In the absence of the police to call or report to, some residents of Benin, Edo State capital, may have resorted to serving jungle justice on suspected armed robbers. On Monday alone, over 12 cases of carjacking were reportedly recorded in various parts of the state capital, most of them in broad day light. Four point of sale (POS) machine operators were also robbed on Sunday between 11 am and 12.30 pm.
Left at the mercy of the criminal elements without police intervention, the people have apparently decided to take their destinies in their hands by adopting self-help. Several cases have been reported how residents either mercilessly beat or kill suspected robbers in their areas. One of such happened in the wee hours of Tuesday at Upper Sokponba Road where two young men caught in the act were beaten into pulp, doused with petrol and set ablaze. The Upper Sokponba area had been notorious for violent crimes which had witnessed a massive surge in the aftermath of the EndSARS protests.
All the four police stations in that axis, namely Ugbekun, Idogbo, St. Saviour, and 100 Feet were particularly targeted for destruction by suspected criminals, perhaps so that they could operate unhindered. The nearest police station, Dumez Road, was also torched.
This Tuesday morning’s incident happened at Ighodafe Street junction and went on without police intervention. In a video showing one of the victims who was still alive though severely burnt, one of the residents was heard from the background saying “this is live video all the way from Upper Sakponba. This is one of the victims, one of the armed robbers that they caught; they’ve killed him because they were caught. This is Ighodefe field junction. You are a fool’. The other victim, who was already dead, was completely naked and severely burnt with a stone used to hit him on the ground near him.
Another suspected armed robber also had jungle justice meted out on him but was however lucky not to have died from the severe beating he received. The suspected criminal was said to have attacked a female shop owner at Alohan Street, off Dumez Road, Benin City but some vigilant persons who noticed how the man entered the shop suspected him to be an armed robber and raised the alarm and neighbours and passers-by descended on him.
Recall that on Monday, the state governor, Godwin Obaseki, had paid a solidarity visit to the state police command as a morale booster for officers and men who had become too demoralized to continue to render service. Obaseki pleaded with them to return to their duty posts and promised to rebuild all burnt police stations, provide more patrol vehicles, and pay the hospital bills of the 11 injured policemen attacked during the protests. He also promised to mitigate the losses of all those who suffered personal losses. Out of the 11 persons injured, only one is still receiving treatment at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH, Benin City.
The governor had told the officers and men that “The people who did that were criminals and they should be treated as such. I am here today to assure you of our support. Criminals cannot take over our state under whatever guise. They should not intimidate you; they should not allow your morale to be low”.
Addressing senior police officers at government house, the governor stated: that “Key members of my team and I have called you here today to thank you for your support and the work of policing the state. We thank you for the sacrifices and assure you of our support. We call on you not to be depressed, downcast, as you have a duty to God and Nigerians. What happened over the last few weeks are lessons to us as it’s not business as usual but rather a charge to work together to build trust.
“The underlining word should be trust. The young men and women should trust that you will be there for them and that you will protect them even when some of them are criminals. They will be treated fairly according to the policing code which doesn’t tolerate most of the atrocities that some of your men have committed. I assure you that the government of Edo State supports the police. We appreciate those of you working hard and putting your life on the line of service. We can’t pay you enough but we know we should pay you your dues, not in cash but in love, respect and support. I am here to meet with you and assure you that Nigerians still believe in you as no institution is perfect as we need to change and reform many things”.
The state commissioner of police, Johnson Babatunde Kokumo had informed the governor that seven police stations, 16 police patrol vehicles, five police officers’ personal vehicles burnt and 31 exhibit vehicles also burnt. Kokumo however stated that seven AK47 riffles carted away had been recovered. He appealed to the governor to help foot the hospital bills of his injured men as well as render other financial assistance to them to boost their morale so that they can regain all that they had lost to the #EndSARS protest.