Lessons Of The London Riots


The handling of the protests which rocked London last week by the British government has shown the world that no matter the destruction wreaked on the society by aggrieved individuals, human life is precious and should be treated as sacrosanct.

When the protests broke out following the killing of a youth, Mark Duggan, by the police in an operation, the UK government did not direct its law enforcement agents to start mowing down its citizens despite the shameful and unfortunate burning and looting of many businesses in the British capital.

Rather, the world was treated to a refined and systematic approach by the British police to contain the riots to bring the culprits to book. While the rioters took to the streets, burning and looting, 16,000 policemen dispatched to the streets to contain them did not engage in indiscriminate shooting which would have led to the killing of many, rather, they stayed back and used water cannon to disperse them.

Similar protests in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia and Iran recently had led to the state calling out the troops to kill protesters. That of Libya and Syria are of note. When the Libyan uprising began, the country’s maximum ruler, Muammar Gaddafi, did not waste time in calling out his troops to kill defenceless Libyans. Hundreds of youths seeking a change of regime were killed in the uprising. This prompted the Western nations to launch an operation to save Libyans from the brutality of Gaddafi.

The same thing is going on in Syria where hundreds of young Syrians have been killed by troops deployed by the state to quell the riot against the King.

Coming back home, an uprising of the magnitude witnessed in London would have led to the dispatch of a military task force to contain the rioters and this would have resulted in the killing of many innocent people. The handling of the militants in the Niger Delta and the Boko Haram in the North are good examples here.

The second lesson to learn from the handling of the riots by the British is the systematic approach they adopted in arresting the perpetrators and bringing them to book.

After succeeding in containing the rioters, the British police now embarked on house-to-house search where the majority of the looters and arsonists were arrested and immediately charged to court.

As at the last count, over one thousand culprits were arrested and prosecuted within two days. There was no waste of time. As the looters were arrested, they were taken to court and sentenced, accordingly. Some of the judges charged with the trial of the culprits had to sit overnight to hear the cases and mete out appropriate punishment to offenders. This is worthy of emulation by all.

Nigeria, in particular, must emulate the British on how to handle violent uprising and bring culprits to book. We continue to witness unrest because those arrested after violent protests are not brought to book. If perpetrators of violence know that they will be brought to book, they will think twice before embarking on another orgy of violence. Killings by religious fundamentalists will continue to occur because those arrested are not convicted or jailed. After some time they are released and they later regroup to launch more violent attacks against the populace.

Our criminal justice system has to be drastically overhauled to do away with incessant and long adjournments that give the impression that we are not serious about prosecuting perpetrators of violence. A situation where a case takes more than 12 years before judgment is delivered should be discouraged.

Those who breach the law must be made to pay for their action without waste of time to serve as a deterrent to others.

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