By Ifeanyi Okolie
Residents of Orile Iganmu, a suburb of Lagos State have been thrown into disarray following reports of desperate search for 24 human heads allegedly by some traditional religious worshippers in the area, to appease their gods before a gigantic tree standing on the marked portion of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, could be cut down.
It was learntÂ that the Iroko tree which existence dates back to the history of the Orile-Iganmu indigenes hasÂ served as a protector for the people.Â It is believed that many indigenes of the area worship the tree and see it as their protector against all evils especially, during the wars in the days of yore.
In recent time, a lot of people were seen performing rituals at the root of the tree which has a reddish and whitish band around it. Some times, the stem of the tree would be seen with blood stains whose origin remains a puzzle to all.
However, recently when Lagos State bulldozers and caterpillars swung into action following widely reported demolition of buildings and all structures along Lagos-Badagry Expressway to give way for the construction of a 10-lane expressway, the bulldozers got stuck at the base of the tree.
Crime Alert learnt that as soon as they got to the base of the tree after demolishing all the buildings around it, a large number of traditional worshippers besieged the area and confronted them.Â Â The crowd warned thatÂ they should not cut the Iroko tree unless they perform the traditional offerings required by their gods which they said included the presentation of 24 human heads for sacrifice.
Based on this, the operators of the bulldozers were said to have stopped work at the site and continued from other areas pending when the issue would be resolved.
As soon as they stoppedÂ work, news of the search for 24 human heads for sacrifice spread like wild fire in Orile and its environs forcing residents and passers-bye to panic.Â It was gathered that following this development, some residents fled to their friends and relations living outside the area.Â The bizzare story has also reduced the usually heavy traffic-hold up in the area at night while shop owners now lock up their stores immediately it is 7pm.
Some panic-strickenÂ traders who do not want to be mentioned alleged that the traditional worship-pers may have started the processes involved in the search for human heads pointing out that many people now avoid Orile bus stop immediately it is after 7pm.
According to the traders, the fetish exercise has affected their trade as they no longer stay inÂ their stalls as long as they used to for the fear of being harmed.Â Â â€œEven our usually profitable night trading has abruptly stopped due to the fact that customers no longer show up at night for fear of being made victims of the human sacrificeâ€, they stated.
A commercial motorcyclist popularly called Okada (name withheld) who resides in Orile-Iganmu told Crime Alert that since he received the news, he has stopped working late at night. â€œ I used to work very late at night because my houseÂ is closeÂ but since I got this news,Â I have stopped working.Â Â Â I have decided to close at 7 pmÂ andÂ return to my wife and children waiting for me.Â Â I cannot afford to risk my life for nothing.Â Â Nobody knows when the people looking for human heads would strike.
So, I and some other colleagues have stopped working at nightâ€, he said.Â Â Â Â Also a middle aged widow with three young children who is a fruitÂ trader whose stall is locatedÂ under the pedestrian bridgeÂ told Crime AlertÂ that she would have preferred taking her children out of theÂ area until the Oro is over.Â Â â€œ I donâ€™t know how to explain thisÂ but it is very terrible sinceÂ we heard that the Omo-Onile are looking for 24 human heads for sacrifice.Â Â Â For me, once it is seven Oâ€™clock, I donâ€™t want any body to harm me or my children,Â I willÂ pack my stalls and carry my children back to our house.
We donâ€™tÂ knowÂ who these people are and I donâ€™t even want to know them and I have alsoÂ called all my relationsÂ not to come aroundÂ for the time being . We donâ€™t know how long this Oro will last. The reason whyÂ I still come outÂ is thatÂ my husband is dead and I have nobody to takeÂ care of myÂ childrenâ€.
But some othersÂ who reacted to the story described it as â€˜mere rumour being spread by ungodly people who knew nothing of what is going on in Orile-Iganmuâ€˜.Â AÂ Prophet, (name withheld) who resides along, Savage Street, Orile Iganmu said the traditional worshippers carried out someÂ sacrifices last year and they were informed that it was for the tree. â€œ I saw three naked women carrying calabash filled with fetish substances, on thatÂ day they were celebratingÂ their festival. During the sacrifice, they killed a lot of animals and their blood was sprinkled on the tree.
The women danced round the tree and a large crowd gathered around them. When we inquired what the sacrifice was meant for, we were told that the Lagos State Government is planning to expand this road and expanding the road will affect the tree.Â Â Â So, they were trying to remove the spirit that was inside the tree that was why they carried out the sacrifice.Â Since then, I have not heard of any other sacrifice again because my house is not far
from the tall tree.
But now I have been hearing stories that the traditional worshippers are looking for 24 human heads to performÂ sacrifice to the tree.Â Â I considered it a lie.Â I have been in this area since I was born and myÂ grand mother is some howÂ related to the Orile -Iganmu family. So, I think I am familiar with little of the Orile-Iganmu historyâ€.
On its part, it was gathered that though the Police in the area did not succumb to the rumour which they considered â€˜superstitious’,Â they nevertheless have intensified security in the major streets considered prone to such attacks.Â Â Â It was learnt that Police authorities have embarked on a 24-hour foot and motor patrol in all the nooks and crannies of the area with a view to re-assuring the residents that they have nothing to fear.
When Crime Alert visited the palace of the Bale of Orile Iganmu, heavy presence of policemen was noticed and all efforts made to speak with anybody from the palace failed.Â Â It was however gathered that the presence of the policemen may be in connection with a recent court judgement on the ownership of the area and not because of the rumour of human sacrifice.
The contentious tree was however seen standing conspicuously amidst the rubbles of demolished buildings and other structures.Â So far, Police sources said they have not received report of any missing person in the area.