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Mob action: Menace that profits no one

By Omiko Awa and Geraldine Akutu
25 June 2017   |   3:58 am
Barely one month later, precisely on December 16, an operative of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Tajudeen Olatunji Bakare, was brutally murdered by a mob in the Apapa area of Lagos State.

It is now commonplace for some misguided persons to form themselves into groups and react violently to any social, economic and religious issues that fail to catch their fancy, or that they feel strongly about.

For the faint-hearted, horrifying images of the cold-blooded killing of an alleged boy-thief in the Festac Town area of Lagos State, on Thursday, November 17, 2016 is capable of inducing a nightmare several months after it took place.

En route to his own “Golgotha,” the teenager, who was accused of repeatedly robbing residents and businesses and even threatening to kill people, was savagely beaten by an angry mob.

His tiny hands thrust in the air in surrender, while begging to be spared as he sat on the hot coal tar notwithstanding, old tyres, fuel and matches were supplied by interested parties and the lad was roasted to death in full public glare.

Barely one month later, precisely on December 16, an operative of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Tajudeen Olatunji Bakare, was brutally murdered by a mob in the Apapa area of Lagos State.

The victim, a Level 14 officer, allegedly caused an incident, which led to the death of a motor boy attached to a petroleum tanker in Apapa area. After a passerby made a loose comment on the incident, the mob, which had steadily built up, swooped on the operative, removed his eye balls, stabbed him, and thereafter stoned him to death.

Earlier in June of same year, a Kano State mob killed Mrs. Bridget Agbahwe at the Kofar Wambai market for allegedly blaspheming Prophet Mohammed. The woman, who before her gruesome murder dealt in plastic wares, was said to have been involved in an argument over space with another trader.

It is now commonplace for some misguided persons to form themselves into groups and react violently to any social, economic and religious issues that fail to catch their fancy, or that they feel strongly about.

Often, this hurried assemblage of protesters cause pandemonium in the polity, through the serious disturbances and economic losses they bring to bear, or the gruesome acts they as they bid to soothe their nerves, or get instant justice.

This ugly trend is particularly worrisome because more people are adopting it in different parts of the country, either as a way of attracting attention, or making government rescind certain policies they consider antagonistic to their wellbeing.

As against conventional civil protest employed by aggrieved persons in other climes, mobs are, at home with the idea of vandalising public amenities, razing down buildings, obstructing vehicular traffic, burning vehicles and generally engaging in wanton destruction of public property. Because they usually act with impunity, they in the process create opportunities for street urchins to perpetrate more mischief.

Most times, while the chaos created by the mobters last, security operatives, for fear of aggravating the situation, only lurk around, or stay at arm’s length as attempts to forcefully quell their protests have resulted in bloody clashes, which led to loss of lives, arrests and incarceration of innocent people.

Michael Aderinwa, a police officer, is of the opinion that mob action is simply a reflection of people’s disregard for lives and property. According to him, root causes of actions that precipitate mob actions are often times things that could “be investigated and promptly addressed, but because most people are always in a hurry, they judge and mete out punishment by themselves.”

Aderinwa, who pointed out that mob action is a further reflection of the disconnect in the polity, added that people now have little or no regard for law enforcement agencies, or constituted authorities, which is why they delight in taking the laws into their hands.

While deploring the resort to mob action, Managing Director, Mega Guards Services, Lagos State, Richard Amuwa, called for more enlightenment of the populace on the attendant consequences on the society, stressing that malicious destruction of lives and property should never be contemplated as a solution to any societal problem.

He said: “Mob actions take the society backward, as infrastructure and other social amenities, which cost huge sums of money to provide are destroyed within minutes. The painful aspect of it is that these items are replaced, if at all, with taxpayers’ money. So, whichever way one looks at it, it is the people that bear the brunt because money for fixing vandalised facilities comes from them, while they also suffer if the damaged facilities are left unrepaired.

“Though government cannot always be absolved of blames when things go awry, we should always learn to engage appropriate agencies of government in dialogue because when people engage in mob action, they do not give room for investigations to be carried out. This to some extent makes the real culprit(s) go unpunished. It should be noted that mob action happens all over the world, but the level of malice differs from one society to the other. For instance, some United States citizens protested Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election, but they did not destroy social amenities because they know what such mean to them,” he stated.

Dr. Ignatius Igueze, an insurance broker, shares Amuwa’s views that the consequence of mob action in any given society spreads far beyond the main actors precincts’ or domain.

Even though he explained that the action of the mob transmits signals to the government that all is not well with the society, it is members of the public that are directly affected by, or at the receiving end.

Disclosing that large sums of money are lost through the activities of mobs, Igueze said even businesses that are insured are not immediately compensated to enable their owners get back on their feet almost immediately.

“Insurance companies still have to carry out investigations to ascertain the level of damage and find out other things, which include how protected the environment was before the victims are compensated. In the course of this, if a business owner was found to be liable, the expected damages would not be paid.”

But how can this deviant act be controlled in increasingly volatile Nigerian cities? Chuks Maha, a Lagos State-based security consultant, said security matters should not be left in the hands of government alone, as creating a safe society is everyone’s responsibility.

“We all need to be security conscious and not allow a few persons to derange the society over issues that could be settled amicably with concerned parties or government. In most cases, miscreants are at the forefront of these malicious acts, because no right-thinking persons would partake in the destruction of public or other people’s property,” he said.

He called for proper policing of communities, saying this would complement efforts of the Nigerian Police Force, especially as the latter lacks adequate personnel to effectively man all the nooks and crannies of the country.

Maha explained that with community policing, mob action would easily be nipped in the bud “since such officers live in these communities, where they freely mix and mingle and capable of tapping feelers and passing same to the regular police force for appropriate action.

The security consultant expressed fears that unscrupulous elements would continue to protest and destroy private and public property until government begins to apprehend and prosecute those caught in the act.

He said: “We have had situations, where people involved in mob actions are arrested and released on bail and there ends the matter. But if masterminds of such acts are tried and jailed, it would serve as deterrent as others would think twice before getting involved in such protests.

“Another way of curbing this anti-social behaviour is to introduce security education in our schools; teach children the importance of protecting and preserving social amenities and government property. Young people should be taught to always seek dialogue as a way of resolving their grievances instead of destroying social amenities and other people’s property,” he added.

In his submission, a psychologist, Dr. Alex Igundunase, of the Department of Psychology, University of Lagos, explained that people partake in mob actions/protests for reasons ranging from personality character traits that predispose them to such behavior, to gender influences, the desire to identify or show solidarity with an incident and perception of injustice in the society, which is often related to people in authority.

He said: “People willingly participating in the destruction of property or other amenities shows that there is a disconnect between the ruler and the ruled. This maladjusted behavior, to a large extent, means that protesters do not have a sense of ownership of the property, which they set out to destroy. They do not know that they are part owners of these amenities.”

He continued, “They don’t feel they are destroying their own property, but that of someone with whom they have little or nothing to do with. This is why government must touch peoples’ lives; give them that sense of belonging and have its ears to the ground in order for them to see themselves as being part of government.”

On how best to curb mob actions, he said a wide range of methods, including the creation of alert systems with cameras to monitor streets and send signals to the appropriate agencies have to be adopted.

“Because of the huge losses often recorded after each protest in terms of property and lives, it would not be out of place to have a proper coordination among relevant agencies involved in managing crowd. There is need to train and retrain personnel to manage people and know how to nip crisis in the bud,” he said.