A mob repeatedly stabbed and burned alive a man for stealing a pot of soup in southern Nigeria, local media reported on Monday.
The unidentified victim’s charred corpse was left outside a secondary school after his death on Sunday in the south-eastern port city of Calabar, the national “ThisDay” newspaper reported.
The paper said he was part of a three-man gang who smelt the soup warming before dawn and followed the aroma to the kitchen of a private residence.
A woman who had been at the stove as they took the pot shouted for help and the three were chased by neighbours as they tried to escape.
The mob caught up with the man holding the soup and attacked him with machetes before setting him on fire.
“This is not the first time they have come to our compound to steal. Last week, they removed the car battery of one of our neighbours,” a resident of the area was quoted as saying.
Local police condemned the killing, according to ThisDay, which quoted an officer as saying “every suspect is presumed innocent until proven guilty”.
Vigilante activity is a controversial subject in Nigeria, which created crime-fighting militias across the south in the early 2000s to work alongside Nigeria’s overstretched federal police.
Civilian gangs have since served as political enforcers around the country, triggering warnings from rights groups of the dangers of mob rule.
A state-backed vigilante group known as the Bakassi Boys executed 36 suspected robbers in Anambra State, southern Nigeria, in 2001.
More recently, vigilante groups have emerged with the encouragement of the military in the northeast, the stronghold of Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency.