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ritual killers: Police caught napping as Ibadan community’s hope stands on hunters, OPC
The Akinyele Local Government Area, a part of the Ibadan metropolis, has been in the news lately for a wrong reason following unexplainable killings that make many residents of Oyo State to believe that the area is fast turning into the Biblical Golgotha.
The local government area has many important landmarks, including a part of the University of Ibadan. It also hosts the Nigeria Institute of Social and Economic Research, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and the 2nd Mechanised Division of the Nigerian Army.
The local government, which was carved out of the Ibadan Municipal Government, is metropolitan in nature as areas like Ojoo, Moniya, Sasa and Orogun are populated by indigenes and non- indigenes alike.
Many residents said the local government area had never been terrorised by killers like it is currently experiencing. With reports of ritual killings coming from the area regularly, its infamy has spread outside the shores of the country and this reminds many of the Ibadan forest of horror known as Soka, which was accidentally discovered in 2014.
In June alone, five persons were killed by suspected ritual killers in the Akinyele Local Government Area. The manner in which the prowling killers snuffed lives out of their victims suggest that they were used for ritual purposes and the growing desire of some of the youth to get rich quick using diabolical means further fuels this suspicion.
The killers smashed the head of a 29-year-old pregnant woman, Azeezat Shomuyiwa, with a stone. Azeezat was said to be about seven-month pregnant when the assailants smashed her head and ended her life in a violent way.
Barakat Bello was raped and killed by the criminal(s) lurking in the area and a five –year-old boy, Mujeed Tirimisiyu, was similarly gruesomely hacked to death.
A female undergraduate of the Oke Ogun Polytechnic, Saki, Grace Oshiagwu, was also killed by the criminals in the Akinyele Local Government Area and the perpetrators also cut short the life of 42-year-old Mrs Olusayo Fagbemi.
Reacting to the rising insecurity in the area and the embarrassment, which the criminals operating there were causing the state and the police, the Commissioner of Police in Oyo State, Mr Nwachukwu Enwonwu, in June announced the relocation of his office to Moniya so as to be able to stop the trend.
The Deputy Commissioners of Police, Operations and Criminal Investigation Department, and other top officers also relocated with their boss to the killers’ nest to unravel the mystery behind the murders, which the police admitted appeared like ritual killings.
The relocation of the police top brass eventually paid off as shortly after, some suspects were arrested, including an herbalist identified as Yinusa Adedokun, and his hit man, 19-year-old Sunday Shodipe. They were arrested alongside suspected armed robbers and other criminals, and were paraded before journalists to show that the police were on top of the situation.
Shodipe confessed to killing some of the victims and said he was sent by the herbalist, whom he said was his master. He added that Adedokun used to give him food and N500 after each killing.
The teenager stated, “Anytime I wanted to go for killing, Baba (Adedokun) would give me some charms and also teach me some incantations to recite so that nobody would see me at the scene of the crime. I would hit the victim with a shovel and recite the incantation immediately I see blood coming out of the victim’s body.
“Baba instructed me to always move around the victims at the scene after killing them and then turn my back at them, and stay there for like three minutes, which I did and nobody would see me. Baba said the spirits of the victims would come to him after I had killed them. Baba did not tell me the reason for the killings, but he would buy food for me and give me N500 after each killing I carried out for him.”
Although the herbalist confirmed that Shodipe was brought to him as an apprentice, he denied sending him on a mission to kill. He said the boy spent just six days with him and he sent him away, because he suspected that he was wayward, adding that he was surprised when he saw him bringing some policemen to his residence.
Residents of the area were relieved that the troublemakers had been arrested but their joy was shortlived as the killings have continued.
Barely four days after Shodipe and Adedokun were nabbed, a gang of ritual killers also struck and killed a 16-year-old girl, identified simply as Toke. Her parents were said to have sent her on an errand to buy fuel to power their generator due to power outage. The girl’s corpse was discovered in a bush off the Ibadan-Oyo Road the following day after frantic search for her.
After some days, the police arraigned the suspects arrested in connection with the killings before a magistrates’ court. But shortly after their arraignment, some residents of the area raised the alarm that Shodipe was sighted in the community again.
Many did not believe the story but two days after, the hoodlums resumed their operations, killing defenceless persons. This time, a woman identified as Funmilayo Oladejo was attacked on Thursday evening, but her scream attracted residents, who rushed to the scene to rescue her and this forced her assailants to flee.
The woman was rushed to the University College Hospital, Ibadan, but she died on Friday. Her death sparked off a protest, which later turned violent and policemen were stoned by the irate youths.
The fear of the residents was confirmed on Sunday when the police admitted that Shodipe had escaped from their custody.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr Olugbenga Fadeyi, said in a statement, “The Commissioner of Police, Oyo State Command, Joe Nwachukwu Enwonwu, wishes to state that the prime suspect in the serial killings in the Akinyele Local Government Area, Moniya, Ibadan, Oyo State, one Sunday Shodipe, 19, has escaped.
“The suspect was arrested and paraded along with two others at the Oyo State Police Command on July 17, 2020, and later charged and was remanded in police custody; he escaped from lawful custody on August 11, 2020.
“The suspect’s escape from detention has generated a lot of criticisms and some believe that some unscrupulous police personnel knew about this escape.”
Fadeyi urged the residents of the area and the state not to resort to jungle justice, but to always hand over suspects to the police and assured them that there would be no cover-up.
The Alakinyele of Akinyele, Oba James Odeniran, expressed shock at the escape of the suspect from police custody. He said such could not be possible without the collaboration of some bad eggs in the police force.
The monarch asked, “How did someone in the custody of the police escape? That points to something fishy. Immediately the suspect escaped, the first thing we expected was for the police to declare him wanted.”
Shocked by the incident, Governor Seyi Makinde ordered the police to re-arrest the fleeing teenager and make sure he was brought back to continue his trial. The governor gave the order through his Special Adviser on Security, Fatai Owoseni, who is a former Commissioner of Police in Lagos State.
Proffering solutions to the killings in the area, the Head of Soludero Hunters, Nurein Ajijolaanabi, told our correspondent that the hunters needed to be supported to rid the area of criminal elements. He said the hunters had been working with the police, but noted that they needed vehicles to be able to move without hindrance.
Ajijolaanabi stated, “It is not difficult to get these criminals arrested. We are the ones doing the work; we know everywhere and we comb the forests, but we need the government to assist us to be more effective. We hunters use our money and resources for what we are doing; we are not being paid salaries. We don’t have vehicles, but we still manage do everything. We arrested the prime suspect.
“The Soludero hunters were responsible for the arrests made in Akinyele so far. Even the Commissioner of Police acknowledged our efforts the day the boy (Shodipe) was apprehended and he gave us N100,000.
“Prof. Banji Akintoye of the Yoruba World Congress gave us one SUV and two motorcycles recently to encourage us to do more. If we have three or four patrol vehicles, we know the nooks and crannies of Akinyele; we will fish the criminals out. But if we go inside the bush and make arrests, are we going to ask the criminals to wait for us to go and hire vehicles to convey us to the town? We have what it takes to rid the place of criminals. We need patrol vehicles.”
The Director, Institute for Peace and Strategic Studies, University of Ibadan, Prof. Tajudeen Akanji, told our correspondent that supporting the hunters and other locals to gather information would help the police to be more effective in stopping criminals from further tormenting the people of the area.
Akanji also suggested that unemployment among the youth should be addressed, while inter-agency cooperation among the various security agencies would also be of great help.
He stated, “Policing is better done by the community people, who understand the terrain and know the nooks and crannies of the place. That is why people are advocating community policing. The police have fewer personnel and most of them were posted from outside the area; all these will affect their performance.
“We really need inter-agency cooperation and the citizens as well. The criminals will continue to find ways to escape if security agencies continue to compete rather than cooperate among themselves. There is nothing wrong if the hunters and others in that category are assisted. They will gather intelligence for the police and make their job more effective.”
Akintoye also hailed the Soludero hunters for being professional in carrying out their duties. Akintoye, who represented the old Ondo State at the Senate on the platform of the Unity Party of Nigeria, said the hunters were well trained and did not engage in criminal activities.
He said, “Soludero is a perfect example of what our youths should be doing. They go after marauders, bandits and all criminals, but they don’t kill and they don’t torture them. They have a way of disarming the criminals and handing them over to the police for further investigation and prosecution.
“They are very reasonable and that is why the Yoruba World Congress assisted them. I think their story should be told and if the government can assist them in a way, they will do better.”
The National President of the Yoruba Youth Socio-Cultural Association, Mr Hammed Olalekan, said the police must do everything possible to arrest the fleeing suspect and restore the confidence of the people in the force.
The youth leader said groups like the Soludero Hunters, Agbekoya and the Oodua People’s Congress as well as the citizens must be carried along by the police and the government to rid Akinyele of the prowling killers.
He stated, “The news of the escape of the suspect was greeted with disbelief, because nobody thought that could happen. This kind of thing may frustrate the efforts of the Soludero hunters, who are risking their lives to go after these criminals inside the forests. I think the Oyo State Government should assist these hunters to encourage them to do more. They are the ones making the arrests and the police are taking the glory. They should be assisted to work better.”