Worsening spate of ritual killings

The chilling story of a four-year old girl. Timileyin Abiona, who was gruesomely murdered by ritualists in Ayetoro, Ogun State, is a reflection of a society that is fast becoming bestial. It also shows that despite the splashy press coverage and occasional police arrest and investigations of suspected murderers in the past, the obnoxious is still prevalent in the country.

The poor girl was playing with her peers when the suspected murderers lured her to their room. As the Ogun State Police Command revealed, the girl’s captors strangulated and beheaded her and later dumped her torso in the bush. The police apprehended two of the three suspects.

Since 2002 when seven people were sentenced to death by hanging for the 1996 ritual killing of an 11-year old boy and for masterminding clandestine killing of many others in the infamous “Otokoto” saga, the police and the courts have only recorded a few other breakthroughs in the investigations and convictions of ritual murderers. In February 2005, an Ogwashi Uku High Court in Delta State convicted three people killing an albino infant boy for ritual purposes. But other highly publicized cases, including the Okija Shrines horror, where 50 mutilated bodies and 20 skulls were found in 2004, the Clifford Orji case in Lagos and the case of a popular soap manufacturer accused of using human parts for rituals in Ogun State, still remain in limbo.

But the story was not the same in the British Police handling of the killing of a boy found in the Thames River in July 2004. Named Boy Adam, the metropolitan Police painstakingly investigated the boy’s murder with the equipment that modern science could offer.

The saddest part of the mindless business is that hundred of victims of ritual murder and human sacrifice only get mentioned as missing persons in the media. As some victims who managed to escape revealed, bus loads of innocent people are discharged on a daily basis to these vampires who hide in evil forests across the country, with the possible connivance of some law enforcement agents. This explains why most of the reported cases are not diligently investigated and the culprits brought to justice. Indeed, there is much speculation that both the wealthy elite and the poor ignorant peasants profit from the bloody trade. Mostly, victims are innocent school children, poor street hawkers and unsuspecting commuters.

Despite the mushrooming of religious groups, it is tragic that a large number of Nigerians still believe in gaining power and making money through the murderous practice. Though ritual murder occurs elsewhere in the world, its prevalence in Nigeria is traceable in the nation’s fetish culture and shrinking economic opportunities to earn legitimate income. But while such heinous crimes provoke severe punishment in other societies, the nation’s criminal justice system is still lax, making it possible for ritualists and cultists to escape justice.After several feeble attempts to stamp out cultism in higher institutions, the inability to apply the full weight of the law on the suspects explains why murderous gangs still kill and maim on many campuses in the country.

The primitive practice of ritual killing must be discouraged by firmly applying the relevant laws, while parents must be more security conscious, especially in monitoring their children and wards. Both the media and the civil society group need to step up their campaigns against ritual killings. The police and the judiciary should hold these criminals at bay. The Ogun State Police Command should not just stop at parading the suspected killers of Timileyin; it must ensure that the murderers are brought to justice in order to deter others.