The Aluu 4
The extra-judicial murder of four UNIPORT students has shocked the whole country, but the weak security and justice systems might have emboldened the perpetrators of the dastardly act, writes Vincent Obia
There have been angry reactions to the killing, penultimate Friday, of four University of Port Harcourt students over alleged robbery. On Tuesday, UNIPORT students stormed Omuokiri, the village in Aluu where the killings took place, and burned houses, in a protest led by the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students in the South-south and South-east to demand justice for the murdered students. In response, the university authorities closed the institution indefinitely.
The murdered students, whose names were given as Ugonna, Lloyd, Tamunotekena, and Chidiaka, were lynched by a mob of locals at Aluu, one of the communities in Rivers State adjoining UNIPORT. They were alleged to have stolen laptops and BlackBerry phones. Another account said they were members of a secret cult on the campus who had gone on a hit mission that went awry. The police were said to have made unsuccessful attempts to save the victims.
The country has reacted angrily to the killing of the UNIPORT students. People are calling for the matter to be taken to the fullest extent of the law. The Senate and House of Representatives, in separate resolutions Tuesday, condemned the murder and tasked the security agencies to bring the killers to justice. The lower chamber went further to summon the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Muhammed Abubakar, over the killings and the earlier murder of about 46 students of the Federal Polytechnic, Mubi, in Adamawa State by gunmen.
On Tuesday, NANS issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the authorities to apprehend the killers or risk a confrontation with the federal government. The concern and sentiments shown by Nigerians over the murder of the students are true and valid without any exaggeration. No one has the right to take another’s life, except in a proven case of self-defence.
The latest incident has again brought to the fore the growing spectre of extrajudicial killings in the country. Following up on its vow to bring killers of the UNIPORT students to book, the police in Rivers State said on Tuesday that 11 persons suspected to be part of the murderous mob had been charged to court. The Commissioner of Police, Mr. Mohammed Ndabawa, told a team of the National Human Rights Commission led by the Executive Secretary, Professor Ben Angwe, that 13 persons had so far been arrested in connection with the killings.
The police have vowed that all those involved in the mob killings would be brought to book to serve as a deterrent to others with such barbaric intentions. On the contrary, however, the security agencies have tended to give those with bad intentions the green light to indulge in such horrendous acts of self-help.
The action of the killer mob not only assaults the sanctity of life but it also spotlights the terrible weakness of the country’s security and justice systems. Malicious acts perpetrated against the bleak backdrop of security and justice are assuming an alarming intensity in the country.
On May 2 in Yobe State, about 60 persons were killed by gunmen who attacked the Potiskum cattle market on a revenge mission following the repel of an armed robbery attack on the traders. Reports said trouble started when about 3 pm that fateful day a gang of armed robbers launched a partially successful operation in the cattle market that ended in the apprehension and burning of one of the robbers.
Then, about 7.30pm that evening, the robbers, reportedly, regrouped and returned to the market, locked the exit and entrance ways and began to throw explosives on the traders and shoot indiscriminately at them. The entire market was razed along with human beings and livestock in the over one-hour operation that took place within earshot of the Potiskum police station and other security facilities in the town.
The police and the other security agencies could not intervene to protect the people. There is no denying that it is security failures like this that fuel the incentive for self-help measures that often descend into crude and barbaric practices.
Besides failing to protect, and creating room for unlawful acts that often become bloody, the security agencies have not been a fine example of respect for human life.
Last year, a non-governmental organisation, Centre for Victims of Extra-Judicial Killings and Torture (CVEKT) Africa, relying on a report by Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN), said the reckless use of arms by security agents had resulted in 7,198 extrajudicial deaths in four years across the country.
Men of the Nigeria Police have been widely accused of relying on the Nigeria Police Force Order 237, which allows officers to shoot any suspect or detainee trying to escape or avoid arrest, to commit extra-judicial killings.
The authorities “generally did not hold police accountable for the use of excessive or deadly force or for the deaths of persons in custody. When investigation did occur, they were not thoroughly done. Officers suspected of extra-judicial execution generally are sent away on training or transferred to other states instead of being prosecuted. Police often claimed the victim was an armed robber killed in an exchange of gunfire or suspected killed while trying to escape from police custody,” CVEKT quoted NOPRIN as saying in its report.
Moreover, reports abound about persons who were killed or maimed in revenge acts by criminals they had reported to the police.
The Aluu killings further go to demonstrate the dilemma of a people living under growing insecurity and bleak prospects of justice, amid rising incentive for self-help. In addition to bringing the culprits to justice, therefore, the security and judicial institutions of the Nigerian state must demonstrate integrity and confidence in their judgments and abilities as a way of discouraging such ugly incidents in the future.