Criminal activities and man’s inhumanity to man have continued to take different dimensions every day. Various media in different parts of the globe have become awash with reports of various types of killings caused by various factors such as political and ethnic violence, religious extremism, banditry, cult war and ritual acts.
While we read in papers, social media, and watch on television screens, horrible reports of Boko Haram killings in different parts of the North, ritual killings are becoming a recurring incident, especially in different parts of Southern Nigeria. Though the act of killing for ritual purposes has existed for a long time, the rate at which the act is perpetrated nowadays is becoming alarming.
In this horrible act, victims are abducted and taken to an isolated area where they are gruesomely murdered and have their sensitive body parts like: sexual organs, head, tongue, eyes, breast, fingers, etc. cut off and taken away for ritual purposes. According to a report by Punch newspaper of 27th March, 2014, a forest in Soka, Ibadan, Oyo state, was discovered where ritualists hack their victims to death. Many decomposing bodies were found in the forest.
While some victims are forcefully abducted, some are either drugged or charmed before being taken away. Reportedly, several cases have shown that this horrible practice is usually done inside thick forests or in isolated areas where it will be difficult for people to notice it. Some of the syndicates of this dreadful practice can act as agents for some rich people, who urge them to kill people and collect their sensitive body parts for them in return for huge sums of money, while some are on their own killing people secretly and selling their body parts to make money. For instance, in the case of one 30 year old woman, Mabel Udaya who was gruesomely murdered in Okpo community, Enugu state on 26th September, 2013, it was alleged that her murderers were promised N5 million each on delivery.
Traditionalists are of the opinion that people engage in this heinous act for fame, power and riches. To me, the genesis of this atrocity is simply hinged on two factors: one is our religious belief and superstitions and, two, poverty. There is this popular belief in supernatural influence on human affairs and that ritual sacrifices with human blood and body parts are so effective. And thus can help in gaining material fortunes and power. Given this belief and the excruciating poverty level in the land, people engage in ritual murder, believing to make money quickly.
Some traditions in the past, indulged in the use of human beings as sacrifice while instituting a personal or community oracle, believing that such oracle would be powerful to solve their problems, while some believed (and maintain it to a certain extent till today) in using human heads to bury a great man. These are traditional dogmas and superstitions which have conditioned people mind to believe and, coupled with the increasing materialistic tendency of the people, have led to indiscriminate killing of people for such purposes.
Ritual killings do not exist only in Nigeria, but in other parts of Africa who share similar cultural disposition. It was reported sometime in the media that before a major house is erected in some parts of Uganda, a child had to be sacrificed.
According to reports, this act leads to the death of many Nigerians in the southern part every year. What makes it a difficult issue to handle is the fact the belief in ritual sacrifice is ingrained in the people’s cultural belief system.
To stem the tide of this negative trend in our society, we need a total moral/ethical renaissance especially on the part of our youths. There is a need for people to imbibe sound moral virtues and shun vices that results from materialistic mentality. In this moral/ethical regeneration, parents should play pivotal roles in inculcating sound moral values in their wards and equally be cautious of the utterances they make toward their children already working, who are yet to get rich. To prove my point here, in one of the villages in my town, one Mrs. Caroline sometime in 2003, suddenly engaged her son who just came home from Lagos in a verbal attack. She chided her son for having not made money even by crooked means, thereby allowing her wallow in poverty. This infuriated the son who left the village and went back to Lagos to join a money ritual cult. He was asked to kill his mother for the purpose, but he could not succeed, after several attempts through magical means and later became mad.
Security agencies like police should step up their efforts at investigation, apprehension and subsequent prosecution of suspects to serve as deterrent to others who may try to indulge in the act. They should not delay in the prosecution and equally shun every human element that attempts to stall prosecution of such crime. For instance, in a current case of ritual murder of a poor couple in a community in Enugu state on 6th of February, 2014, it is alleged that some influential members of the community who are probably indirectly involved in the act, are making efforts to frustrate prosecution of the case by police.
Also, good leadership by governments in Africa which will grant better access to quality education and economic empowerment is needed. Quality education will reduce the level of ignorance and belief in superstitions by the people. Good education will equally make people to have broad mindsets that will enable them devise genuine ways of making money to earn a good living instead of believing in ritual as the only way to easily acquire wealth.
There is also a need for worldwide campaign against ritual killings in Africa to help change people’s orientation about it.
Victor Ezeja, writes from Onitsha, Anambra state