Public health experts, sociologists and psychologists have condemned the increasing trend of bystander apathy among Nigerians.
These condemnations trail a recent video that trended on social media of a female whose arm was cut open by a knife during a fight with another female.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with PUNCH Healthwise, the experts said it was unfortunate that instead of offering help to the victim, other occupants of the house took to making a video recording of the scene, shouting and walking around without seeking help for the victim.
A public health physician, Dr Tuyi Mebawondu, told our correspondent that the immediate response of bystanders at an accident scene should be to call for help and engage others to help.
“If you find yourself in that scenario, prompt and engage people to offer help, either by calling an ambulance, the emergency lines or the police. Be the change agent in such a scene by engaging people and nudging them into action, a lot would change that way,” he said.
He described the unwillingness to help injured or victims in need of help as the bystander effect or apathy.
Mebawondu further noted that the lack of competence, knowledge and training of some persons in first aid care was responsible for the actions.
“Do we have the level of first-aid training that informs you on what to do in a particular situation? Have we mainstreamed first-aid care into society to such an extent that everybody would be able to respond and react appropriately? I think we have not done that.
“I think the other aspect that would account for this is that the social challenge we now face has increased the level of apathy and so people do not have feelings for the other person. Instead of helping, they begin to question themselves on how they were related to the injured. They ask, is it my business and in some instances ask whether the person deserved help,” the public health expert noted.
Data from a non-governmental organisation dedicated to the rescue of accident victims, Emergency Response Africa, revealed that Nigeria lost over 1.2 million lives yearly to preventable deaths, resulting from accidents and illnesses.
The Disaster Management Officer, Nigerian Red Cross, Lagos office, Mr Oladimeji Ige, had told PUNCH Healthwise that the standard emergency response time is between five and 10 minutes.
But when bystanders assisted the victims, he stated that “the golden hour was not met because the rescue operators had challenges navigating the traffic.”
He further noted that the writing of statements and interrogations, from the police and other law enforcement agencies contributed to people’s hesitancy to offer help.
Mebawondu also said, “We are not incentivising good behaviour. If you don’t reward such things, people will find a way to avoid such scenery. The poverty situation in the country would make bystanders rush to take things valuable to them in accident scenery rather than try to help. But how do you excuse the bystanders who, instead of helping the injured, would loot the goods in the scene?”
He stated that the Federal Road Safety Corps, the National Emergency Management Agency and law enforcement agencies needed to assure citizens that they would not be interrogated or arrested for offering first aid to victims.
The public health consultant added, “We should be able to train and teach a large number of the population first aid skills and how to save people; it is essential.”
He urged non-governmental and faith-based organisations to regularly educate people on first-aid and lifesaving skills, adding that people should be encouraged to do so.
On his part, a professor of Sociology and Fellow of the Population Council, United States of America, Israel Orubuloye, stated that the humanness and humanity in people was gradually disappearing.
He decried the lack of compassion, sympathy and loyalty among humans, stating that society had become materialistic and rewarded evil things.
The don further noted that the desire for social media rewards and fame was responsible for such actions.
Orubuloye said, “There is what we call organic and mechanical solidarity in sociology. The organic does more about human compassion and sympathy but the mechanical becomes very instrumental. So we are living in a world where most people are becoming mechanistic.
“Some of the values of the society are already depreciating if not completely dismantled. In the traditional society, we value human beings and lives but the society in which we are now is very materialistic and we don’t value human lives.
“People are now getting rewarded for doing bad things. In the past, a reward was for anyone who had done nice things and contributed to humanity and human development. But today, it is no longer the same.”
Also commenting on the issue, a clinical psychologist at Intersect Consortium, Dr Alexander Agara, stated that people were more concerned with social media recognition and engagements than rendering help to injured victims.
He added that with the concept of likes, follow and trends, “people pay more attention to who posted a video first and who was there first hand. That is they’d rather make a video coverage than to be in the act of assisting people.”
On whether people were losing their humanity because of the rising unwillingness to offer aid, Agara explained that people were losing the level of empathy to the applause of the social media community.
“People are losing their empathy and going for popularity and all this is as a result of social media,” he said.