In the build-up to this essay, something had been brewing in me; rage! Yes, rage! One thing provoked this essay. The provocation was premised on the recent killing of late Iniobong Umoren by a suspected ritualist, Uduak Akpan. Ms. Umoren was an Akwa-Ibom-based job seeker and graduate of Philosophy from the University of Uyo. According to police reports, Mr. Akpan had asked Ms. Umoren to meet him at a particular location in Uyo on the promise of a job; only for the unsuspecting lady upon getting there to be raped, killed, and her remains buried in a shallow grave.
Ms. Umoren’s gruesome death was not just a case of rape and murder; it also involved ritual killing. VANGUARD alleged that Mr. Akpan’s entire family is said to be involved in the barbaric business of ritual killings1. What even irks me the most remains that the suspect, though in police detention, seemingly appears to be living well and looks fresh by the day; is treated with dignity, is granted press interview, given a change of clothes, some of which even bears the words, “the murder squad.” This inadvertently leaves me with lots of questions in mind. Anyway… I must now cage my emotions to resist the temptation to deviate from the essay topic.
Killings for ritual purposes have assumed an alarming rate in Nigeria, such that late Umoren’s death becomes one out of numerous cases identified across the country. Yet, the heinous crime continues unabated despite the proliferation of religious houses in every nook and cranny of Nigeria. To this end, this essay examines the rising spate of ritual killing(s) in Nigeria. It investigates its root causes and proffers suggestions on ways to curb the evil crime.
But be warned; some readers may find some part of this essay pretty disturbing.
Usually, targets of ritual killings are people with albinism, the physically challenged, virgins, lunatics, women, and children. It’s alleged that the mentally challenged and virgins are sought after because they make for a more potent sacrifice. Albinos have been rumoured to have their body parts and blood provide for wealth and longevity.
Ritual killers go in search of human parts like the head, heart, genitals, breasts, eyes, hands, and feet at the request of herbalists or witch doctors, whose clients cut across politicians, fake clerics, church owners, government officials, and businessmen.
The human parts are gotten from kidnapped and slain victims. Most ritual killers usually pose as commercial bus drivers, who would later hypnotize and take their victims (under blindfolds) to their slaughterhouses whereafter, vital organs would be harvested. Ritualists also disguise themselves as lunatic. These wolves-in-sheep-clothing use this strategy to get at unsuspecting victims. Some ritualists get human parts in connivance with cemetery guards. Others according to the VANGUARD buy them from some markets in Nigeria2.
Reported Incidents of Ritual Killings and Possession of Human Parts
On 10th February 2021, 14-year-old Abdullahi Bello was murdered in Didanga village in Karim-Lamido Local Government Area (LGA) of Bauchi state after being lured to a bush path where his head was cut off and the body covered with sand. According to reports, the suspect was arrested while trying to get whom to buy the deceased’s severed head3. In the same state, a 6-year-old girl had her genitals mutilated for ritual purposes. The suspect, a 19-year-old Abdulkadir Wada was later arrested3.
Also, Oyo State Police Command on 21st June 2019 arrested one Dotun Ogunlade for the murder of his Facebook friend. He claimed to be a spiritual healer and prophet and had been chatting with the deceased. Subsequently, the victim was lured to Igbo Ora from Ilorin where she was allegedly injected with an overdose of sleeping drugs, after which she was strangulated. Later, her head and arms were severed and the remains of the corpse buried in a shallow grave as she was meant to be used for money rituals3.
On October 6, 2018, the Kwara State Police Command arrested and paraded five suspected ritualists including a couple for having 11 human skulls and several bones. According to the police commissioner, some of the skulls were recovered from the ceiling of the home of the couple, while the others were recovered from the wife’s shop3.
A suspected Rivers State ritual killer, Ifeanyi Dike was on December 26, 2017, nabbed by the Police for allegedly raping and killing an eight-year-old girl and cutting off some parts of her body for ritual purposes. The suspect, was on his way to dispose of the remains of the girl before he was arrested. He was later identified to be a relative of the deceeased2,3.
In Owerri, Imo State, 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 his hotel, Otokoto – exposing many bizarre acts in hotels2. In a related development, the VANGUARD reported the arrest of a pastor who allegedly killed a 7-year-old boy and buried his head where the church’s altar was mounted2.
From these stories, one observes that ritual killing is not peculiar to any section of the country. No region comes out smelling of roses. Likewise, perpetrators are not limited to age or sex. They transcend different faiths and educational backgrounds and not just amongst traditional fetish illiterates4. One thus begins to wonder what drives the dastardly crime.
What Is The Motivating Behind Ritual Killings?
Desperation for quick wealth and lust for money is alleged to be responsible. Ritualists also indulge in the crime to appease some deities through human sacrifices. Evil politicians belonging to various cults also seek power and fortification against attacks through these wicked acts.
The spike in ritual killings in recent times is traceable to the total collapse of moral values. Dignity for human life is nothing any longer to some people.
Impunity also drives the crime. Since most sponsors are high-ranking politicians and top government officeholders, there is always the air of protection around such perpetrators, making them never to be apprehended nor punished.
Unemployment and poverty remain a risk factor too. The argument is that a jobless youth can easily be lured by politicians into earning stupendous income through trading human body parts for ritual purposes. Most of them would end up living exotic lifestyles and driving G-wagons. Now, if only the sources of income of some people are known, one would never say, “abeg cut soap for me…”
Motivation for ritual murder also comes from people who need various magical potions and charms for protection against business failure, accidents, sickness, and spiritual attacks.
From the frightening stories so far, it’s clear that ritual killings remain an evil wind that blows no one any good; and so, how can society tackle this menace? What role(s) should stakeholders and relevant agencies play to purge our society of these dastardly acts?
Prompt arrests and prosecution of suspects would serve as a deterrent to anyone contemplating ritual killing. Police officers should be trained in intelligence gathering and sharing to help them isolate ritualists’ strongholds and sponsors.
Since it has been reported that human body parts are readily available in some markets, the Police should consider creating a tactical unit; say, Special Ritual Murder Squads to comb various markets within their state commands.
Meanwhile, people should be conscious of their immediate environment and avoid staying in isolated areas where criminals can easily attack without being noticed.
Nigerians must begin to be highly circumspect and must desist from night journeys and late-night outings. Nonetheless, commuters are encouraged to always identify the number plates of public vehicles they enter and communicate the same to their loved ones just in case.
Even private vehicles should be avoided. This goes especially to ladies who would always relish the desire to hop into any private car they see, all in the name of “lift.”. Ladies are encouraged to carry pepper sprays with them, whenever they travel to defend themselves with it should the need arise.
The government on its part must begin to beam its searchlight on religious houses. In the light of this, they should collaborate with relevant bodies to monitor the activities of some pastors and imams who would hide under the cover of clerics to perform these obnoxious crimes.
The same also goes for the police. There have been reported cases of men of the police force being part of dreaded syndicates in the illicit business of harvesting human body parts for ritual purposes.
Parents must also begin to monitor the movements of their children and be wary of those they follow. Yet, worrisome is the fact that major accomplices in the killings for ritual have been close relatives and neighbours. Parents must therefore develop a diagnostic eye and mind to outsmart these daredevils.
Summarily, until the suggestions this essay provides are considered, Nigeria may continue to suffer the rising spate of ritual killing(s). Am I still enraged as I stated at the beginning of the essay? Anyway… this monstrous crime must stop. Yes, it must!
 https://www.vanguardngr.com/2021/05/the-scourge-of-ritual-killings-in-nigeria (visited on 17th May 2021 @1400hrs W.A.T)
 https://www.vanguardngr.com/2017/09/killings-rituals-increase-nigeria (visited on 17th May 2021 @1900hrs W.A.T)
 https://www.channelstv.com/tag/ritualist/ (visited on 17th May 2021 @1900hrs W.A.T)
 https://www.refworld.org/docid/50c84a6d2.html (visited on 17th May 2021 @1600hrs W.A.T)
Oluka Emmanuel Chukwuemeka is a graduate of Electronic and Computer Engineering from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State. He is a research enthusiast and a passionate writer. He writes in from Enugu and can be reached via “email@example.com”