IT is beside the point, whether the four lynched students of the University of Port Harcourt were cultists, serial rapists, or robbers.
Unacceptable as criminality is in our society, it is also unacceptable for suspects to be killed in the bestial manner witnessed in Umuokiri, Aluu in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State.
People taking the law into their hands, and in extreme measures, would be incomprehensive and that is the situation in this case. Issues that instantly arise from these killings are the efficacy of security agencies, particularly the police, in protecting our people.
There are reports that the police did not respond to the distress calls, which allowed the killers hours to try the suspects, parade them naked, before setting them ablaze. What allegations against the killed students could warrant these lines of action? Why was there no prevailing voice that could rescue the students? Has Nigeria degenerated to a point where bestiality means nothing?
A vigilante group arrested the students, they were allegedly taken before the traditional ruler and his council members, who ordered their being stripped naked and publicly executed. The horrible act went on for four hours. The police post in the community claimed incapacity to intervene. Security agencies arrived to engage in post-event crisis management.
Why do people take the law into their hands? A major reason could be loss of faith in the law enforcement agencies. The same police that refused to intervene could have had the same attitude to the community’s complaints about robberies, rapes and cult violence students allegedly perpetrated.
We condemn the killings, in the same way that we condemn the students resorting to self-help by setting the village ablaze. Lawlessness in any form is abhorrent.
There would be a long list of people to punish for this incident. Outside killers from the community, there are the police officers, who ordered the inaction in Aluu. If the police had intervened, lives could have been saved and the subsequent burning of the village, which has further marred relations between the community and the students, could have been prevented.
Vigilante groups around the country lack techniques of effective, modern policing. They have minimal respect for life, yet they are communities’ way of dealing with deteriorating security situations that stiff police structures cannot manage.
We urge university authorities to resume aggressive building of affordable students’ hostels on campus, even if in partnership with private developers. It will help to secure the lives of students and let the university environment have more impact on them.
More importantly, the authorities have to make the point, with this incident, that self help remains unacceptable under the law.