by Usman Alabi
Early this week the internet was inundated with a video showing a young man said to be seven-years-old been beaten and eventually set ablaze for allegedly stealing garri, a Nigerian staple. At first, it was difficult to track the exact place where the incident took place, and many were led to believe that it happened in Badagry area of Lagos. The video of the bloodied victim pleading for his life stirred up emotions and many could not stand the macabre killing of a ‘boy’ by a bloodthirsty mob, especially when story broke that he was killed for stealing garri!
To put the story into perspective and put to rest the controversy surrounding the exact place where the incident took place, YNaija spoke with the Sole Administrator of Badagry west local government, Mr. Nuatin Genesis who was quick to point out that the incident did not happen in Badagry, according to him “it happened at Alafia in Orile, it happened last Friday (November 11), the boy is not seven years old, he is an elderly person. It did not happen in Badagry contrary to some media report, I was with the area commander and some traditional rulers involved just to be sure that it did not take place in Badagry, we know virtually everyone here.”
Ezekiel Esther who passed through the crime scene when it happened confirmed to a YNaija correspondent that the incident occurred in Orile just as Genesis said. According to her: “I was coming from the Island to Mile 2, I passed Orile on Friday, I saw a crowd gathered but did not realize that was what happened until [the] day before yesterday (Wednesday) when I started hearing the news. It happened at Orile bus stop coming to Mile 2”.
Gabriel who commutes along the Orile axis daily corroborated their story saying “it happened in-between Orile to Mile 2 Express Road. They call it Badagry Express Road, somebody said that particular area, all these area boys use to disturb people, they wanted to snatch the woman’s bag from her, and that is why the woman shouted, it happened on Friday morning, people say that particular area has been a robbery spot, in fact a man said there was a time they were trying to snatch his phone at that same spot, Alafia, on your way coming to Orile, that spot opposite Oando filling station, the boy is not seven years, people just exaggerated”.
YNaja visited the area where it happened, a location directly opposite Austin Onwualu Street. Residents and traders in the area told us that, the area is notorious for armed robbery, especially the bridge, and there is hardly a time they don’t have armed robbery incidents. According to them, they don’t stay late into the night to avoid falling victim. The confusion about where it happened must have happened because it took place on Badagry Express Way – the international highway leading out of Lagos to
The confusion about where it happened must have happened because it took place on Badagry Express Way – the international highway leading out of Lagos to Benin Republic through the Badagry corridor.
One of the residents narrated the event, “It happened early Friday morning, the guy was trying to snatch the woman’s purse, the woman held on to it and it became a tussle, he stabbed the woman, but the woman kept shouting, it was not long before people came to the scene, caught the guy, beat him and set him ablaze. The area is notorious for armed robbery, and people don’t use the bridge once it is evening.
“The area is notorious for armed robbery, and people don’t use the bridge once it is evening. They just remove[d] his corpse yesterday [Thursday], the boy is an adult,” he concluded.
We showed him the picture of the boy circulating on the Internet and he confirmed that that was the person he saw, he said merely looking at the injured head, he knew. He also said that the police visited the day before to remove the corpse from there, pointing to the spot where he was burnt.
Abayomi Shogunle, the Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of the Orile area had however asserted via the Police Twitter handle, @PoliceNG that “no boy child was mobbed/burnt in Badagry or any part of the state as circulated”. In another tweet, he said: “A yet to be identified adult male corpse was today recovered at Orile area of Lagos state, the adult male corpse has been deposited at the mortuary for autopsy.”
With these pockets of information, it is safe to say a human being, believed to be an adult male – not a boy – was actually killed along the Badagry Expressway for trying to dispossess a woman of her purse.
Harrison Obi also narrated on Twitter how he lost his brother early this year to these daredevil thieves. According to him, his house is just a stone throw from where the alleged thief was mobbed. “It is a notorious bus-stop for phone thieves, i.e Alafia, the bus-stop before Orile if you are coming from Mile 12. I lost my Blood Brother to these thieves in January of this year. He was 20, & was coming back from dance rehearsal. He was holding his friend’s Samsung tab when the thieves approached him & stabbed him in the neck.
“His friends didn’t know what happened because he was at the back after he was stabbed, he ran towards his friends and cried for them to help him, that he had been stabbed, immediately after making that statement, he collapsed….Long story cut short, my family is still recovering from the trauma of that night…..after the murder of my brother, I have heard that close to a dozen people have lost their lives to the same phone thieves at Alafia bus-stop… The thieves in Alafia bus stop don’t ask for your phone, they stab you and then take it from you,” he narrated.
He concluded saying “…hopefully when the community starts to take matters into their hands and show these retards that we mean business, they might stop making families miserable.”
This must not happen.
It is sad that citizens have been driven to the point where they feel the need to act irrationally especially when their lives are being threatened. Residents took laws into their hands by lynching a human being instead of handing him over to the authorities as the law stipulates. Though many witnesses one previous experience or the other in the said location, it is surprising, if not outrightly disappointing, that the police didn’t see a need to intensify security patrol in the area to stop robbery attacks and assuage the siege mentally felt by residents until the mob action happened.
Going by Harri Obi’s submission, the police is aware of the activity of criminals in the Orile area and the incessant robbery attacks which has gone unabated for months, if not longer. It is easy to understand the frustration of a community that has been at the receiving end of several attacks but we believe this would not have happened if security operatives had done their job which is to protect lives and property especially at a known flashpoint that is Orile.
The people must not be allowed to believe the hands of the law is too short to protect them and that they are essentially at the mercy of criminals – dangerous notions like these lead to the incident many saw on Friday, and many more saw on the internet.
The Nigerian police need to do better at intelligence gathering and preventing crime, press releases and denials are worthless when acts of criminality take place with freely, and lives and property are needlessly lost.