If you think that the unlawful chaining of Korede Taiwo, a nine-year-old boy by his pastor father for allegedly stealing a piece of meat from his step mother’s pot of soup for about a month without food in Ogun State is a new thing in Nigeria, then you are on your own. Many innocent children are daily subjected to such cruel fate in the country. Nigerians have, indeed, had more than their fair share of tragedies in recent times. Of late, stories of isolated acts of uncontrolled lawlessness and violence abound in the country.
Like a scripted drama rolled out of the make-believe world of science fiction, detectives from the Criminal Investigation Department, CID, of the Oyo State Police Command a few years ago reportedly discovered an illegal detention camp located at Jagun Compound of Ile-Tuntun area of Ibadan, the Oyo State capital. This had led to the discovery of about 29 other illegal detention camps and graves across the State. In several of these camps, inmates are allegedly subjected to all kinds of inhuman treatments including murder, whipping with cane, starvation, assault, depriving victims of their liberty, rape, abortion and administering noxious substances on victims, etcetera.
It was discovered that, under the cover of operating a spiritual centre or an Arabic school, some of these illegal and mysterious detention camps, have existed since the past 30 years. Nigerians must bemoan this sickening development and condemn with elan the dereliction of responsibilities of Nigerian authorities to protect the lives of the Nigerian people. The sheer brutality of the act and the proliferation of the centres can best be described as mind-boggling.
The dehumanising incident of chaining Nigerians in both legs and hands, subjecting them to torture and creating illegal burial grounds for dead victims show in large and tearful measure the bestial display of man’s inhumanity to man. Coming on the heels of rising cases of horrendous ritual killings across the country these illegal detention camps and graves have further exposed the soft underbelly of Nigeria’s various security organisations such as the National Intelligence Agency, the Department of State Security, the Directorate of Military Intelligence and the Nigeria Police Force.
It is worrisome because the incidence of unexplained murders has been on the increase within the last few years; and some have even explained these murders and criminal tendencies in term of their linkage with rituals.
To now use religion as a departure point for such acts of sacrilege, especially in these times and clime, is most condemnable. The benumbing account of the startling discovery of the camps as presented by the then Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG, in charge of the Oyo State Command, is most revealing and poignant: “The police discovered that a lot of Nigerians were being detained unlawfully for many years in the illegal detention arena in an important city like Ibadan that is full of learned people. Some of the victims were tortured to death and buried without reporting them to the police. The ladies among them became sex machines for the people living in the place”.
It is not particularly convincible that rituals, abominable as they are, or even religious training, will sufficiently account for a practice that has almost become a norm in the country.
As I write, it is almost undeniable that the various ethnic militia organisations and cult gangs have their respective detention camps. With the hindsight of the saga and its predecessors such as the Otokoto experience of the late 1990s, the nation must be alerted on the probable existence of a powerful syndicate that traffics in the vital organs of the human body. Only in 1996, just as Nigerians were pondering over the Otokoto saga, Brazilians faced the rude shock of the existence of a network of exporters of human parts in their country. It is not unlikely that a similar network now exists in Nigeria. As a nation, we must nudge our sense of humanity into the realisation of the danger that this sacrilegious practice portend for our society.
The sad discovery of illegal detention camps in Oyo State is a tragic experience and an indictment on our society and government. Yet, ten years down the road, nothing has been heard about it. If about 30 illegal detention camps are unveiled in Oyo State alone, how many of such places exist across the country? For long, we have treated the issue of public safety with levity, leaving a majority of our people open to avoidable dangers.
Perhaps, if there had been proper policing of the neighbourhood, Alfa Abdul-Ganiyu Imoniyi Olaniyi, the prime suspect and owner of one of the illegal camps could probably not have operated freely unnoticed for 25 years. It is also lamentable that our society which traditionally cherishes the sanctity of the human life is gradually becoming a “war theatre” where human life is disgustingly devalued. But we must collectively work to restore sanity to our society in order to restitute this pristine value.
Government must put in place the necessary machinery to apprehend those who dubiously manipulate the society under the guise of religion. Only the absence of such a monitoring mechanism can embolden people to embark on such heinous enterprises. The Nigerian State has for long repudiated the article of the Peace of Westphalia which roundly empowers the State to have an incontestable monopoly of the means of violence, intimidation and suppression. A stitch in time sometimes saves more than nine.
Mr. Dan Amor, a journalist and public affairs analyst, wrote in from Abuja.