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Monday, September 11, 2017

When Mr. Taiwo Sulaiman, a commercial transporter, moved into a two-room apartment on Number 28, Ogbe Street in Iwaya, a densely populated section of Lagos, in March 2015, he had high hopes of a better and prosperous future at the place.
An upgrade from the single room he used to live with his wife and three children before that time, there was every reason to be thankful and stay optimistic ahead of what looked like a promising future. But a little over two years at the house, the middle-aged man is filled with regrets.
On August 8, 2017, right within the same building he had foreseen a new dawn for his family, fire burnt him. His four-year-old daughter, Farida, a bright prospect, was hacked to death in the most brutal manner.
After slashing her throat with a knife, the assailants dumped her remains in front of a shrine sitting at a corner of the compound. Bearing the hallmark of ritual killing, the tragedy has thrown Sulaiman and his entire household into a deep season of mourning.
“I don’t know if we will ever be able to get over this shock,” the heartbroken father told our correspondent during an encounter earlier in the week. “The loss of Farida is not something words can describe. She was very precious to us and full of promise.
The pain of her loss will remain with us forever,” he added before collapsing his entire body weight on a table.
On the morning of that fateful day, the father of three as usual, had left the house as early as 6:00am to begin his work of ferrying passengers across different parts of the city in his 14-seater commercial bus.
Breadwinner of the home, he works very hard to provide for the needs of his young family, supplementing his daily income with the meagre amount his wife, Bola, realises from her petty-trading business as well.
Returning home by around 5:00pm that evening to take some rest before hitting the road again, there was no reason to suspect any sort of danger lurking around. But about one hour after that time, he realised trouble had set in.
Giving a vivid account of how his daughter was killed, Sulaiman told Saturday PUNCH that their lives have remained empty since the sad incident.
“The children usually go for Islamic lessons once they finish from their summer coaching class, so we all thought that Farida was at the place with her siblings,” the commercial transport operator said. “But one hour after when her siblings returned home, she was nowhere to be found, so we became worried.
My wife who had become very agitated at that point, decided to go and look for her at the mosque but immediately she stepped out of the house, she saw drops of blood all over the place before eventually finding the corpse of the girl close to our window.
It was placed in front of an Ogun shrine owned by the landlord of the house. The knife that was used to kill her was placed by her side.
“I strongly believe that the act was carried out by people who live within the compound and know the place very well because there are too many tenants in the compound for an outsider to just come in and commit such a crime.
The surprising thing is that Farida hardly associated with strangers. She was killed by people living in that house and who she was very familiar with,” he said.
If the death of the toddler threw the family into confusion and sorrow, their inability to bury her remains about one month after perhaps compounds the misery of the Sulaimans. The police authorities are yet to sanction the release of her body to the family due-to ongoing investigation into the matter.
“The police have not said anything concrete to us since my daughter was killed for ritual purpose,” the father of three, who made spirited efforts to fight off the grief that was gradually gathering in his voice, said as he spoke with our correspondent.
“The corpse is still with them, we have not been able to bury the girl about one month after which is against our doctrine as Muslims. There is no day that I don’t go to Panti Police Station for update on the matter but so far, nothing has materialised.
“My wife is still in shock; I had to take her and the other two children to her parents’ house for safety purpose. Whenever I think about this tragedy, I temporarily lose my mind because Farida was indeed a special child to me.
On several occasions when I am driving, I have had to park and cry for several minutes because the thought of losing her in such a way is very painful.
“Though government has sealed the house and plans to demolish it from what I hear, it will never be enough to bring her back to life. All we want is for those behind this evil to be punished,” he said before finally succumbing to his emotions. He wept like a little child.
Like heartbroken Sulaiman, Mr. Ernest Nmezuwuba is yet to recover from the shock of losing his eight-year-old daughter, Chikamso, to a ritual killer – Ifeanyi Dike – in the Obio-Akpo Local Government Area of Rivers State, on August 19, 2017.
Opening the day with the usual morning prayers, the father of four, together with his household, were looking forward to another great day in their Eliozu neighbourhood where they had lived for several years.
A well-known herbal medicine practitioner, the Imo State-born Nmezuwuba had left the house later that morning in search of ‘daily bread’ for the family, while his wife also headed for her shop opposite their compound.
But by the evening of that day, their joy was cut short after 23-year-old Dike, an undergraduate of the University of Port Harcourt and a long-time neighbour, committed the most unimaginable act against them.
Luring little Chikamso into his apartment under the pretext of sending her on an errand, the young man defiled and hacked her to death before removing vital organs from her body for money rituals. His cover was blown open when local vigilantes caught him while attempting to dump the victim’s corpse at a refuse heap.
For the entire household, the days following that incident have been filled with plenty of grief.
“Many times I tell myself that this must be a nightmare and not reality,” the bereaved father said during a telephone conversation with our correspondent on Wednesday morning.
“To believe and accept that my innocent daughter was killed just like that is too painful to take. She was very brilliant and told me on several occasions that she was going to be famous and bring happiness to us.
She was very good at gymnastics and could have brought glory to us and Nigeria in the future but evil people just cut short her life.
“It is even more painful that the person who killed and planned to use her vital organs for money rituals was a neighbour, someone who attended the same church with us and was even in the choir.
He was a teacher in a school close to our house before he gained admission to the University of Port Harcourt and my daughter used to call him uncle since she also attended the school. There was no sign that he could do such a thing because he was well behaved and quite reserved.
“I used to gift Ifeanyi clothes and several other things, yet he killed my daughter for his evil desire. He said one man named Ugochukwu promised to make him rich if he could get those items. He said it was the man who lured him into the act.
Immediately he killed my daughter, he sent Ugo a text message to hint him of a job well done. The guy replied and told him to bring the organs removed from my daughter’s body to an agreed location the next day.
But it’s heartbreaking to know that same person after being arrested later escaped from police custody.
“It has been a terrible period for me and my family, I must confess. In fact, my family and I have been in hiding since then because we don’t know the plan of the ritualists especially now that the main culprit, Ifeanyi, has escaped from police custody.
A lot of times, I switch off my phone because I am afraid for my safety and that of my family,” he said.
Dike was re-arrested in Jos, Plateau State, on Thursday by the police after weeks on the run.
Sadly, Sulaiman and Nmezuwuba are not the only ones whose spirits are shattered after the loss of their loved ones to ritualists – they are in fact among a growing number of Nigerians whose family members and friends have continued to fall to the killer blows of these blood-suckers, who appear to be on the prowl.
From Lagos to Abuja, Calabar to Enugu, Kaduna to Ilorin and to the uttermost parts of the country, the past few weeks and months have been periods of ritual killings of alarming proportions.
For example, the Police in Osun State on September 5, 2017, arrested an herbalist, Adeniyi Adeyeye, in Ife North Local Government Area for possessing a fresh human skull. Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. Fimihan Adeoye, while parading the suspect, revealed that he was arrested following a tip-off.
This was shortly before another herbalist, Babatunde Awolola, 39, was found with two human hands and arrested by the police. Confessing to the crime, he said he bought the human parts from one Olakanmi at the sum of N10,000.
The month of August 2017 perhaps witnessed the many cases of ritual killings in the country as ‘blood-suckers’ unleashed their venom to the fullest, targeting both young and old. In Lagos for instance, pockets of ritualists’ dens were uncovered along the busy Lagos/Abeokuta Expressway, sending fear down the spines of many across the fast-paced city.
The highway connecting various towns like Oshodi, Ikeja, Iyana-Ipaja and Sango-Ota in Ogun State, had been the abode for persons specialised in the act of using human parts for ritual purposes. The bubble burst on perpetrators of the evil act when a street sweeper allegedly heard the voice of a female crying for help right from inside the drainage canals buried underneath the road. The discovery led to a plethora of other shocking findings along the axis.
That same month in Cross River State, an irate mob razed down a branch of Parish of Royal God’s Commandment Ministry International after an 18-month-old girl, Success Ime, was discovered to have been killed for ritual purpose in the place
General Overseer of the church, Anthony Obo, and six others were arrested after an organ suspected to be the toddler’s kidney was found in the place.
Giving insight into how the little girl fell victim to the crime, her grandmother, Arit, revealed that she was snatched from their apartment at about 3:00am by two masked men, who broke in, brandishing dangerous weapons.
“They told us to lie face down or we would be shot,” she recalled painfully.“Initially, we thought they were robbers not knowing that they came for my little girl, who was just one year and six months old.
“They took off with her, after which we raised the alarm. In the process, some of our neighbours made phone calls to the police and one of them was apprehended. Part of the items we were told that were discovered included a fresh heart of a little child and we have no doubt that it is hers,” she added.
Also in August, the police in Ondo State arrested three suspects in connection with the alleged kidnap and killing of two female students of the Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo, for ritual purposes.
Public Relations Officer of the command, Mr. Femi Joseph, revealed that the arrest of a robbery suspect in Ondo town led to the discovery of the remains of the missing students whose body parts were used for rituals.
“After series of interrogation, the suspects confessed to dismembering the bodies of the victims for ritual purposes, and they took us to where they buried one of the victims. On getting there, we found the body was already decomposing,” Joseph said.
In neighbouring Osun, ritual killers also registered their presence in the month of August, hacking and dismembering many residents of the ancient city, spreading fear and confusion in the process. Recently, killers of a final year student Osun State University, Timilehin Shonibare, were paraded by the police after their arrest.
The culprits, who conspired and hit the victim with a mortar on the head before beheading him and cutting off his hands for ritual purpose, confessed to the crime after being caught. Adeoye, the police boss in the state, said that they were adopting intelligence gathering as part of a new approach to stemming the tide of ritual killings in Osun.
“We are thoroughly exploring intelligence gathering approach, prosecution of arrested culprits to frontally tackle the increasing cases of ritual killings in the state.
“We believe that timely arrest and prosecution of arrested suspects would serve as deterrent to anybody contemplating ritual killings,” Adeoye said.
Troubled by the situation, residents of Osogbo, the capital, and environs embarked on a protest to the palace of the paramount ruler of the city, the Ataoja of Osogbo, Oba Jimoh Olanipekun, to register their displeasure. For them, something drastic had to be done to stop ritual killings before they all fall victim.
“We are now living in fear. Our children are not free anymore.
Just a few days ago, a man was caught after turning a resident to a snake at the Tanishi area of Osogbo. Also, in our market at Olu-Ode on the 26th of July, a man escaped after being suspected of trying to abduct a boy in the market. This is getting out of hand and we can’t take it anymore,” one of the demonstrators, Olanike Ajibola, said.
Ogun State had a taste of this rising trend in crime when on August 16, 2017, a 67-year-old pastor, Samuel Babatunde, and three others were arrested in Ota by policemen following the discovery of human parts buried under his church.
Commissioner of Police in the state, Ahmed Iliyasu, while parading the men revealed that the discovery followed the arrest of a suspected kidnapper known as Jeremiah Adeola, who specialised in abducting and killing children to supply to people.
“The floor of the church was dug as described by the first suspect and parts suspected strongly to be that of humans were found,” he said.
Earlier this year, ritual killings took a troubling dimension in the Ikorodu part of Lagos when a ruthless cult group known as Badoo took the act to alarming levels. Sneaking into victims’ apartments in the dead of the night, they crush life out of their targets by hitting them with heavy stones on the head before wiping the blood off with a white handkerchief laced with charm.
Each of the handkerchiefs, according to those later arrested for the act, was sold for about N500, 000. Before police authorities in Lagos finally managed to contain the group, more than 40 people had been killed while dozens of residents fled their homes – some yet to return to the community.
But while the entry of Badoo into the ritual killing scene in Nigeria shook many down to their marrows and still dispenses fear in many developing towns across Lagos and neighbouring Ogun State, it comes nowhere near the infamous and evil Otokoto reign in Eastern Nigeria.
The deadly group, led by Vincent Duru shot to global prominence in September 1996 when it gruesomely murdered an 11-year-old boy, Ikechukwu Okoronkwo, in Owerri, Imo State, for ritual purposes.
The victim, a groundnut seller, was lured into a highbrow hotel known as Otokoto and belonging to Duru before being behe@ded.
Vital organs were removed from his body and his head was being taken to one Chief Leonard Unaogu by a 32-year-old man known as Innocent Ekeanyanwu when the bubble burst on them.
Alerted by a commercial motorcyclist, who noticed blood dripping from the polythene bag carried by Ekeanyanwu, the police moved in and arrested him. News of the boy’s killing sparked violence all across Owerri with residents attacking and destroying anything or property linked to Duru and his accomplices. Bodies were subsequently exhumed from the premises of the hotel after a thorough search by the police.
Twenty years after their arrest, the hangman’s noose was eventually tightened around the neck of Duru and his gang members in November 2016. Echoes of their atrocities continue to reverberate across the country.
According to investigations by Saturday PUNCH, while most of the ritual killings have largely been to make perpetrators rich, some others are done to fortify such individuals spiritually.
An herbalist in the Mushin area of Lagos, Yekini Adeoti, said he gets all sorts of requests from people for him to do money rituals and spiritual fortification with human parts but turns them down because he does not want to soil his good name with evil.
“There is hardly any week that I don’t get these types of requests from people seeking quick riches and spiritual powers but I let them know I am not into such and also advise them against it. I have been an herbalist for over 20 years but I cannot explain why all of a sudden in recent times, these requests have risen.
“What I know about herbs and roots is for healing people, I do not get involved in unnecessary things and will not encourage others to do so,” he said.
More than a handful of persons arrested for ritual killings in recent times have attributed their action to hardship and their desire to break free from poverty. Going by the litany of such acts and desperation among Nigerians in recent times, some of these reasons might indeed not be unconnected with this rising trend. One of the biggest economies in the developing world, Nigeria has faced series of socio-economic crisis in recent times, plunging her into recession in 2016.
Apart from the hundreds of companies and businesses that closed shop all across the country, job losses became a daily phenomenon in the nation.
Even though the Federal Government on Tuesday announced that Nigeria had officially exited recession, the worst in more than two decades, the level of hardship across the country is still very high, especially with many individuals and households unable to afford basic needs like food.
Recently, Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, revealed that about 110 million Nigerians were still living below the poverty line. This is made more troubling by the number of citizens, who remain unemployed all across the country. Though officially pegged at around 60 million, experts argue that the real figure could be far higher.
According to seasoned security expert, Dr. Ona Ekhomu, while striving to fix the economy and get things working again, the government through the police authorities must quickly establish a Special Ritual Murder Squad in various state commands as one of the ways of curbing the rising trend of ritual killings in the country.
“The conscience of Nigerians should be troubled by reports of recent ritual murders including that of one-year-old Success lme in Calabar whose heart was ripped out from her small body for ritual purposes and was discovered in a church along with other items for occult rituals.
“There is also the case of Pastor Samuel Okpara in Ahoada East LGA of Imo State who was kidnapped, killed and cannibalised by ritualists. The pastor was reportedly beheaded and his liver and intestines used for pepper soup and plantain porridge.
“Economic recession in the land is not a licence to commit ritual murder. Impunity encourages ritualists to commit murders because they believe they will not be apprehended or punished. I advise Nigerians against late night outings because if a vehicle breaks down, one could fall victim of kidnap by ritualists.
“Commuters should always write down the identification markings of public conveyance vehicles which they board and make phone calls to loved ones to pass on the information,” he said.
Sociologist, Ben Akinbo, told Saturday PUNCH that until the society creates an atmosphere for all citizens to strive and earn decent living, people will continue to embrace all sorts of means to survive even if it entails killing a fellow human.
According to him, showing more commitment to the plight of the masses by leaders across the country would help reduce the level of poverty and further take peoples’ minds off heinous crimes such as ritual killings.
“Our society as is currently structured is a crimogenic one because it automatically allows crime to thrive. The society is not providing a level playing for everybody to compete and that is why those who think they are not favoured will go any length to display their frustration.
“Even though killing fellow humans for ritual purposes is not entirely new in this part of the world, we would all agree that it had assumed a fearsome dimension in recent times especially since the country’s economy fell into crisis.
“One of the ways I think the society can deal with this problem is for the leaders to take the welfare of the citizens more seriously by providing jobs, infrastructure and basic amenities that make life worthwhile.
“Also a re-appraisal of our value system must be done. The emphasis on wealth as the symbol of success in life must be eradicated.
Our people must be made to understand that life is not all about chasing money, there is more to it. We must critically look at this angle if we are really sincere about restoring some sanity in our society,” he said.
Culled from


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