It is a story from Nigeria, but it might have been from any country where soldiers or the police are a law unto themselves, and civilians are always at their mercy, unarmed and powerless.
Perhaps we are reading too much into it, but as a lover of books and one who appreciated the time given me to be a boy, I am hurt and saddened by what happened in a distant, unknowable place to people - and a boy - I never knew:
Soldier Kills Boy over Book Theft
From Ahamefula Ogbu in Jos, 03.07.2006
Barely 24 hours after a combined team of soldiers and Mobile Policemen stopped a mob from burning down the Customs House in Jos, Plateau State, over the killing of two commercial cyclists, another riot was yesterday averted when a soldier shot and killed a 23-year- old boy for allegedly stealing a book.
Eyewitness reports have it that one Murphy Abiniku was reported to have stolen a book from an unnamed girl who reported it to the police.
Apparently not getting any positive response from them, she yesterday reported the case to soldiers guarding Joseph Gomwalk House in the Government Reserved Area.
Acting on the report, two soldiers were said to have gone to the Tudun Wada residence of the boy where he lived with his parents and waited for him to finish his bath.
The boy’s father intervened and asked the soldiers the reason for the arrest because they were not policemen.
At that point, the soldiers were said to have threatened to kill Murphy’s father, prompting all members of the family to volunteer to be shot.
Few meters from the house, an argument was said to have ensued which prompted the soldiers to tear Murphy’s clothings, leaving him half naked. The boy was said to have tried to defend himself with an object he retrieved from his pocket and in the process, injured the soldier.
Apparently angered by the affront, the unnamed soldier corked his gun and shot him at close range, spilling his blood on the road opposite Plateau State AIDS Control Agency (PLACA).
When words got to Tudun Wada that the shot which rang out snuffed the life off their colleague, they mobilized and threatened to burn down all military facilities within range.
The army also reacted and posted more hands to the scene of the shooting where they arrested passersby and laid them on the road where they meted out corporal punishment to them.
An attempt to go close to appraise the situation drew threats that they would shoot any journalist who ventured to come close to the point of the shooting where the blood of the slain boy was fast caking.
Later the boys in the area mobilized and stormed the Police Force headquarters in the State to register their displeasure over the killing of Murphy. There, the State Police Commissioner, Mr. Richard Chime addressed them and assured that the death of their brother was not going to be in vain as he would ensure justice was done.
While addressing the boy, emissaries from the Army Barracks in the state arrived and assured that the soldier who committed the murder had been arrested and would be court martialled since he left his duty post to go and kill the boy.
Thereafter, they dispersed but with promise that any soldier seen around Tudun Wada which is the Ajegunle equivalent of Jos, would be made to pay with his life. Murphy’s father was seen speechless after the incident.
On Monday, commercial motorcycle drivers almost ignited a riot when two of their members were killed by a vehicle the Customs and Excise in the state were chasing for suspected smuggling.
The two “achaba” operators died instantly and in anger the cyclists rushed to Customs office in Yakubu Gowon Way and attempted to set it ablaze but for the timely intervention of a combined team of soldiers and policemen who sealed off the place.
As of yesterday, an anti-riot tank was still stationed in from of the house while mobile Policemen stood guard there.