The incidence of killings for ritual purposes is on the increase in Nigeria. There seems to be little or no effort by appropriate government agencies to forestall the spike. Every Nigerian should be troubled by reports of recent ritual killings in the country. Judging by the proliferation of churches and mosques littered in all nooks and crannies of the country, one would expect that such cruel and barbaric act would no longer exist in our society. Sadly, while developed countries are focused on advancing in science and technology, some Nigerians are still in the practice of sacrificing humans for financial breakthrough, safety and protection from business failure, illness, accidents and even spiritual attacks.
In an attempt to discuss the rising incidence of ritual killings in Nigeria, the following questions must be answered; what is ritual killing? How do ritual killers get their victims? What does the law say about ritual killing? Why the rising incidence of ritual killing? How can we curb this menace?
What is ritual killing?
When a Nigerian hears about ritual killing, what immediately comes to his mind is rituals done to acquire wealth. This is called ọgwụ ego, ógún owó, tsafin kudi in Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa language respectively. Ritual killing is so prevalent in Nigeria that it has dominated our movie scenes in Nollywood. There is arguably no Nigerian who is not familiar with terms like Yahoo plus, cut soap, kayamata, touch-and-follow, and cultism which are usually associated with ritual killing.
The Free Dictionary defines ritual killing as the act of Killing an animal or person in order to propitiate a deity. Ritual killing essentially involves the idea of human sacrifice for spiritual purposes.
Ritualists go in search of potential victims at the request of herbalists, who require their body parts for sacrifices or for preparation of various magical portions.
Who are the target victims?
No one is particularly exempted from the ritualists’ target list. But, some vulnerable members of the society are more susceptible as targets. Such vulnerable members include; children, women, elderly people, people with disabilities as well as family members of ritualists.
An academic journal on kidnapping in Nigeria from researchers in Ambrose Alli University in Ekpoma, Edo State, states that traditional targets of ritual kidnapping are “children, lunatics, and the physically challenged.” (Osumah and Aghedo June 2011, 279).
Those with hunchback are one of the most endangered persons with disabilities. There have been several rumours alleging the killing of hunchback for ritual purposes. A newspaper reported that “suspected ritualists abduct, murder Kogi hunchback.” (PUNCH 14 Dec. 2020).
How do ritual killers get their victim?
Ritual killers hide under different covers to get their victims. Most of their activities are cloaked in disguise. For some, they kidnap their victims from various strategic points. Others pretend to be commercial bus drivers, picking up unsuspecting commuters at bus-stop only to take them to their hideout. Other ritualists hypnotize their unsuspecting victims when they try to answer some questions thrown at them by these ritualists. Consequently, the victims lose their consciousness.
PUNCH of 16 May 2021 reported a story about an 18-year-old auxiliary nurse, Rachael David, who escaped death at the hands of ritual killers in Rivers State. Reacting to how she was captured, PUNCH wrote that “the teenager had gone to buy something at the junction and was returning home when a motorist signalled to her, asking her for directions to Bitter Leaf Junction. As she was describing the place to the driver, she was hypnotized and lost her senses until she arrived at an unknown destination “.
Alleged ritual killer, Uduak Akpan, who confessed to have murdered Late Miss Iniubong Umoren, said he used “reverse psychology” on her. He lured, raped and eventually killed his victim for a phony job offer.
What does the law say about ritual killing?
According to the Criminal Code (1990) of Nigeria, a person who commits murder will be sentenced to death (Nigeria 1990, Sec. 319(1)). Similarly, a person found in possession of a human head or skull within six months of its removal from a body or skeleton can be sentenced to five years in prison (ibid., Sec. 329A(1)).
The Criminal Code also states that any person who; claims to have the power of witchcraft, possesses any human remains which are used or intended to be used in connection with the worship or invocation of any juju, possesses anything which has been prohibited by an order as being or believed to be associated with human sacrifice, is guilty of a misdemeanor and is liable to imprisonment for two years. (ibid., Sec. 210).
Some recent incidents of ritual killing?
Vanguard of 21 February 2021 reported that a popular prophetess and her accomplice, Felicia Nwafor-(80 years) and Rejoice Raymond-(39 years) respectively, has been arrested in Onitsha, Anambra State, for pounding little kids alive. During Police raid in her building, three children were found with their hands and legs tied. The entire room where she kept the children had blood stains alongside fetish items, including a mortar and multiple pestles, blood-stained canes, concoction and more.
This dastardly act assumed a cannibalistic dimension following the gory videos of suspected yahoo boys who were eating live chicken as a native doctor performed ritual on them. The expression on their faces showed that they ate the live chicken with relish probably because of the anticipated benefits obtainable from such barbaric act.
In 2017, Lagosians were frightened by Badoo Boys group who reportedly killed over 50 people. According to reports, this group usually hypnotize their victims, making them unconscious of their presence. After which, they would smash the heads of their victims with grinding stones and they will use a handkerchief to clean the blood and brain matter before leaving the scene.
During interrogation, Vanguard reported that one of the suspects confirmed that “they sold each handkerchief stained with blood for #500,000”. He further revealed that “they were mere errand boys for the rich politicians within and outside Lagos State and that the blood and semen-stained handkerchief were used to prepare the spiritual defence for some wealthy Nigerians” (Vanguard 2 Sept. 2017).
Factors contributing to the rising cases of ritual killing?
The undue quest and pursuit for quick wealth has been a major contributing factor. Yahoo boys, in their desperation to make unfathomable wealth, have resorted to the use of traditional charms and mystical power gotten from ritual killing to hypnotize their potential victims and scam them.
Ritual killing and sudden disappearance of people are usually high when elections are around the corner. Some politicians perform these rituals with the belief that it provides victory during election, protection from opponent’s attack, and even makes them the people’s favourite.
An idle man, they say, is the devil’s workshop. To a great extent, unemployment and poverty are cogent factors promoting ritual killings in Nigeria.
The moral decadence in our society is another factor contributing to the prevalence of ritual killing in Nigeria. Emphasis is now laid on getting rich, with little or nothing said about the source of wealth.
Lack of effective punishment system promotes ritual killing. This is because most ritualists believe that they will not be punished when apprehended for committing murder.
How can we curb this menace?
The political leadership of the country must find lasting solution to tackle unemployment and eradicate poverty. The creation of more jobs will steer away many desperate youths from involving in ritual killing. The government should also encourage youths who want to venture into entrepreneurship by giving out grants and non usurious loans, creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive. Honestly, if Nigerians have opportunities to make good money in a legitimate way, there will definitely be a reduction in ritual killing.
Appropriate government agencies must carry out investigation before license is granted to any religious organization. This is because some clerics are ritualists hiding under the guise of religious leaders. These agencies must also checkmate the activities of these religious organizations even after they have been licensed. Religious leaders must be focused on instilling the right morals, ethical values and virtues on their congregation.
The public should be oriented on the need to make an honest living. Parents should avoid putting their children under pressure by unnecessarily comparing them with other children who have made quick and questionable wealth.
The government must take drastic measures in fishing out bad elements in the Police and Army. Our security personnel should be reminded that their work is to protect the lives and property of the citizens and not to protect the image of some malevolent politicians perpetrating ritual killing.
Cases of ritual killing should not be swept under the carpet. Such cases should be carefully and critically investigated. Perpetrators of this evil crime must be made to face the full wrath of the law. This will serve as a deterrent to any potential ritualist.
Commuters should always use public transport vehicles that are registered at designated motor park to avoid boarding these ritualists’ vehicle. Details of every passenger must be written on the manifest. This will give the police some information in case of any unpleasant development.
Nigerians should be educated on the need to be more security conscious. They should be more wary of their environment. Keeping late nights should be avoided.
The upsurge in cases of ritual killing can be attributed to moral decadence. It is also caused by ignorance and superstition, the inordinate quest and pursuit of quick wealth, and lack of effective punishment system. To an extent, poverty and unemployment may also be causal factor for ritual killing. Afterall, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.
The government, security personnel and the masses must put hands on deck to see that ritual killing is drastically reduced in the country.
https://www.nairaland.com/6372782/yahoo-boys-eating-live-chicken/ (visited on 19 May 2021)
https://www.punchng.com/suspected-ritualist-abduct-murder-kogi-hunchback/ (visited on 17 May 2021)
https://www.punchng.com/others-were-accepted-but-i-was-rejected-thrice-at-ritualists-den-rivers-abducted-nurse/ (visited on 19 May 2021)
https://www.thefreedictionary.com/ritual+killing/ (visited on 17 May 2021)
https://www.vanguardngr.com/2017/09/killings-rituals-increase-nigeria/amp/ (visited on 18 May 2021)
https://www.vanguardngr.com/2021/02/video-prophetess-arrested-in-onitsha-for-pounding-children-alive/amp/ (visited on 18 May 2021)
Osumah, Oarhe, and Iro Aghedo. June 2011. “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Nigerian Youths and the Commodification of Kidnapping.” Review of African Political Economy. Vol. 38, No. 128.
Michael Ogbonnaya is a graduate of mechanical engineering from the Federal University of Technology Owerri. He is a creative writer who tries to tackle societal problems with his writing and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org