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Era of lynching… ripe time for community police

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NOBODY loves to see blood more than the mob. The desire of a lynch crowd is always one thing – to kill and disperse.

Often, if not all the time, the people on rampage get what they crave, and nobody takes the blame for the killing.

  There is a growing tempo of lynching and public killing across Nigeria. It is, especially so in the Southern axis of the country. People now take the laws into their hands and hack down persons that fall foul of their system on any guise or excuse. Victims are fallen brutally on a plethora of reasons from theft to murder, to sexual perversion, dating of another person’s partner, holding unpopular beliefs, voodoo practice, and witchcrafts or just being disgusting misfits.

  We are now in a reign of street lords, self-styled puritans, audacious neighbourhood gangs and lords of the manor who exact their influence on societies through fearsome control of communities’ vigilante groups and nativity youths’ associations. These are mostly manifest in the South East and South West as recent events show.

  With the nightmare that social security has become and the failure of relevant government organs to live up to the challenges that emerge day by day, the streets are evolving their survival strategy.

  In the near absence or startled existence of police and law enforcement agencies, a de facto but not de jure form of law enforcement approach has emerged in various communities. 

   The ‘new’ approach is more direct, crude and brutal in combating crimes. Its languages are force-for-force; blood-for-blood; payback in same coin and waste the criminal – no long story.

Operating along with this is a trend of recording a flurry of gory, bloody and carcass-marked still and moving pictures of killings, muggings, beatings and tortures to accompany the brutalities.

Almost daily, pictures that hunt the viewer for as long as memory lasts come up in social media channels as WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Telegram among others, living the beholder with the thought that he or she had seen the worst image ever but the next day a more devastating visual would pop up. The day after, another would emerge.

   Recently, one beheld pictures of two young men hacked down and set ablaze until they burnt to death in Lagos. They were caught stealing.

  In Nkpor town of Idemili North Local Government Area, Anambra State, a group of three young men who were caught in a robbery operation were mugged and torched. There were similar incidents in neighbouring Ogidi and Obosi towns of the same local council.

   In Awka, capital of Anambra State, two men who specialised in robbing people on motorcycles met their doom as they were nabbed by some vigilant natives and set alight until they were burnt to ashes. Onitsha had its show too.

   A similar event happened in Oraukwu, in the state, last week. There was another in Ozubulu, capital of Ekwusigo Local Government Area.

   In Owerri, capital of Imo State, there have been instances of similar development.

   In Enugu, Ebonyi and Oyo States, there have been reports of similar lynching.

   One common factor in them is that, it is the youth of the area that do the falling and torching. Reasons given for the actions appear germane even in extreme. In all, the alibi of the operators is that they are saving their communities by flushing away criminals. The redundancy or comatose state of police activity in the areas further give credence to the self-help bid of the overt and blood-thirsting men of the executing act.

   Another trend that accompanies the incessant killing of the said criminals is the inundation of social media with images of torture and videoed trials of perceived bad eggs and criminals.

   Usually, those ‘trials’ are one-sided and marked by intimidation as well as torture. Peopled with tied arms or held in severe conditions and beaten at intervals and pinned to spots with angry men around them as they are quizzed and filmed. Thereafter, the films are made to go viral even when in some of the pictures the objects are filmed in conditions not apt for public display.

   Indeed we are in an era of mundane and horrible spectacles in pictorial sense but from cultural perspective, we are in a period of jungle justice, lawlessness and brigandage. Most worrisome about the time is the odious possibilities it points towards. What the vista show is that sad flops of law enforcement and security agencies have given room for killers and blood-thirsty sadists to go to their homelands and corner legit homeland bodies such as youths’ associations and vigilantes. They now use them to do their biddings.

   The danger possible is that the embittered and ill-purposed men and women may soon manipulate zealous mobs to attack and victimise their enemies soon – if they have not already.

   Arguably, these would not have happened if the officers of the law have lived up to their responsibilities. In fact, in almost all the developments appraised, it appeared people in the host communities were more comfortable with the dastard acts of their so-called, crime-fighting boys than say the police or soldiers, which should give a food for thought for the corporate minders of the police or soldiers.

   One recalls that the whole yell and crave for #EndSARS campaign of the October 2020 was about the dissolution of a particularly, unpopular and generally unwanted ‘crime-fighting’ arm of the police that embarked on extra-judicial killings and extortion of citizens.

Why then would a society that kicked vehemently against the police in such manner be seen to be in support or silent over a growing wave of indiscriminate extra-judicial killing and maiming in the name of citizens’ self-assigned roles of protecting their communes? Could it be that the police work in the shadows with the youth?

However, a bigger question to ask is: what happens to the communities if the boys in the hood stop the lynching and the police still fail to do their job? Pondering such situation helps one to appreciate the magnitude of the mess we are in.

It therefore appears apt to conclude that something between the margins could solve the quagmire. This may be a clear primer for the fruition of the long-debated community policing system. Furthermore, there is a need for citizens to be made to know unacceptability of publicising very private or bad-taste photo images of others, irrespective of what cause that is being pursued. The courts and activists should help in arresting this debasing of the dignity of the human person by resolving to set examples that would deter others from taking that route.

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