By Esther Onyegbula
In the last two years, ritual killings have been on the increase.
Although ritual crimes cut across almost all regions in the country, they are more pronounced in western and eastern states of Nigeria.
Every week, there are reports of one ritual killing or the other.
Some suspects are arrested and prosecuted while others arrested are not prosecuted as investigations are marred by lack of evidence or police compromise.
Last month, newspapers were awash with reports of how Favour Daley-Oladele, a final year student of Lagos State University,
LASU, who went missing on December 8, 2019, was killed allegedly by her boyfriend, Adeeko Owolabi, who was said to have connived with a self-acclaimed pastor, for ritual purpose in Osun State.
Owolabi and his mother allegedly engaged ‘Pastor’ Segun Philips to end Favour’s life in a gruesome manner.
The boyfriend allegedly tricked the victim from Lagos to Ikoyi-Ile, Osun State with the promise that he wanted her to meet his parents to approve their relationship.
But unknown to Favour, she was on her last journey on earth as she was led to the church where her head was smashed with a pestle allegedly by Owolabi and butchered by the ‘pastor’, who later removed her vital parts for money ritual.
Narrating how he killed the victim, Owolabi said, “I lured the deceased to Ikoyi-Ile and lodged her in a hotel before killing her. After I lodged her in a guest house, I took her to a house which I claimed to be my uncle’s house, but knowing that the place was a den of ritualists.
“I smashed a pestle on her head and she collapsed. The prophet thereafter used a knife and cutlass to dismember her body which was divided into breasts, head and legs and other vital parts.
“We buried the remaining parts of her body beside Prophet Philip’s Church called ‘Solution Salvation Chapel’, while some vital parts were given to my mother to eat for spiritual cleansing”.
Owolabi isn’t the first young man who has been arrested for killing his lover in recent past.
In 2018, Seidu Adeyemi killed and buried his girlfriend, Khadijat Oluboyo, the daughter of a former Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Mr Lasisi Oluboyo.
Adeyemi murdered Khadijat, a student of Adekunle Ajasin University, after inviting her to his house in July 2018.
After the killing, Adeyemi buried the deceased in his room for five days before he was exposed by his father who reported to the police.
At Ologbo, Ikpoba Okha local government area of Edo State in November 2018, a teenager, Akpobome Samuel, allegedly strangled his mother to death and had sex with her corpse for ritual.
According to Samuel, who was paraded by the police, “I acted on the instructions of a witch doctor who I contracted for money ritual.
“The voodoo doctor told me that after killing my mother, I should sleep with her corpse in order to get rich.
“That is why I complied with his instruction and killed her.
“I was caught by my grandmother who came to knock on the door having waited patiently for my mother to accompany her to church. She caught me having sex with my mother.
“The native doctor told me to kill my mother and sleep with her corpse, but he did not tell me the number of days to sleep with her.
“He told me to keep her dead body inside the room for two days but I was caught when I could no longer keep it.
“I did not know that my grandmother was sitting outside. She opened the door and sighted me on the corpse inside the room and raised the alarm that drew the attention of neighbours.
“My mother did not offend me. I killed her because of money”.
Apart from people using their loved ones for ritual, there are instances where innocent persons have been used for ritual purposes by people they didn’t know.
Recently, there was an allegation by some residents of Kwara State that some policemen in Adewole Police Division, Ilorin had been selling suspects detained at the station to ritual killers for N 80, 000 per person.
Although the state Commissioner of Police, Lawan Ado, said the allegation was false, the state Police Command redeployed policemen at the station.
Ado added that no one had come forward with information to indict any police officer at the station for selling suspects to ritual killers.
“But we have been redeploying the policemen there. More than half of them have now been transferred and, soon, the other half will be redeployed so that even if there is anybody who is involved – which no information has established – we will at least remove him from the area.”
But a frightening dimension was recorded in suspected cases of ritual killing in Ilorin last year when commercial motorcycle operators allegedly became targets of alleged ritualists.
Motorcyclists were said to have been lured into the Government Reservation Area (GRA) of the town by ritualists posing as passengers only to be mowed down by members of the group.
Apart from the commercial motorcyclists, no fewer than six women were killed by suspected ritualists in the area and their breasts removed.
In July 2019, a young man was caught at Corporation Estate, Mile 12, Lagos after he allegedly murdered a commercial sex worker and removed her private part.
Back to Ondo State, the killing of an 80-year-old woman, Mrs. Kojusola Mogaji, in Arigidi-Akoko, created panic in the community.
It incident got so scary so much so that Oba Yisa Olanipekun and the entire community embarked on interdenominational prayers and fasting, traditional rites while a vigilante group was raised to unravel ritual killings in the area.
Even the dead are not spared
It is not only the living that are gruesomely murdered and body parts harvested for ritual; the dead are also not allowed to rest in their graves as suspected ritual killers and skull miners exhume remains of dead people which are prepared for ritual.
Three young men, who were arrested by the Oyo State Police Command for being in possession of fresh human parts, confessed that their unbridled desires to get rich quick prompted them to get the body parts for money ritual.
The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Abiodun Odude, said the suspects were arrested after a tip-off by a member of the public.
Odude added that the suspects confessed to have removed the body parts from corpses at a Muslim cemetery in Isale General Area of Ogbomoso.
One of the suspects claimed this was his first attempt at using human parts for money ritual.
Another said: “We went to Isale General at Ogbomoso to exhume the bodies at about 8p.m. On our way back, two inquisitive boys, who accosted us on the road, demanded to know where the offensive odour was from. “We tried to deceive them, but they were insistent. So we had to run. They caught one of us before the police arrested us at our homes.
“We wanted to use the parts for money ritual. If we had succeeded in taking the corpses to our place, we would have dried and burnt them.
“After burning the parts, we will grind the same to powdery substance and mix some of it with soap to take our bath in the morning and to take pap at night.
“After we would have done this, some weird creatures, who we generally call demons, will bring money to us — usually at night.”
In another case reported in November 2019, a cemetery vault builder, Kazim Olarewaju, who worked at Okesuna Cemetery, Adeniji Adele area of Lagos island, revealed that he sold two human skulls for N12, 000.
Olarewaju, who was arrested by policemen attached to Adeniji Adele Division, alongside two other suspects, Muritala Salami and Amidu Kazeem, explained that this was the second time he was trading in human parts. Narrating how he got involved in the act, Olarenwaju said, “I work at Okesuna Cemetery. In September, Mr Muritala Salami and his relatives came to the cemetery to bury a relative.
“After the burial, he said I should help him to get a biscuit. I told him I didn’t know what he was talking about. He said it was a human skull.
“I told him immediately I couldn’t. He collected my telephone number and left but continued to call me till I bulged.
“Initially, I asked him to come to the cemetery and take it himself. When he came, I helped him to take the bag outside the cemetery gate so that security guards won’t suspect anything.
“The first time he paid me 12,000 for two skulls.
“Last week he called me again and I told him to steer clear but he kept threatening me till I agreed to help him get two more human skulls.
“It was while I was taking delivery of his order that I was arrested by the police.” Explaining further, Kasim said, “I started working at the cemetery two years ago and I have never been involved in a thing like this before I met Muritala”.
Explaining what he was doing with human skulls, Salami, who said he was a dealer in herbal preparation, said he used them to make charms to enable him get more clients.
“I grind the dried human skulls, mix it with pepper and take it with local gin first thing in the morning. Before I began to do this, I was making about N30, 000 daily but afterwards I began to make between N80,000 and N100,000”
Confirming the arrest, spokesperson for Lagos State Police Command, DSP Bala Elkana, said the investigation was ongoing and that the suspects will be charged to court.
From the foregoing, it would appear that native doctors, fake pastors, Muslim clerics and cemetery workers usually work with suspects in the business of ritual killing.
Worried by the spate of ritual killings and bodies’ exhumation from graveyards, then-Assistant Inspector General of Police in Charge of Zone 2, AIG Lawal Shehu, declared war on native doctors and human parts’ dealers in Lagos and Ogun states.
Shehu said each time suspects were apprehended, they usually claimed they were herbalists, adding that some native doctors were aiding and abating the practice.
He made the declaration after four suspects, identified as Lukmon Bayewunmi, Kabir Badmus, Victor Nnacheta and Nurudeen Sogaolu, were arrested with dried human jaw and scalp.
Meanwhile, the police have been accused of compromise on some cases of ritual killing.
For instance during the tenure of CP Imohimi Edgal as Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, precisely in August 2018, two suspected ritualists, Folake Falade and Emmanuel Gbenga were arrested under the Cele Nicer Bridge, Ijanikin, by the police.
Folake, who was almost lynched by an irate mob, said she had been there (Cele Nicer Bridge) for nine years and that her business was to sell human parts to ready buyers.
She said her customers usually parked on the bridge at night with their vehicles bonnets opened, pretending that their vehicles had one fault or the other, but unknown to people that they were waiting to buy human parts.
According to her, her boys would be beneath the vehicles pretending to be carrying out repairs to douse any suspicion and, in the process, hand over nylon bags containing human parts to the clients.
A resident, Lawrence Oke, claimed that Folake revealed that “whenever she failed to find preys to meet the demands of clients, she would dress seductively and head to a nearby hotel at night”.
Oke went on, “Any man that picked her for the night would become prey as he would end up in her den where his body parts would be harvested and sold off to waiting clients.”
The resident further narrated that Folake confessed that she had boys that worked for her.
He added, “She said that once her hands touched someone, that person would lose his senses and follow her sheepishly.”
However, despite what many believed was compelling evidence against the suspect and initial police stand, nothing was heard about the case after the arrest.
Meanwhile, the belief that invoking spirits or demons can bring cash after performing some rituals obviously is what is fuelling ritual killings in parts of the country.
Sunday Vanguard spoke to some of those who should know in this special report.