Chioma Agwuegbo
Posted December 24, 2012 from Nigeria

A few days ago I saw a link to a video about some ‘retribution’ meted out to a shoplifter at Shoprite, not sure if it’s Lagos or Abuja at this time.

The video starts with a lot of people screaming and a young lady who’s had most of her clothes ripped off, held by a young man who appears to be shielding her from the mob. She’s crying. The chanting is inaudible and then the video goes blurred for a few seconds. By the time it’s back she’s completely naked, crying even harder, and trying very unsuccessfully to cover her breasts and privates with her hands, and also stop the thronging mob from touching her.

I have tears in my eyes at this point, the scene is reminiscent of people poking at a caged animal. I wonder if there aren’t any police men at the mall.

It gets worse; the lady trips and falls. I find myself asking, ‘why on earth are they trying to carry her’? My answer lies in the next few seconds. She’s lifted, legs spread wide apart, and unhindered, some of the men start to touch her breasts and vagina. Others are content to film, take pictures, laugh and/or scream. I’ve had enough, but the video’s just about done too. All of three minutes and nine seconds, but that young lady will live with the trauma of this incident for the rest of her life.

This incident isn’t novel, neither is it isolated. We have become so disenchanted with our legal system that we have become judge and jury unto ourselves; we’d rather distribute punishment ourselves, and in the most barbaric and dehumanizing of ways. I could regal you with tales of close friends who narrowly escaped lynching, or some other mob action, and they were innocent!

Very recently our sensibilities were jarred by the murder of four students in Aluu, a hitherto unknown town in Rivers State, Nigeria. Details are still sketchy but the most popular story has it that the four young men, students at the University of Port Harcourt had gone early in the morning to recover a debt owed one of them. The debtor didn’t have the money and in the argument that ensued, started shouting, ‘thief thief’. Like ants to sugar, a crowd gathered, and without inquiring, the boys were rounded up, stripped, paraded through the town, beaten, clubbed, and then burnt. Horrible. Simply horrible.

Since a video of the gruesomeness went viral, countless individuals and groups have called for the prosecution of the mob that killed these young men. Movements have been born, hash-tags have trended, and the emotion is almost palpable.

I joined one of such movements on Friday, the one calling for signatures to pressure the National Assembly to pass a bill outlawing mob action. It was started by @ofilispeaks, and currently stands at just under 3, 500 signatures, including mine.

Then, riding on the pent-up emotions from the video of the young lady I watched, I wondered to myself how I could help drive the campaign even further. I spoke to a very close friend of mine, a lawyer whose years of practice are a year shy of my age. My conversation with him? Let’s just say I did a U-Turn at the end of it.

Popular sentiment aside, we cannot ask for a new law addressing ‘mob action’ because embedded in our Criminal Code (for the South), and the Penal Code (for the North) are laws covering the act against the #Aluu4 – murder.

Matter of fact, we could tease out a minimum of five charges against the mob. Let’s start from,

  1. Murder: everyone involved, active participants
  2. Conspiracy to commit murder: since one person cannot conspire within himself, they all did, whether directly or indirectly)
  3. Accessory to murder: the people standing by who did nothing to stop the murders, the ones who brought the fuel, tires, those taking pictures, filming, etc.
  4. Incitement: the ones shouting, egging the perpetrators on, etc
  5. Obstruction of justice: everyone present, even though witnesses say the Police in a van near by did absolutely nothing so technically there was no obstruction. Are there provisions for each/all of the charges within Nigerian laws? Yes. Last I checked, more than ten people have been arrested and arraigned over the murders, further confirming that what we have is not a lack of laws, but the moral courage to effect them.

We lack the equality before the law which is why we made such a song and dance about #Aluu4 but just whisper a prayer for the souls that perish by the day via the floods, bombings, or the several violent cries rocking Nigeria at the moment.

We lack education, basic civic education that teaches us to respect life, human rights, and instills in us a natural abhorrence for mob action, or other expressions of jungle justice.

That, my friends, is what we should campaign about.

Comments 4

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Dec 28, 2012
Dec 28, 2012

Thanks for your post Chioma. I heard about this story and I am particularly shocked that sharing such violence online etc is still going on. I don't support mob action and I think your conclusion is quite strong. Basically, you should be your sister's keeper - don't just stand there and watch and even worse record and violate. You mentioned a petition and collecting signatures, if it is online, please do share the link. What else are you doing? Lets see if we can work together. Best wishes, Osai

Chioma Agwuegbo
Dec 29, 2012
Dec 29, 2012

Hello Osai!

This is the link you want: I think he's stopped collecting signatures but there's been some progress since then and it is recorded on the page. I am a new media consultant, with a love for governance and development related issues. And I'm on Twitter as @chiomachuka.

Happy Holidays!

Vivian Emesowum
Dec 30, 2012
Dec 30, 2012

Compliment of the season

The year has really been a been one for me and just recovering from the illness. Visiting my favorite site and home to find the latest information, Lo it was your story............

U and I know that this is not a new incidence in Nigeria but what actions are taking to protect the rights of human life especially violence against women. Nothing!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The law lie on the self and is remembered when it against the lives of the important people. It is nothing when you are nobody.

I have been offline for a long time, i stopped writing because nothing is been done and our target do not have time to read our post. I have actually been developing myself in governance and have been coordinating the partnership for good governance at the local government in Lagos State. It has not been easy, All they want is let us to operate the system the way it suit us, we are comfortable with it afar as it put something on the table and pocket.

We need to move from online to face to face, advocating for this change. We need to sit with them before our voice can be heard clearly and louder. Then we can have our desired change for women and men for all................

Thank you for sharing on WP.

Chioma Agwuegbo
Jan 01, 2013
Jan 01, 2013

I understand all you said babe, perfectly, and I must commend your work in your own little corner to be the change you seek.

Happy New Year!

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