Last Easter Monday, when Christians all over the world were celebrating Jesus Christ, an Uber driver, Tope Olorunfemi, was begging for his life in the Ijoka area of Akure, Ondo State.
A bloodthirsty horde milled around him, hitting him with stones and sticks, as they accused him of being an Internet fraudster, aka Yahoo boy.
By his side was his mother, Mojisola, who appealed to the mob to let go of her son, who was only visiting the town because his wife and child were holidaying with her.
Instead of heeding the pleas, the mob made to burn her with her son.
Recalling the heart-rending incident in tears, the bereaved mother said, “By the time I got there, he was in a pool of blood; his face was on the ground. I called his name; he raised his head and looked at my face.
I asked his siblings to help me carry him to a hospital; the people there said they would hit me with sticks. I was hit and they said I must not carry him.
“That was how someone from the crowd poured petrol on him and lit a cloth and threw it at him. I ran there and picked the cloth up and threw it away. Someone said they should hit me with sticks again; they said, ‘Who is this woman?’ I said he was my son and begged them to help me carry him.
“Someone threw the burning cloth at him again, but he took the cloth and threw it away himself because it was already burning him. As he threw the cloth away, there was one tall man, his name is Luku; Luku is a friend of Tope’s elder brother. Tope’s elder brother shouted at Luku that Tope was his younger brother, but Luku pushed him away; he carried a stick and hit Tope’s head in my presence.
“Another man, Jobe, also carried a stone and hit his face. I left there, crying when I realized I was helpless. They said they saw a snake in his car. I said where was the snake because I didn’t see any. They said they saw a piggy bank and children’s clothes; they were his wife’s and child’s clothes that he left in the car that they saw. He was not a Yahoo boy.”
Tope’s Toyota Camry had earlier crushed two people to death and injured several others along Ijoka Road, which was under construction.
Our correspondent gathered that the crowd, many of whom were commercial motorcyclists, also known as Okada riders, descended on the driver when they allegedly found some items in the vehicle, which they claimed were ingredients for money rituals.
This made them believe that the 35-year-old was involved in Internet fraud, aka Yahoo Yahoo.
Angered by what they allegedly saw, the people, who were supposed to be sympathizers and rescuers, turned into a mob and beat the driver to death before burning his vehicle.
Efforts by men of the state police command to save the victim failed, as he had passed away.
The police were reported to have got late to the scene.
Though the police claimed to have deployed men in the area to fish out the perpetrators, the incident generated controversy.
A resident, who identified himself simply as Segun, insisted that the deceased was a fraudster.
He said, “We found three live tortoises in his car and one small coffin, a local sponge and soap and a duvet, and a lady’s pants; all these were what we brought from his car.”
Many, however, believed that the purported fetish items found in the car were not enough reason to tag Tope as an Internet fraudster.
Tope’s mother, Mojisola, and his wife, Mosunmola, appealed to security agents to arrest the perpetrators of the crime.
The duo denied the allegation that he was involved in Internet fraud, saying he was an Uber driver.
His mother, a cocoa merchant, said, “My son was an easy-going person. He went to Merchant Navy School, Oran, Ogun State. After he finished schooling and there was no work, he decided to stay in Lagos to work there.
“When he came home, he said he was just hustling in Lagos and that if he got a car, he would be doing Uber. His faith
father bought him the car about three years ago and he had been in Lagos since then, using the car for Uber.”
The bereaved woman recalled that during Easter, Tope drove to the hometown.
“This was because his wife and children were with me, so he decided to come home to check on them.
When he came, his wife said they should return to Lagos but he said he wasn’t going back yet; he asked his wife to go to her mother’s place to spend some time with her and he would pick her up when he was going back to Lagos.
“Later, he said he didn’t want his child to be bitten by insects; his wife replied to him that there was no way she could pack the luggage when she alighted from a public bus in Ojota.
Then, he picked some of his child’s and wife’s clothes in the box and put them in his car to take them to Lagos.
“On Monday, we woke up and we called his phone number, but it was switched off. Later, I was called by his father, who was shouting his name. That was how I got to the scene of the incident.
“All I want from the government is justice. The government should help me to bring those people who deliberately killed my son to book. Someone said in the video that he was arrogant and that he could not even afford what my son was wearing. The case should be handled thoroughly.
They were saying he was a Yahoo boy because whenever they see a young guy with a big car, they believe he is a Yahoo boy.
“His father is rich; he has a big cocoa company in Akure with four trucks he uses for his cocoa business. The people around there that were saying he had an apartment he rented for some guys who were doing Yahoo for him are lying because he did not stay in Akure. He was based in Lagos and was an Uber driver. They were only saying that because they were envious. He was only a hustler, an Uber driver.”
The deceased’s wife, Mosunmola, also denied the allegation against her husband, saying “he (deceased) was an Uber driver in Lagos, not a ritualist.”
“You can confirm from his friend, known as Oba, who is in Lagos, they met through Uber driving,” she added.
The Ondo State Police Command confirmed the arrest of two of the perpetrators.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Mrs. Funmilayo Odunlami, said, “Our men are already out to arrest more after which they would be charged.”
A legal practitioner, Mr. Ayo Alade, said there was a need for the government to urgently look into the issue of jungle justice in the country and re-orientate the people on the menace.
He said, “We are not in an animal kingdom; this kind of thing should not be happening where sane people are living. We have security agencies in the town; why didn’t they hand him over to the police and let the law take its full course if they suspected him to be a Yahoo boy? Apart from that, I was not at the scene of the incident but in all the videos I saw on the Internet, I didn’t see any incriminating fetish material they said they found in the car that warranted the lynching and destruction of the vehicle.”
A public affairs analyst, Mr. Isa Bahiru, blamed the police and the judicial system for losing the trust of the people.
According to him, people know that handing over suspected criminals to law enforcement agents may not yield any meaningful results as many suspects have been released without trial.
He said, “I totally detest jungle justice because in many cases, innocent souls always pay for it but the Nigerian people resort to jungle justice because they don’t have trust in our police. They know if the suspected criminals are handed over to the police, sooner or later, the criminals will be set free and justice won’t be achieved.
“All these can’t be happening in a sane clime. Let our government reform our police and our judicial system. If the police had arrived at the scene on time, the victim would have been rescued and if the people had trusted in the system, they wouldn’t have mobbed the victim. However, I will call on the police to fish out the perpetrators of the jungle justice.”