Four students of the University of Port Harcourt recently fell victim to the ancient, barbaric culture of lynching of crime suspects at Omuokiri Aluu, in Ikwere North Local Government Area of Rivers State. The victims, identified as Biringa Chiadika Lordson (Year 2, Theatre Arts), Ugonna Kelechi Obuzor (Year 2, Geology) and Mike Llyod Toku, (Year 2, Civil Engineering), and Tekena Erikena, were stripped naked, beaten and set ablaze over allegations that they were involved in serial theft of laptops and phones in the off-campus private hostels of the university.
The brazen, extra-judicial murder of this quartet by a mob allegedly led by a vigilance group in the community is a shame to Nigeria. It is also an indictment of the police, the Joint Task Force (JTF), the traditional authorities and all those charged with responsibility for security in that community. It is alarming that accused persons can be arrested and killed by a mob outside the provisions of the law. This unconscionable multiple murder is an embarrassment to the country.
The incident has greatly damaged Nigeria’s image, especially following its posting on the Internet where it went viral. The incident also led to protests from Nigerian students who stormed the area of the killings to damage cars, buildings and other property they could lay their hands on. We strongly condemn the killing of these students. It is unacceptable that people take the law into their hands and resort to delivery of jungle justice to persons suspected of wrongdoing.
The proper thing to do is to bring all suspects to the appropriate authorities such as the police, for prosecution. It is only the courts that can pronounce any suspect guilty of a crime. Ordinary members of the public cannot be accusers, prosecutors, judges and executioners at the same time. Even if the students were suspected of stealing, they should have been handed over to the police, not killed. The extra-judicial murder signals horrendous descent to anarchy in that area. No one has the right to take the life of another person, for any reason.
The Nigerian Constitution does not recognise the resort to self-help as happened in the Aluu incident. There is also no role for vigilante operators in the document. The report of the arrest of the victims in an uncompleted building does not confer on any vigilance group or mob the right to kill them. The constitution guarantees fundamental right to life and freedom of movement. This incident has highlighted the need for proper streamlining of activities of vigilance groups so that they can know their limitations.
The relish with which the baying mob killed the four boys is also worrisome. It is suggestive of a people that have lost their humanity. The killings also painted the Nigerian police, the JTF and the traditional authorities in that area in very bad light. The picture the incident communicates is that of an incompetent police and questionable security system. The authorities, apparently, did not do enough to prevent the lynching. This failure of the security agencies to protect the victims is a minus to the state and Nigeria’s quests for foreign investments.
The conduct of the mob sabotages all efforts to portray Nigeria in good light to the world. We urge the police leadership to ensure that the perpetrators of this mindless act are brought to justice. This incident is a good opportunity for the police to demonstrate that it is now reformed. What happened to the “Aluu Four” can happen to anybody in other parts of the country. Efforts must, therefore, be made to limit activities of vigilance groups in the country. They should only arrest and hand suspects over to appropriate security agencies, not prosecute or issue judgements. At most, they can function as witnesses against suspects in criminal cases.
This lynching of suspects has been going on in the country for many years now. It should be stopped by ensuring prosecution and appropriate punishment for perpetrators of such acts, beginning with those responsible for the killing of the four students. Some reports also said the students were cultists out to collect a debt owed by a member of a rival gang. It is necessary to warn students against the dangers of cultism. There is no arguing the fact that many of today’s youths are misguided.
The growing violence among young Nigerians is suggestive of the loss of moral compass of that generation. However, the failure of our leaders to harness their potentials into productive ventures in fields such as agriculture, industry and information technology, which some gifted ones now deploy to negative use in their desperation to express themselves. Government should also come up with policies that will provide enabling environment for job creation and self-actualization to keep youths out of trouble.
All youths need proper guidance. Now, they are mostly misguided. There is little intellectual fervour and ideology in students’ unionism. Some students feel they are free to play the role of policemen or debt collectors. The government, parents and tertiary institutions ought to invest in re-orientation of youths to our national values to keep them out of trouble.
We sympathise with the family of the killed students, the University of Port Harcourt and the Rivers State government on this sad incident. Above all, the killers of the students must be arrested and punished. This is the only way to ensure that incidents such as this do not recur.