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Don’t Walk Away
3rd July 2013

Just how many people are murdered on Nigerian streets through so-called mob justice is not known. But it is a phenomenon every Nigerian is aware of, and the vast majority are horrified by, as was apparent in the public outrage following the lynching of the “Port Harcourt 4” in October last year. Yet these acts of murder all happen because good people stand aside – and don’t attempt to stop them.
 
The discovery of a harrowing video of a twelve year old boy called Samuel being lynched has led to a group of Nigerians launching a new online campaign aimed at all Nigerians called “Don’t Walk Away”. What is so special about this film is that it is shot by a professional film maker Abimbola Ogunsanya who came across the incident by chance in a Lagos street several years ago. The subsequent film has hardly been seen in Nigeria, but when discovered recently it was seen to be so unique and important that is was deemed essential to release it to stimulate a national discussion.

What has made an impression on “Don’t Walk Away” supporters such as Femi Kuti is not so much the horror of Samuel’s ghastly death, as the extraordinary dignity of the little boy who managed to tell his life story in a two-minute interview while surrounded by a mob baying for his blood.  His articulate account of how he found himself begging on the streets of Lagos shows him to have been both intelligent and almost certainly innocent of the crime of “baby stealing” he was killed for.

When members of the mob were interviewed before the murder they were unable to give specifics of what Samuel was accused of. One commented that “They said he wanted to kidnap a child at a school” and was unable to say exactly where. The fact that he knew nothing about the accusation did not stop him being a main perpetrator of the crime, pouring petrol onto Samuel before he was ignited.

Samuel’s story is a vivid example of the gross injustice and horrific cruelty of mob killing. “Don’t Walk Away” campaigners hope it will touch the hearts of millions when it is released on the internet. The campaign leaders believe this will launch a national debate on mob violence – or ‘jungle justice’ – and how people can be motivated to intervene and prevent future lynching.  

On Wednesday 3rd July “Don’t Walk Away” was launched at The New Unity Centre, Isaac John Street, GRA, Ikeja, Lagos at 10.30am. The film will be shown and follow up activities announced. A website www.dontwalkaway.org.ng is up and running, and after the 3rd of July the film will be online.

“We want people to go online, watch the film and post their reactions on the comments box” commented “Don’t Walk Away’s” media coordinator, Charles Urhoboghara. “And we want them to take a pledge to not walk away if an accusation is made, and say no to mob justice”. The campaign aims to gather a million supporters and is asking supporters to post photos of themselves raising their hand to say no to mob justice.

Abimbola Ogunsanya has not shown the video of Samuel’s death until now, because he wanted to be sure that its release would lead to something positive emerging from this tragedy.  “What I saw, had a big impact on me.  I could do nothing to help at the time but now I hope that the horror of what happened to Samuel will give people who are around when similar events start the courage they need not to stand by but to unite to stop it”.

The Campaign
Mob justice needs to be stopped before it starts. When the finger of accusation is raised, and before the thugs move in and take over, we need to raise a hand and say no to ‘justice’ on the streets. The solution to mob justice starts with all of us.

The Campaign aims to:

  • Stimulate a discussion and action on stopping mob justice in Nigeria
  • Get 1 million Nigerians and more to take a pledge that they will raise a hand to say no to mob justice if they are around before a potential mob justice event starts.

www.dontwalkaway.co.ng is a platform where people can post their views and experiences of mob justice.

 

Media Contacts
The following people can be contacted for comment on the Don’t Walk Away Campaign:

 Abuja Contacts:

Lagos Contact:
Charles Urhoboghara, +234 803 344 8235, +234 809 844 8235
charles_randb@yahoo.co.uk

 

Notes for Editors and Talks Show Presenters
The following are some key questions that the Don’t Walk Away film and campaign raises

Is mob justice ever justified?
In environments where law enforcement and the judiciary system is weak, some may argue that mob justice is justified. But everyone deserves a right to defend themselves and a fair hearing. Many of the people involved in Samuel’s - murder or passively watching the murder - may have believed he was guilty. But as the film shows, there was no evidence and those who were directly involved in the murder could not give specifics about the accusation. One commented that “They said he wanted to kidnap a child at a school” and was unable to say exactly where. Mob justice can never be justified because it denies the accused the right to a fair hearing and action is often being undertaken based on hearsay.

Is it not the responsibility of government to stop this, not ordinary Nigerians?
It is all of our responsibilities to stop mob justice. When an event starts and the finger of accusation is raised, those there who do not agree with mob justice should not walk away, but raise a hand and say no. Individual and group action of citizens can stop the event escalating into a mob justice beating or killing. Nevertheless, it is also the responsibility of the police and authorities to respond when they are called and for justice to be done. Ordinary Nigerian need to act when an event happens and put pressure on police and the government to solve the problems that are part of the root causes of mob justice (weak policing and judicial follow up).

Is it really possible to stop a mob justice event?
Once the mob has formed and those who have a propensity to violence (thugs) have taken over, then it is almost impossible for individuals to stop the violence. Nevertheless, individuals can stop mob justice before it starts. When the finger of accusation is raised individuals can stop the event. The more people who speak out then the more chance it will be stopped. Only through group action can mob justice be stopped when it has escalated. Evidence shows that the more people who observe an act of violence the less likely it is any that anyone will object – even if most people disagree with it, everyone is expecting someone else to the take the lead in speaking out.  The Don’t Walk Away campaign aims to get Nigerians who disagree with mob justice not to walk away and to raise a hand to say no.

Can we really stop mob justice in Nigeria?
Yes, mob justice in Nigeria can be stopped. It may take time, but with mass support we can eradicate it from Nigeria. This needs action not just by government and the police, but by every Nigerian; stopping mob justice before it starts and supporting bringing the perpetrators to justice.

Are there any organisations in Nigeria dedicated to lobbying against mob justice?
There are surprisingly few organisations devoted to eradicating mob justice in Nigeria. Don’t Walk Away aims to be a focal point for the sharing of opinion and experience of mob justice and community action against mob justice in Nigeria.

Who is behind Don’t Walk Away
Don’t Walk Away is not being run by an organisation but was formed by a group of concerned Nigerians who have joined together to form the campaign. Everyone working on this has done it as a volunteer. Media Support Partnership, a small NGO based in Scotland, UK, has provided some funding to help with the launch of this campaign.

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