BY EVELYN USMAN & EBUN SESSOU
Looking curiously as this reporter approached her make-shift restaurant around J4 , Aketegbo community in Seme Badagry area of Lagos two weeks ago, mama Rilwan as she is popularly called, stood up from her seat, apparently thinking the stranger had come to patronize her.’ ki lefe ra?(what do you want to buy ?) she asked.
But when this writer disclosed her mission, the seeming expectation on her face dropped, giving way to a sad expression of a memory she never wishes to recall. She immediately beckoned on two teenagers later discovered to be her children to take over the stand while she went inside the shop, with this reporter following with caution.
After a long silence accompanied with a long stare at this reporter, she said: “ I recognize you now. You were here in 2007 when the incident that threw my entire life upside down occurred. My son, Rilwan would have been 20 years this month (June), had he not been sent to an early grave by my neighbor. He was my first child and also my back bone”.
Tried as she could to control her emotion as she spoke, her strength failed her. Tears trickled down her cheeks.
All was going on well for the food vendor until September 1, 2007, when her son , Rilwan , was reported missing. Three days later, his remains were found with the throat slashed, signifying that he could have been a victim of ritual killing which was said to be common in the area.
Accusing finger was pointed at one Muyideen Salam whose shop was close to the deceased’s mother’s place. He was said to have been seen with the deceased before his disappearance. After much persuasion which took a brutal dimension, Muyideen confirmed everyone’s fears, by confessing that he killed Rilwan and used his blood for money ritual.
In an interview with Sunday Vanguard at the State Criminal Investigation Department, Yaba , seven years ago (published October 7, 2007)the then 35 year-old Muyideen gave a chilling account of how he gruesomely murdered the teenager and drained his blood, with the help of his friend, one Nuru.
Strange as this sounded, Muyideen disclosed that he was sent to get the blood of a virgin by a herbalist with which to prepare the concoction he would use to bath for nine days, after which he would become rich.
But he never lived to see his devilish wish come true ,even though he succeeded in killing the teenager. This was as a result of his arrest by policemen at Seme division . He was convicted for murder.
Muyideen’s startling confession was, no doubt, a reflection of a society that is fast becoming bestial. Killing of human beings for rituals or whatever reason, dates back to the ancient times when people used to appease the gods of the land with human blood and for the purpose of winning wars. Twins, who were considered an abomination, were killed until its abolition through Mary Slessor’s missionary works.
One would have expected that such pseudoscience should rather be imagined than witnessed in Nigeria in this 21st century, when other countries of the world are experimenting and advancing in technology. More baffling is the fact that some Nigerians still indulge in such superstitious process of ritual killings in spite of the escalation of religious groups across the country as well as the exposure of majority of the populace to education and Western culture.
Sadly, even some acclaimed high and mighty indulge in ritual killings. Some politicians and government officials have been accused by arrested suspects (and herbalists), alleging that they use human beings for rituals in order to sustain their affluence as well as to remain in power. Records also show that cases of ritual killings and subsequent disappearance of persons are usually on the increase whenever elections are around the corner.
In Lagos state for instance, about fifteen cases of kidnap attempts have reportedly been recorded in the last four months. One of the foiled attempts was at Ori-oke, in Ejigbo local council development area, two months ago, where a woman who kidnapped two primary school pupils was heard describing them as goods to an unknown person on the phone.
The saddest part of this evil act is that hundreds of victims of ritual murders only get mentioned as missing persons. While some manage, by sheer stroke of providence to escape the slaughters’ slab, others never live to share their ordeal with any person.
Investigation by Saturday Vanguard revealed that agents of these vampires who hide in forests and other unknown places are spread across the country, lying in wait like a hungry lion for their preys. Majority of their victims are innocent school children, poor street hawkers, commercial sex workers, stranded visitors and unsuspecting commuters.
Watch out for these black spots
Investigation carried out by Saturday Vanguard showed that black spots where these agents prowl include areas like Otta, Ibafo and Mowe , all in Ogun state, Epe, Ikorodu, Shagamu Road Isheri/Olowo Ira,Cele Express along Oshodi/Apapa Expressway, Badagry axis, Ikeja, Toyota Bus-stop, Mile Two, Ajah,all in Lagos State; Lagos / Ibadan Express Road; Lagos/Benin by-pass in Edo State; Igwurita ,Rumuokoro in Port Harcourt, Rivers state; Ilorin/Oro Road in Kwara state; Lokoja, Abuja Highway in Kogi State and River Kaduna. Other areas are bush paths, markets, lonely environments, hotels and brothels, popular bus stopovers or terminals, and other hot spots across the country.
Some of these agents, most times disguise as lunatics. A typical case in mind was that Clifford Orji who was arrested under the bridge at Toyota Bus-stop along Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Lagos with human parts in 2001.He confessed to be selling human parts to prominent Nigerians who undoubtedly used them for ritual purposes. The amazing thing about this peculiar case was the fact that Orji who later died while in Prison custody, was presumed a lunatic. Unknown to passers-by, he only masqueraded as a mad man in order to achieve his sinister motives.
Investigations further revealed that one of their ways is to attack job seekers. They print fliers for recruitment. Some even go the extra mile to advertise for vacancies in national dailies. They then send text messages or email to applicants, informing that they have been listed for the job and will be invited for interviews. In many cases, hotels turn out to be the venues for the interviews. At this point, if the prospective applicant gets to the designated hotel, he/she will reportedly be hypnotized and thereafter taken to the slaughter’s slab which is usually in the bush or some remote places. At other times, an applicant will be informed that the venue for interview has changed on reaching the hotel, from where they will provide a vehicle, which unknown to the applicants, have been sprayed with substance that automatically puts them to sleep.
Barely four months ago, Nigerians received with shock, news of a den in Soka village, Oluyole Local Government area of Oyo state, where about 20 corpses, majority of which were declared missing by their relatives were found and 18 victims were rescued. From all indications, it was obvious that the den has been existing for long before it was uncovered, following a heap of victims’ clothes. One of the rescued victims was reported to have said he was kidnapped in Ogun while attending an interview.
The most celebrated ritual killing in the recent past was the notorious Otokoto saga in Owerri, Imo State where a businessman belonging to a cult was alleged to have used his apprentice for ritual. The boy’s corpse was later exhumed at the premises of Otokoto Hotel. It exposed many other bizarre acts in hotels.
Investigation shows that female parts are more in demand than their male counterparts. This is because of what was described as the potency of some parts like the breasts and lower private parts in money rituals and other purposes by herbalists and occult groups.
Virgins and babies on the other hand are also reportedly used by some politicians and government officials for ritual purposes as their blood is said to be used to elongate the user’s life span as well as fortify them against spiritual attacks.
Security hints at Saturday’s Vanguard’s disposal reveal that sometimes, these ‘celebrities’ employ the services of some restaurant owners, hotel operators and their trusted domestic workers to get them virgins who are subsequently murdered for ritual purposes. Majority of girls who have fallen prey to these death traps were discovered to be secondary school students as well as those in tertiary institutions as they were at the initial stage carried away by money and expensive gifts from their assailants.
A particular case in mind was that of a South-West politician alleged to have been caught by his driver with a dissected day-old baby whose blood he was drinking. The incident as reported two years ago, occurred inside a bush, while the driver was taking his boss (names withheld) to a purported function. Half way into the journey, the politician was said to have ordered his driver to pull over.
He thereafter, alighted and headed for a bush with a promise to be back. Having waited without any sight of his boss, the ignorant and curious driver reportedly went in search for him,only to meet him stark naked and pouring the blood of a dissected baby into his mouth. Barely two weeks later, the driver reportedly died under mysterious circumstance. The event that occurred before his death was related by a Pastor friend whom the deceased confided in before his demise.
The lust for money and power drives these people into ritual killings.
While some kill to achieve this unfathomable dream, others resort to digging graves and removing needed human parts for ritual purpose. Saturday Vanguard scooped that most guards at cemeteries connive with agents to sell human parts.
It was learnt that if a fresh human head is needed, an agent will contact some cemetery workers ahead. In this case, the cemetery official will be on the look out for fresh dead bodies, preferably those of Muslims who are usually buried within 24 hours after death. Immediately the body is interred, cemetery worker will exhume the body at night, cut off the needed parts and place the body back in the grave.
Human parts for sale
Those who patronize cemetery officials are usually herbalists, herbal traders and even prominent Nigerians who usually use middle men. Surprisingly, human parts are sold in some markets in Nigeria. We gathered that a fresh human head could go for N60,000 and above, while a skull is sold for N20,000. Fresh legs are sold for N30,000 each while a decomposed leg is sold for N20,000. A fresh finger is sold for N5,000 each while the decomposed is sold for 3,000. Fresh intestines are sold for N20,000 while dry ones are sold for N5000. Pieces of fresh bones are sold for N2,000 and above.
Five months ago, the Oyo State Police Command, arrested a Muslim cleric, one Alfa Gbolagade Dauda Ileanwo, in Agbaje area of Ibadan with three human skulls and charms. The suspect, according to the command, confessed that he had been in the trade for ten years. Though he claimed to be using the human parts for concoctions to assist sterile women, his accomplice, Saheed Azeez, countered the claim, stating rather that his boss was into money making rituals.
The command also arrested two other suspected ritual killers,Musa Dauda and Sango Olojo-Onile with a human head and two heel bones. During interrogation, Dauda revealed that the human parts were removed from a grave at Ojetete village, Kisi, for money ritual.
Olojo-Onile according to the command was arrested in April with a fresh head of a woman which still had cotton wool stuck inside the ears.
Also in Epe, the lifeless body of a 68-year-old man,Ade Lekuti, earlier declared missing was discovered at Owode, near Ogombo in Eti-Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State, with the head, hands and private organs cut off.
Surprisingly, the alleged killer was discovered to be his in-law, one Teju Rajimu. The suspect according to the deceased’s family, confessed to have given the missing parts to a herbalist who prepared concoction with them for him. The missing parts were reportedly pounded into powdery form and mixed with a greasy substance which was discovered in the suspect’s apartment.
Similarly, in Ilorin, the Kwara state capital, a three-man gang led by one Kamaru Yusuf allegedly beheaded one Omobola Moses at Ira, a village in Oyun Local Government Area. The deceased who was a niece to one of the suspects, was reportedly lured from her parents’ abode into a bush where her head was severed. The suspects, according to report, confessed that they took the head to a 52-year-old herbalist whose name they gave as Saliu Oyewole, for money ritual.
From the West to the East and North to the South , the story is same.
In Enugu state for instance, an evil forest suspected to be a den for killers was discovered in Igbo Eze North local government area with fresh and decomposing human parts littered all over,with vital parts of some bodies missing.
Report said the victims were taken to the forest and butchered by killers who then removed the vital parts needed for money-making rituals. Some prominent citizens of the state and environs were alleged to be patrons of herbalists and native doctors who perform rituals in the forest.
One of the mind bugling incidents was the discovery of another horror sight at the Okija shrine in Anambra state. The shrine achieved notoriety in 2004 when it was raided by the Anambra State Police Command ,where 50 decomposing or shrunken bodies and 20 human skulls were found. The shrine was also reportedly patronised by politicians. Till date, politicians still visit Okija shrine.
It is tragic enough that some Nigerians still believe in gaining power and making money through this practice. But more worrisome and astonishing is the use of loved ones, such as one’s parents, siblings and wives for this devilish purpose. One of such horrifying incidents occurred in Abia state, when a 26 year-old boy allegedly killed his mother for ritual. The suspect,Ebi Onu, who hailed from Igbere, Bende council area of the state, reportedly went to Nguzu Edda in Ebonyi State where he consulted a herbalist to make charms that would make him become rich. The herbalist was said to have asked Ebi to kill his mother and bring her private part which he said would be used to prepare concoction for him. He allegedly connived with three of his friends to lay ambush for his mother along a bush path and lured his mother into taking a walk with him along that route. On sighting them, his killer friends reportedly sprang out from their hiding and hacked Ebi’s mother to death after which they cut off her private part .
Worried by her disappearance, a search party with Ebi reportedly combed the vicinity for her without luck. Report said some of the residents said they saw the missing woman with her son and consequently Ebi was subjected to questioning and tortured by some youths until he allegedly owned up and took the youths to where he buried his mother at the bank of a river . The angry youths were said to have beaten him to death , thereby depriving him of living to see his inordinate ambition of becoming rich through ritual means.
In the same vein, residents of Bale Ilado village in Morogbo area of Lagos State were thrown into panic recently after a member of the community identified as Segun Adisa allegedly beheaded his own father for money ritual .
However, in his confessional statement to the Police, the suspect claimed that he had to strike first to prevent his father whom he claimed earlier took him to a shrine where he claimed there was an attempt to kill him for money ritual.
Again in Aba, a landlord was alleged to have killed his two children for ritual purpose. The landlord(names withheld) as gathered, dashed out of his three-storey building on Omenazu road in Aba, on sighting some policemen approaching. Policemen from the Abia state command who acted on tip off, were said to have swooped on the building and according to residents of the area , two unconscious children identified as his children were found inside one of the rooms transfixed.
Not too long ago in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory , the body of a lady was found in the boot of a Honda car with plate number AG 847 SUL belonging to an Abuja based businessman whose identity was given as Abdullai Ibrahim. The suspect was said to have been arrested by policemen on patrol while he was cleaning the blood stain on the back seat of the car. Preliminary investigation, according to police sources, revealed that the suspect slit the deceased’s throat with a knife for alleged ritual purpose.
In Kaduna state, three youths were reported in 2007 to have lured a 17 year-old sugarcane hawker, Ibrahim Shehu, to the outskirts of a village and strangled him. They were said to have been at the verge of removing his eyes when policemen that were alerted by a farmer swooped on them. The suspects, according to the Kaduna State Police Command, confessed to have wanted to pluck out the eyes for money ritual.
Same year in Ibafo area of Ogun state, a woman who managed to escape from a kidnappers den alerted policemen led by one Charles Ogenegbe, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, who stormed the hideout , where a shrine used as slaughter for human beings was discovered.
Also same year in Benue, a 77 year-old woman identified as Adiya Omachi was murdered in her farmland at Odaleko, along Ikachi Adum road. Not done , her assailants reportedly slashed her private parts, signifying they could be ritualists.
In Niger state, three persons were arrested by the police for allegedly beheading a 10-year-old boy in Amale Village, Kaffi-koro District, Paiko local government area of the state for ritual.
The deceased as gathered, was lured by one Salleh Ibrahim who took him on his motorcycle from Amale village to meet two of his other accomplices: Usman Sarki and Dantala Doma. During interrogation, Sarki told policemen that he was contracted by one Gajere to bring the boy’s head for money ritual. The lad’s headless body was reportedly found in Salleh’s residence while the head was found buried in a shallow grave near Erena in Shiroro local government, pending when they would take it to the herbalist.
If the startling confession of 20 year-old Agu Nwanu, who disclosed that he had so far killed twenty children for money rituals, all in his bid to ensure he does not end up like his poor father must be taken seriously, then all hands must be on deck to address this rising incident of ritual killings. Security operatives appear to be doing their best to curb these evil and very primitive rituals. But their best appears not to be enough as the menace is on the increase going by daily reports of these killings.
When the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, Ngozi Braide was contacted on the spate of ritual killings, she said about Lagos.
“I will disagree with you on the issue of ritual killing being on the increase in Lagos state. There has not been any of such since my assumption. Sometime last year and about two months ago ,we paraded some suspects for being in possession of human parts. The arrests were effected by men of the Special Anti Robbery Squad and the suspects were arrested from other states.
“During interrogation, we discovered they had same modus operandi. They always go to the grave yard to exhume corpses. It’s something they commit in connivance with the security men at the cemetery. And the buyers, comprising the native doctors and other persons will be there.
“Let me state here that the Police as security agents do not believe in mystics. We work with facts and physical evidence. So, when you say people indulge in rituals, we do not understand that language.
What we have also recorded are cases of persons suspected to be kidnappers who were attacked by the mob. It happened at Apapa, Iyana-Ipaja , Shahsha areas . In Shahsha, a man was sighted with a little child in his car and they accused him of wanting to use the child for money ritual and a mob attacked him, without giving him room to explain himself. But for the quick intervention of the traditional ruler of the area who contacted policemen, the man would have been lynched.
“On interrogation, it was discovered that parents of the child begged him to help drop the child in school and on the way, he started crying. We invited the parents who collaborated the claim. If they had killed him, the news would have been all over the place that a ritualist was mobbed.
“Another case was of an elderly woman at Ajegunle who was seen with a day old baby. Before you knew it, people rounded her up and started beating her, claiming she wanted to use the baby for ritual. The local government chairman contacted the police who rescued the woman who said she was the grandmother of the baby and that her daughter just gave birth but was in an unstable condition in the hospital. What we did was to invite the doctor of the hospital who collaborated her claim . The doctor said he advised the woman to take the baby home while they tried to stabilise the mother. I want to use this medium to advise Lagosians not to engage in mob actions.
“On our part, we have a lot of overt and covert policemen in strategic places in the state, considering the nature of security in the country right now. We have tried to cover up sensitive places like churches, schools, motor parks among other places and we have enough security men”