Calabar — Since the beginning of 2014, criminals have been on the onslaught in Cross River State especially in Calabar, the state capital, attacking and dispossessing residents of money and valuables.
Reports of nocturnal visits by criminals particularly, in Calabar South neighbourhoods have become a recurring decimal. As a result of this ugly development, many residents have been forced to form vigilante groups to take over the security of their streets and neighbourhood.
And as expected, when security is in the hands of people who are not trained in security issues, extra-judicial killings and jungle justice becomes the order of the day, and that is what is happening in Calabar currently. In the past few weeks, in an effort to protect themselves, angry mobs and vigilante groups have apprehended and lynched over 20 criminals. The year opened with the lynching of two female robbery suspects and their male accomplice who attempted to snatch N1.5 million from a woman.
The robbery suspects said to be undergraduates and their male partner were battered and stripped naked at Murtala Mohammed Highway/ Atekong Drive and before the police arrived, the young man who was inflicted with a deep machete cut on his forehead had died. The gulf car they used was set ablaze and pushed into a drainage.
The gang reportedly ambushed the businesswoman who had gone to withdraw N1.5 million at a bank along Calabar Road, near the Watt market, where they approached her to join their cab. The woman who appeared eager to arrive home because of the money she had withdrawn, immediately accepted and boarded the taxi.
Trouble started as she got to her destination only to discover that the taxi driver became unwilling to allow her alight from the vehicle. Subsequently, the bandits reportedly brought out a gun and ordered her to cooperate with them if she did not want to get hurt. "They told me to co-operate with them and quietly hand over the N1.5 million or I would be killed; Suddenly, I became angry in my spirit because this money is contribution money and my members would not believe me that the money was stolen. So, I was ready to die and I began to raise alarm."
In a related development, on Monday, February 10, 2014, two robbery suspects were butchered along Mayne Avenue/Atu/ Marian roundabout and their operational vehicle, a Volkswagen Vento car set ablaze about 10am.
An eye witness who gave his name as Asuquo narrated to Crime Guard how the thieves, operating in a Vento car as taxi, picked up a lady who had just collected some money at a new generation bank along Murtala Highway. "The lady was going to Goldie, so they took her through Target and when they got close to this place, they snatched her bag and pushed the woman out. She started screaming and luckily, some cars that were passing blocked their car and the thieves were trapped."
He said when the thieves saw that they had been trapped, they simply wound their car glasses and remained inside because the place is a busy roundabout and an attempt to escape would have been fruitless. So, they simply remained inside the car. "I used my hand and broke open the car glasses and dragged out the boys and some people came with machetes."
The thieves, Asuquo narrated, were inflicted severe cuts before the arrival of a team of policemen from the Atakpa Police Division and they taken into custody.
In the same vein, another suspected criminal was also killed along Okpo Ene Street and his corpse dumped at Abasi Obori market. The suspect, said to be a member of a three -man gang was said to have rented a taxi on charter. When they got to Okpene /Mayne Avenue, they ransacked the vehicle and robbed the driver. 'The driver raised alarm and some people went after them and one of them was caught and lynched," he stated.
Also at Anantigha, two suspected robbers operating in a tricycle popularly known as keke NAPEP were killed and their tricycle set ablaze by angry mob. Earlier in the week, another suspected notorious criminal was apprehended by members of the vigilante along Uwanse Street and when he was about to be lynched, he pleaded that his life should be spared so that he would take the police to the hideout of his gang. "That night, he led a team of SARS to their hideout and four other suspects and their weapons were apprehended by the police.
A resident of Uwanse, Mr. Akpan Udo-Ekpo told Crime Guard that they decided to confront the criminals since the number of hoodlums has increased tremendously in the city. "These boys have become too many and the police cannot be everywhere, so we have to combat them ourselves if we must live in peace in this city,"he said.
Mr. Udo-Ekpo said before now, they used to apprehend criminals and hand them over to the police but such hoodlums later find their way out and return to terrorize people. Another resident, Moses Etim said they decided to form vigilante groups to tackle the high crime rate in the area to protect themselves.
"We formed vigilante to protect ourselves from these criminals and we will continue to do so until we have peace."
Mr Hogan Bassey, the spokesman of the Cross River State Police Command said the police were aware of the several incidents of jungle justice and advised residents to report cases of attack to the police and not take laws into their hands. "We are aware of these cases; you know incidents of 'one chance' robbery have become rampant in this city and we are not resting in our efforts to make the city crime free."