BY EVELYN USMAN & BOSE ADELAJA
LAGOS— A ritualists’ den was, yesterday, uncovered at Ogolonto area of Ikorodu Lagos, with at least eight victims, said to have been kidnapped from different parts of the country, rescued.
One of the victims, a 52-year‑old man, who identified himself simply as Onwurah, alleged that his wife had a hand in his kidnap, saying he had spent two years in the enclave.
The den was uncovered following a foiled attempt by a mother of four to take one of her victims, a seven year‑old boy, to the den.
Vanguard gathered that the woman identified as Mrs Rosemary Chukwu, who resides at 33, Omologede Street, behind C&S Primary School, allegedly abducted the seven-year‑old primary school pupil, Emmanuel Emeka, on his way to fetch water from a public well at about 6.30 a.m.
Chukwu was alleged to have kept the boy inside her toilet and engaged her four children in a prayer session, apparently to prevent her co‑tenants from hearing the abducted boy’s cry for help.
How Emeka was rescued
Meanwhile, back in the abducted boy’s home, located four buildings from his captors, his mother became apprehensive over his unusual delay. She was said to have raised alarm which caused residents to conduct a search round the neighborhood for Emeka.
Eye witnesses told Vanguard that Chukwu even went out and suggested areas where the search party could search for the missing boy. She was said to have been sighted with a suitcase on her head, accompanied by her children.
An eye witness, who gave his name as Oyetoye Gbemi, said: “She told us she was travelling to the village. But one of the area boys who was among the search party, ordered his colleagues to search the box.
“Immediately she heard that, she flung the box away and took to her heels. We all suspected something was amiss. When the box was opened, Emmanuel was found inside, half dead.
“The area boys descended on her and stripped her naked. On interrogation, she said her pastor, the General Overseer of Holy Family Ministry a.k.a House of Mercy, asked her to bring the boy.
“The area boys followed her to 319, Lagos Road, Ikorodu, where the church is situated, where they saw her pastor waiting for her. But on sighting the crowd, he took to his heels.
“But for the arrival of Policemen from Owutu division, the woman would have been lynched. The angry mob also attempted to set the church ablaze but were also prevented by the policemen. They, however, succeeded in torching some parts of the property.”
Ritualists’ den uncovered
When Vanguard arrived the scene, a crowd had gathered, giving varying accounts of what happened.
But to the astonishment of all, another building alleged to be used for ritual purposes by Pastor Ernest Nwankwo was discovered.
The building located at 7, Oshodi Street, was behind the church. It was gathered that some miscreants uncovered the building while they were chasing the fleeing pastor.
The mob was said to have forced some apartments in the building open, where they found an undisclosed number of persons in chains.
The victims were said to have recounted how they were kidnapped from Anambra, Bayelsa, Ogun and Oyo states at different times. One of them, according to eye witnesses, who pleaded anonymity, said she was kidnapped 11 years ago.
According to an eyewitness, “the woman said she is about 50 years old and that she was kidnapped along the Lagos/Ibadan expressway while returning from a vigil.
“The rest were males and were wearing briefs. They looked haggard and tired. The area boys set them free when they opened the apartments. I believe some of them should be with the police.
“There were also ‘Ghana must go’ bags of currencies . The area boys looted some of the things they met before the arrival of the Police.”
I was abducted from Anambra 2 yrs ago
When Vanguard visited the den, there were bloodstains around the building and a particular apartment where those alleged to be in chains were kept, was opened up. The apartment was dark and was littered with dirty cutlery suspected to have been used to feed the victims. There was also a bowl which contained suspected human blood.
A 52 year‑old man seen in chains told Vanguard that he was kidnapped two years ago from Anambra State. He said he used to be a commercial bus driver before he was abducted and brought to Lagos.
“The man said he could not join others to escape because the key to his chain could not be found. When he was asked if Pastor Ernest was responsible for his abduction, he charged at him, saying: “Do not call him a pastor. He is not. He is a killer and a ritualist.”
A community leader in the area who identified himself as Alfa Olajide Odeji, told Vanguard that the building on Oshodi Street was always under lock and key. He said there were unusual movements there at night. His claim was collaborated by another community leader who gave his name as Elder Sikiru Odebowale.
Efforts to reach the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, Ngozi Braide failed. However, Police sources confirmed that the female suspect was in Police custody and that the seven-year‑old boy had been taken to a hospital. His condition could, however, not be ascertained. Also, Pastor Ernest Nwankwo was said to be on the run.