The Ovim Oriendu Market (Abia state, Nigeria) was largely empty this week. The town crier had gone with his gong, informing all residents of Ovim that Ojengwa (women compliance officers) would penalize anyone that enables a gathering of more than 50 people. They put the fine at N100,000. Birthdays, parties, celebrations and most burials would all be frozen accordingly.
These women, carefully selected by the council to police the community, are exceedingly powerful. They have the power to excommunicate and ban men from the community, and they can impose severe fines and execute them.
The most dreaded is this: you have no asset as a law breaker, they will come and pick your neighbor’s assets, and then pass a message to the neighbor to go and recover them from you. Legally, that seems unfair, but over time, I have grown to understand that by enforcing the penalties on not just the subject but the neighbors put the burden on neighbours to do all necessary things to avoid a bad guy in their midst. So, if you do not want to lose your goat, you better report that guy when you see him stealing!
As the Nigerian government plans to impose massive inter-state bans due to coronavirus, communities must not wait for governments to find ways to ensure citizens are safe. There are small things which can be done to help the evidently overwhelmed government.
Image – online picture used to illustrate the article