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Viral lynching to end Nigeria’s mob justice

Viral lynching to end Nigeria’s mob justice

Jane Toku does not cry as she recalls seeing the smouldering remains of her son’s corpse on the morning, he and three of his friends were lynched ten years ago.

At dawn, the four students encountered a local vigilante group in Aluu, a community behind the University of Port Harcourt in southern Nigeria’s oil capital.

There had been a string of robberies in the area, and people were suspicious at that hour of the morning. Llody Toku, Ugoing to Obuzor, Chiadika Biringa, and Tekena Elkanah were given a mock trial and found guilty of petty theft.

Their punishment was swift: they were stripped, marched around the community, brutally beaten, and set ablaze.

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Their punishment was swift: they were stripped, marched around the community, brutally beaten, and set ablaze by the mob as thousands looked on and filmed.

“When I arrived, I pushed my way through the crowd and knelt before my son’s body,” Mrs Toku said. “His friend Tekena was barely breathing, and I watched his chest heave with his last breaths.”

Such mob killings are not uncommon in Nigeria, but this was the first to go viral on social media, eliciting widespread outrage, protests and debates about the country’s judicial system, and questions about a society in which such levels of violence are acceptable.

“I’m tired and sick of coming here to lament after these heinous acts,” a lawmaker said during a debate on the incident in the National Assembly.

“It is critical that ‘jungle justice’ be stopped because it is bad,” radio host Yaw said as celebrities condemned the incident.

Despite the shock and outrage over the lynching of the students, now known as the Aluu Four, and the conviction of three men, including a police officer, for their roles in the lynching, mob attacks continue to occur in Nigeria.

According to SBM Intelligence, a Lagos-based think tank, there have been 391 mob killings in Nigeria since 2019, with at least five this year alone.

That begs the question of why the outrage over the Aluu Four’s murder did not result in a national reckoning over lynchings.

“One very important reason for this is the failure of the criminal justice system,” said Dr Agwanwo Destiny, a criminologist at the University of Port Harcourt’s sociology department.

He cited examples of criminal suspects who were turned over to the police and then released without being investigated, only to seek vengeance on those who had given them up.

“Such incidents erode trust in the judicial system, so when people are accused of a crime, people are quick to pass judgment and vent their frustrations,” Dr Destiny explained.

It’s an argument made by activist Annkio Briggs, who led protests in Port Harcourt demanding justice for the students and their families because she “couldn’t trust the system to do what was right,” Briggs told the BBC.

The viral lynching that was to end Nigeria’s mob justice

Annkio Briggs says there is a lack of faith in Nigeria’s justice system


Mob killers in Nigeria are rarely apprehended and prosecuted.

Two suspects arrested in May following the lynching of a Christian student in Sokoto on blasphemy charges have yet to stand trial, while police say the main perpetrators are still at large.

It was one of four reported cases of mob killing in that month alone:

  • Two men were burnt to death by a mob in the Ijesha area of Lagos over alleged theft of mobile phones
  • One man was murdered in Lugbe, Abuja on allegations of blasphemy
  • Commercial motorcyclists lynched a sound engineer identified as David Imoh in the Lekki area of Lagos.

Suspects have been charged in all cases, according to the police. However, due to the slow pace of justice in Nigeria, it could be years before any verdicts are issued.

The ICPC, Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency, declared the judiciary to be the most corrupt branch of government in the country two years ago. It claimed that more than nine billion naira ($21 million; £19 million) in bribes were offered and paid in the sector.

According to Dr. Destiny, reports indicating that justice is for sale to the highest bidder erode trust in the system.

What the four students were doing when they were stopped by the vigilante group in Aluu has never been determined.

One version claimed they were thieves, while another claimed they belonged to a violent gang, but neither claim was proven in court.


The viral lynching that was to end Nigeria’s mob justice

Mike and Jane Toku say their son had a bright future ahead of him

“He was not a perfect child but he was humble and he was our confidant.

Mrs. Toku said of her son, “He was close to us because we had our second child 11 years after him.”

The four best friends were in their late teens and early twenties and came from middle-class families.

Ugoing to, 18, and his friend Lloyd, 19, dubbed Tipsy and Big L, were rising stars in Port Harcourt’s rap scene.

Love In The City, one of their three unreleased songs, could almost be a foreshadowing of what happened to them.

Growing up in the city like PH where Ra was made to sing right

We embrace the street life cos

There’s no love in the heart of the city

How can the seeds grow when the garden is weary

It used to be very cool but the oil crude brought violence

“There can be no justification, no reason why anybody should die like that,” said their friend Gloria During, who lived in the same Hilton hostel in Aluu as both musicians.

Aluu is popular for its private apartments that are rented by students who can’t find accommodation at the university’s insufficient hostels.

At the time it was a small village with many undeveloped plots and a population that was mostly farmers.

Today, Port Harcourt’s sprawling metropolis has caught up with the fringes of Aluu – most of the land has been built on by Pentecostal churches and more hostels have sprung up.

But in the centre of the community remains two barren plots, the playground where the students were first held and death pronounced on them, and the burrow-pit, several hundred yards away, where they were marched to, beaten and killed.

Despite the nationwide shock when the incident happened, the time has allowed most of Nigeria to move on.

But for a mother, time is a keen reminder of the loss of a beloved first son with a bright future ahead of him.

“He had a bright career in music, he would have gone far by now,” Mrs Toku said.


Source: JoyOnline

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