable practice; this is a country that is only laying false claim to civilisation and the rule of law. The citizens are yet to accept the fact that only the state is legally vested with the power to take life. That is why some Muslim youths took the law into their own hands and beheaded an Igbo woman, Bridget Agbaheme, at Kofar Wambai Market in Kano in June last year for allegedly blaspheming Prophet Mohammed.
But before then was the horror case of four University of Port Harcourt students who were incinerated in mob violence for alleged stealing. Again, the mob was too quick to mete out their own kind of justice as it was later revealed that the four undergraduates were neither thieves nor criminals. They had gone to the nearby village of Aluu to collect a debt only for their debtor to raise the alarm and frame them for robbery.
Not only were they mercilessly beaten by an irate crowd driven by some demonic spirit, they were stripped naked and forced to roll in the mud. Not done with the humiliation, they went ahead to set them ablaze, ignoring the victims’ pleas and attempts to explain what actually happened. It was a day that Nigerians showed the bestiality in them as some people still had the equanimity to film the scene and post it on the internet.
Back in 2007, another victim was Oluwatoyin Olusesin, a teacher at Government Day Secondary School, Gandu, Gombe State. While supervising an examination, she had caught a student who was trying to cheat by smuggling some books into the examination hall. After rightly seizing the books and flinging them outside, the students gathered and accused her of desecrating the Koran, before lynching her.
One of the disadvantages of lynching suspected criminals is that it denies the law enforcement authorities the opportunity of properly carrying out investigation into cases to find out others connected with the crime. Especially in the Ikorodu case, even if the victims of that lynching were Badoo members, as alleged by their accusers, killing them foreclosed the possibility of extracting useful information that would have led to the arrest of other members of the gang that has wiped out many households in the town.
In all of this, the society is to blame. Nigerians have not, unfortunately arrived at that social abhorrence of this crime that must precede its practical extinction. This is a challenge to law enforcement officers to ensure that people are not allowed to get away with taking the law into their own hands. This horrendous practice has survived up till now because the perpetrators are rarely prosecuted and punished. Although attempt was made in the Aluu Four case to prosecute some people, those standing trial were eventually released.
When laws are enacted to deal with the issue, as was the case in the US, it will serve as a deterrent. People will then know that the best thing to do is to hand suspected criminals over to the lawful authorities. If Nigeria is a civilised society, then the people should learn to behave in a civilised manner; not like savages.