Friday, 2 August 2013

Kill and go

Last month, a 25-year-old undergraduate, Ify Gabriel Nwainokpor, and his friend, known simply as Kazeem, were lynched by local residents in the Badagry area of Lagos on suspicion of being members of an armed robbery gang which had recently terrorised the area. It seems that they were initially accosted by a ‘vigilante group’ under the directive of one Asiribo, who ‘came to the scene with a locally-made pistol and a pair of handcuffs’. Without allowing them to identify themselves, he ordered that they be dragged off to be interviewed by the local baale, oba, chief - whatever - whereupon his gun accidentally went off as he was tucking it into the waistband of his trousers, killing him instantly. This ‘infuriated the youth’, who ‘blamed the boys’ for the misadventure, proceeded to ‘beat them to death’, an event which apparently took them six hours to achieve. As with a previous such incident involving four students in Port Harcourt last October, the event was filmed and posted on the net. In both cases, the assailants ignored their pleas of innocence, to the evident approval of the assembled local residents. Police officers were present on both occasions but declined to intervene in either case. Worse yet, one plainclothes officer was alleged to have actively participated in the Badagry incident and can be heard shouting, ‘Who send you? Who send you?’ as he beat each in turn with a wooden plank while the mob brayed: ‘Die, die, burn them, burn them.’ According to the father of one of the victims, events of this nature were not uncommon: ‘Someone was beheaded not too long ago in the same area after being accused of being a thief…’
The Lagos State police commissioner has since vowed to get to the bottom of the matter (or leave no stone unturned, I forget which) and promptly summoned the local DPO for questioning – ‘Actually, the Divisional Police Officer did not present the matter to us the way it happened.  When we started asking questions, we discovered that the two people who were killed were not armed robbers as alleged’ - but this can only be cold comfort to the parents. Perhaps a miracle will occur and the officers involved will be brought to justice – ‘When we saw the video clips and watched the way those boys were killed, we told ourselves that we would be failing in our duties if we fail to bring everyone involved to justice’ – as if ‘armed robbers’ aren’t routinely murdered within the precincts of police stations, a practice that has gone unchecked for many years.
Readers’ responses to both these videos were as one might have expected - barbaric, jungle justice, uncivilised etc – but what was striking was their evident lack of faith that anything would come of it all. One of them took the opportunity to name a certain DPO Okoro at Area E in Festac Town, who he alleges to be ‘a criminal [of] the type that will arrange a robbery operations [sic] with their trusted fellow policemen when he’s broke,’ which might be why the police commissioner himself was pleased to announce his intention to bring together ‘the best hands in my command…under the leadership of [the] DPO of Maroko Police Station, whom people have discovered to be an upright police officer,’ such probity evidently being a scarce commodity - by his own admission.
Much the same was said following the killings in Port Harcourt – ‘We have a police post in Aluu. If our men showed dereliction of duty, the IG will take it up’ – and where the same sort of mob also brayed – ‘die, die, die’ – while the self-appointed pillars of the community took turns to club each of the  accused in turn with a wooden plank before torching them. We are yet to hear whether the murderers have been brought to justice, although this may not wholly be the fault of the police. The executive secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Prof Ben Angwe, immediately ‘vowed to monitor the court process to see that justice was done at the end of the day’ in the course of a fact-finding mission in the wake of the killings, during which he also took the opportunity to commiserate with the victims’ relatives and assure them ‘that all those that should be brought to book were made to answer for their roles in the heinous act’. We are fortunate to be living in the age of the internet, only a pity that the commission’s own website (or what passes for such) remains silent on the ‘court process’ that its executive secretary vowed to monitor - or indeed any mention of the case whatsoever.
It says something about our levels of cynicism that we are not surprised at the sight of a police officer committing murder in broad daylight, or that he should be seen to be working in cahoots with armed vigilantes, this being the nature of the criminal enterprise that is the Nigerian state. Only recently, for instance, the same IG who was supposed to take up the matter of the Badagry and Port Harcourt murders was instead busy incarcerating a citizen for allegedly defaming another citizen in a community listserv, this not being a criminal matter in the first place, only that the person allegedly defamed happened to be close to oga at the top. So it goes. This much is given but what about the ‘innocent’ bystanders who cheered on the murderers? Later, when it was all over, the locals in Port Harcourt claimed that ‘the sad incident was not committed by indigenes of the community’ but in an area ‘inhabited by strangers’, which was understandable enough for public relations purposes but hardly credible, and one can only guess at what might happen when they eventually get their hands on the real thieves, the ogas at the top who are the ultimate objects of their misdirected hatred, if only they knew it.
© Adewale Maja-Pearce
Adewale Maja-Pearce is the author of several books, including Loyalties
and Other Stories, In My Father's Country, How many miles to Babylon?, A
Mask Dancing, Who's Afraid of Wole Soyinka?, From Khaki to Agbada,
Remembering Ken Saro-Wiwa and Other Essays, A Peculiar Tragedy, and
Counting the Cost, as well as the 1998 and 1999 annual reports on human
rights violations in Nigeria. He also edited The Heinemann Book of African
Poetry in English, Wole Soyinka: An Appraisal, Christopher Okigbo:
Collected Poems, The New Gong Book of New Nigerian Short Stories,
and Dream Chasers.

Click here to see Maja-Pearce's page:

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