Posted by By Ade Obisesan on
Avenging lynch mobs have seized and burnt alive more than 20 suspected kidnappers in the past month in and around the Nigerian city of Lagos where terrified residents have taken extreme measures to stamp out ritual child sacrifices, police and witnesses said.
Lagos - Avenging lynch mobs have seized and burnt alive more than 20 suspected kidnappers in the past month in and around the Nigerian city of Lagos where terrified residents have taken extreme measures to stamp out ritual child sacrifices, police and witnesses said.
The mutilated corpses of the victims of black magic ceremonies - which turn up on an almost daily basis in the fields and on the roadsides of south-west Nigeria - have now been joined by piles of ash and blackened flesh where alleged gang-members were set ablaze.
Police and religious leaders fear that both the sacrifices and the revenge attacks are a sign of a dangerous breakdown in social order, but gruesome media reports of the latest outrages are feeding a climate of fear and few here trust the authorities to regain control.
'I cannot remember how many people I have killed'
"I support instant justice for suspects. If we hand them over to the police, they will buy their freedom and then become more adamant and daring in their actions," said a 22-year-old apprentice mechanic from the Lagos suburb of Ikorodu, who said he had taken part in a vigilante killing.
A police officer confirmed witness reports that in Ikorodu four suspected child kidnappers were grabbed by a mob, beaten senseless, doused in petrol and set on fire.
On October 9 in the farming town of Otta, 60km north of the city, two more suspects were killed and five more captured and handed to police after a 14-year-old boy escaped from kidnappers and ran to his parents, who mobilised a gang of youths.
Television and newspaper reports of the incident showed torn dresses, school uniforms and satchels littering the kidnappers' hideout; evidence, it was said, of child sacrifice.
One of the suspects, 46-year-old Ibukun Okelola, reportedly told journalists: "I cannot remember how many people I have killed, but they cannot be less than nine students."
'We need to reassess our moral values and the police need to be more vigilant'
Many in southwestern Nigeria believe in the power of juju, an occult blend of mystic ritual and traditional African belief. Some believe that by sacrificing humans and using their body parts in ceremonies they will become rich and powerful.
Last weekend four more suspects met their deaths in the Oke-Odo and Cement districts of Lagos. On Monday, amid mounting hysteria, an 11-year-old boy was burned to death after being accused of trying to kidnap a child.
Afterwards, Nigeria's police chief Inspector General Sunday Ehindero appealed for calm.
"Members of the public should not take the laws into their hand. We will arrest those who do so. They could have lynched or burnt innocent people," he said.
But many in Nigeria feel that the mob attacks are the inevitable result of the notoriously corrupt and incompetent police force failing to protect the community from the ritualists.
"It shows the state of lawlessness in the country and the level to which the law enforcement agents have fallen short," said lawyer Akin Akinbote, a former chairman of the Lagos branch of the Nigerian Bar Association.
"It is an indictment on everybody. It shows we attach little or no value to life and that our policemen are not vigilant enough. What goes on now reflects man's inhumanity to man which has been in vogue in Nigeria since the civil war in 1970," he told AFP.
University student Dupe Ikudaisi told AFP how she and four fellow passengers were kidnapped by a gang who halted their bus on the main road between Lagos and Ibadan and led their prisoners at gunpoint to a hideout in the bush.
"It was a terrible and harrowing experience," the 22-year-old told AFP. "They said they were kidnappers. They took our telephones, money, bags and told us to say our last prayers before they behead us."
While the kidnappers waited for instructions from their boss their attention wandered and the passengers took their chance and managed to escape, Ikudaisi said. Many are not so lucky.
"The act of kidnapping shows the level of decadence we have plunged to as a nation," said Catholic priest Father Gabriel Osu.
"This is what excessive love of money has led us to. It also shows that morality is at its lowest ebb and human life means nothing to us. We need to reassess our moral values and the police need to be more vigilant," he said.
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