Saturday, April 20, 2002

Dateline: Nigeria "The Fabulous Bakassi Boys"

Amnesty watches, whines but does not intercede...

Amnesty witnesses Nigerian vigilantes attempt execution

LAGOS, Nigeria - Amnesty International observers themselves witnessed a vigilante band trying to burn a man alive outside the offices of a Nigerian state governor, the rights group said, in a report sounding an alarm over intensifying vigilante killings in Africa's most populous nation.

An Amnesty delegation watched as members of the Bakassi Boys, an anti-crime, state-supported militia also known as the Anambra State Vigilante Service, poured gasoline on their unidentified victim, who was trussed up and badly beaten, Amnesty said in a newly released report.

Amnesty called the brutal attack "illustrative" of what it said were more than 1,000 summary executions carried out by the Bakassi Boys since 2000.
It added that dozens more people have been reported tortured by vigilante gangs, or were missing after encounters with them.

The Bakassi Boys, a group that vows to capture common criminals, receives funding, vehicles and weapons from Anambra state.

The Bakassi Boys were "pouring petrol over the man's body with the clear intention of setting him on fire," the statement added. "The man was on his knees, his arms tied behind his back and his face disfigured by recent beatings. He was bleeding profusely," Amnesty said, adding that when the Bakassi Boys "realized there were strangers watching the scene, they bundled their victim into a van loaded the vehicle with machetes and guns and drove away."

Some Nigerians praise the Bakassi Boys and other vigilante groups for being more effective in fighting crime than the country's underfunded and often corrupt police force. Others criticize the extra-judicial groups' often-brutal methods, such as burning alive and torturing alleged criminals.