NIGERIA: Before Ritual Killing Consumes Us All


Killings, for ritual purposes, are assuming a worrisome dimension in Nigeria. Even more disturbing is the involvement of people from age groups that would, ordinarily, be classified as vulnerable. The modus operandi of perpetrators of these heinous acts is as blood-chilling as it is horrendous – they rape, maim abduct and kill to harvest the sensitive and vital organs of their victims.

What is equally disheartening is that the crime has acquired the trappings of business, unfortunately so, and has also developed its own language and terminology which makes it difficult for anyone not involved to easily understand the conversation by those engaged in it. For instance, they refer to human head as ball, the heart as transformer and hands as fans. The situation is so bad that the security agencies are finding it difficult to unravel and trail the mindset of these criminals.

Some analysts blame the ugly trend on the growing rate of unemployment in the country while others see it as the aftermath of the pervasive moral decadence in the society that is beginning to celebrate get-rich-quick syndrome among the youths. These merchants of death brazenly use the social media as a ready tool to advertise their evil behaviours. Recently, one such criminal boldly used ‘ego obala’ an Igbo phrase for blood money as car number plate.

This newspaper is appalled that while the society is getting more religious with the proliferation of churches and mosques, the ugly trend of ritual killing is on the rise as the quest for wealth at all cost gets so cruel and barbaric.

It is an irony that, in this abhorrent inhuman act and as in all criminal acts, the real godfathers are hardly known as they use contractors or wealth seekers who only get stipends for their dastardly acts. And the negative trend cuts across all the geo-political zones of the nation.

Even more ironic, in our considered opinion, is the contradiction that while youths in other climes are embracing science and technology as well as other sustainable human development efforts as ways of keeping pace with the rest of the dynamic world, youths in Nigeria seem stuck in the mistaken belief that sacrificing human blood is the path to wealth, safety and protection.

According to a recent report by Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND), 150 women and girls were killed across Nigeria between January 2018 and December 2021. The Red Cross International also in 2017 reported that it received 10,480 reports of missing persons in Nigeria. Fake clerics and herbalists are often alleged to be complicit in these heinous practices. Reported cases of ritual killings continue to surge in many parts of the country and law enforcement agencies have arrested many suspects of ritual killings showing gory pictures of human skulls and dismembered bodies.

It is in this context that we welcome the plan by the federal government to launch a national sensitisation campaign against ritual killing and other such acts that challenge our collective belief in what is human and acceptable.

The National Orientation Agency (NOA) has mapped plans to partner with religious, traditional organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to forge behavioural change. Already, it has directed the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) to take the issue of ritual killings into consideration while censoring and classifying films and videos eulogising the inhuman trade. Some ritual killers have confessed that they learnt the money-making tricks from some social media platforms.

On January 22, 2022, three teenage suspects and a 20-year-old reportedly killed one Sofiat Kehinde and had her head severed and burnt in a local pot in Abeokuta, Ogun State. Ogun State Police Command said one of the suspects confessed that he learnt the act of ritual killing from a video he watched on Facebook.

Jolted by the reports of ritual killings across the country, the House of Representatives, has also asked the federal government to declare a national emergency on the social vice. The House asked the Inspector General of Police to take urgent steps to increase surveillance and intelligence gathering with a view to fishing out, arresting and prosecuting the perpetrators of the killings, especially their sponsors.

As a newspaper, we are of the view that a lot needs to be done by the police and other law enforcement agencies to check this ugly trend. Parents, schools, religious leaders, and stakeholders must make deliberate efforts to curb the increasing rate of ritual killings and other related vices.

We call on government at all levels to make it a priority to empower the youths with vocational skills. With this, it would be difficult for many of them to be lured into ritual killing just to make quick money. Someone with a good source of living will find it difficult to engage in the act. More importantly, parents must desist from making comparisons between their children who are decent with their age mates that have chosen the life of crime.