analysisBy Segun Olatunji
Abeokuta — This, indeed, is an unusual season for the residents of Ogun State. Lately, sleeping with their two eyes closed has become a Herculean task. They now have to constantly look above their shoulders as they walk on the streets due to the new wave of crime in Abeokuta, the state capital and other major cities in the state.
Kidnapping, child stealing and ritual killings have virtually taken the place of conventional crimes such as armed robbery, theft and other social vices. The gory scenes in the state began early this year when the police, one morning, arrested a man, Adelani Ayomide, who concealed 18 human skulls in a sack in Otta, Ado-Odo/Otta Local Government Area.
Early last month, the police in the state arrested a suspected lunatic allegedly found in possession of decomposing meat and intestines suspected to be human parts at Iyana Egbado in Ewekoro Local Government Area.
The suspected lunatic, simply identified as Gbenga, was alleged to be carrying out his operations under a bridge located about 250metres away from the gates of a popular cement factory along the Abeokuta-Lagos Expressway and suspected to be a ritualists' operational base in the area.
Putrid stench oozed out from the suspected lunatic's den, littered with decomposing human parts chopped into pieces; plastic containers filled with human blood, ladies under wears, ladies' and men's shoes, blood stained dresses and duvets.
Other items found in the suspect's den included knives, disused electronic equipment and cartons of assorted soft drinks. Gbenga, said to be the sole occupant of the site, was first apprehended by some residents of the area, one of whom was said to have snatched the polythene bags in which he was concealing the suspected human parts.
Our correspondent gathered that the suspected lunatic was exposed when he attacked a female passers-by who was however rescued by another male passers-by. The male passersby was said to have become suspicious of the polythene bags the suspect had in his possession and attempted to forcibly take them away from him.
It was in the process that the polythene bags got torn and their contents spilled on the ground. The male passersby immediately raised the alarm attracting a crowd from the nearby cement factory and Egbado village.
The crowd attempted to lynch the suspect. The suspected lunatic pleaded with the mob not to kill him as he was ready to confess to the alleged crime.
An eye witness, who identified himself as Samuel Oladele, said the suspect then brought out a mobile phone and put frantic calls across to some unknown persons.
Oladele disclosed that the suspect confessed that he belonged to a five-man syndicate operating in the Ewekoro axis in the past nine months.
Police men from Itori later came and whisked away the suspect, said to have claimed to hail from Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State.
Barely 24 hours after the incident, residents of Akinremi Estate, Adigbe, Abeokuta uncovered another alleged base of alleged ritualists.
The police from the Adigbe Division, Abeokuta arrested a woman believed to be the wife of the suspected owner of the house and rescued three pregnant ladies as well as three children from the place.
The duplex in which the incident occurred was alleged to have also doubled as a baby making factory.
Hundreds of youths who trooped to the area to catch a glimpse of the alleged ritualists' base set the building ablaze.
Some residents of the estate claimed that one of the victims had, the previous day, escaped from the house, ran into another building located about 200 meters away and pleaded with the occupants to save her from her assailants.
The pregnant victim, said to have hailed from Abia State, was said to have informed the neighbours that her elder sister sold her and her unborn child to the alleged ritualists for N100,000.
The neighbours informed the police who raided the premises at about 11p.m.
As news of the incident filtered into town, angry youths, mainly students of the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY), Ojere, Abeokuta, stormed the duplex and ransacked some of the rooms after breaking the padlocks earlier used to lock them by the police.
The irate youths were said to be in search of a food warmer and a Jerry can allegedly filled with fresh human blood and used by the alleged ritualists.
After the search of the building, the youths allegedly emerged with several items suspected to be ritual objects, including an ivory plate containing fresh blood,a coffin, a human image made of wood, a live scorpion and assorted charms.
Also discovered in the house were an international passport, identity cards of the students of Sacred Heart Catholic College, Oke -Ilewo who eye witnesses said might have been victims of the suspected ritualists.
White prayer gowns said to belong to some victims who might have been kidnapped and killed were also recovered from the house.
Property set ablaze along with the building were two vehicles: a Toyota Camry car marked (Lagos) EKY 942 AJ and a Mitsubushi car marked (Lagos) AGL 971 BH parked within the premises.
The intervention of the officials of the Ogun State Fire Service, who raced to the scene in two fire engines, saved the building from being completely consumed by the inferno.
Policemen who had earlier stayed aloof and watched the angry youths suddenly started to fire live ammunition and tear gas to disperse the crowd which was becoming restive.
Police Armoured Personnel Carriers were subsequently deployed in the area to strengthen security.
A large number of the youths, who were arrested, were whisked away to the Ogun State Police Command headquarters, Eleweran, Abeokuta.
The command's Deputy Public Relations Officer, Abimbola Oyeyemi, confirmed the incident but said only two victims were rescued, while two other suspects were also arrested in connection with the running of the alleged ritualists' base.
Oyeyemi, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, gave the names of the rescued victims as Jennifer Goodluck, who is nursing a two-month old baby and Oluchi, a heavily pregnant victim.
All the victims are said to be natives of Abia State.
The deputy PPRO also disclosed that one Muibat Yusuf and her brother who are both indigenes of Kwara State were arrested in connection with the incident.
He added that the matter had been transferred to the State Criminal Investigation Department, Eleweran, Abeokuta for further investigation.
The state Commissioner of Police, Ikemefuna Okoye, who later undertook an on-the-spot assessment of the area, urged residents to be vigilant, particularly about their neighbours.
Some days after that incident, the police in Ogun and Lagos State in a joint operation, arrested five persons in Joju area of Ado-Odo / Ota LGA for allegedly being in possession of a human head and pieces of flesh.
The suspects were arrested following a tip-off.
The suspects were identified as Kubura Salami, Tantolorun Abimbola,Kafaya Popoola,Waheed Ibrahim and Adamu Rafiu.
The human head and human flesh were kept in a container stained with liquid substance suspected to be blood.
Ogun State Police Public Relations Officer, Muyiwa Adejobi confirmed the arrest.
Adejobi, a deputy superintendent of police, added that the Ogun State Commissioner of Police, Okoye, ordered that the case be handed over to SARS in Lagos for investigation since it's a follow- up to an ongoing investigation by the police in Lagos.
About three days after, suspected kidnappers struck in a private school in Aso Rock area of Obantoko, Abeokuta almost succeeded in abducting some children.
Six pupils of the school were said to have escaped abduction.
Our correspondent gathered that after a failed attempt the previous day to abduct the pupils, the suspected kidnappers returned to the area the next morning and attempted to kidnap another pupil.
According to eye witnesses, the pupils were returning from school where they had gone for holiday lesson when about four men in a sports utility vehicle (SUV) allegedly seized them.
Recounting their experience, two of the rescued pupils, Oreoluwa and Adebayo, said that one of their abductors, who was dressed like a Muslim cleric, had requested that they give them water to pour in the overheating radiator of their car before they were kidnapped.
They were then taken into an uncompleted building in the area where they tied their hands.
But Oreoluwa, whose hands were not properly tied, untied her colleagues when three of the suspected kidnappers left the uncompleted building and the fourth member of the gang went to ease himself.
A teacher in the school, Gabriel Adesoga, said that a gang of suspected kidnappers came to the area and attempted to kidnap a male pupil who screamed, alerting the school and the neighbourhood.
A search party organized by some of the residents was said to have found a dilapidated building located in a bush in the area and allegedly being used by the suspected kidnappers.
Policemen were later deployed in the area.
The dust on the failed kidnap of the six pupils had yet to settle when a Nigerien, Mamodu Bashir Ibrahim, allegedly beheaded a two-year-old infant and also raped his mother in Owode Egba, Obafemi-Owode Local Government Area of the state.
The suspect committed the crime after having carnal knowledge of the mother of the boy, who had gone to ease herself in a nearby bush in Ofada area of the town.
The suspect trailed her to the spot where he pounced on her.
A resident who suspected the movement of the Nigerien was said to have followed him to the crime scene.
The suspect was, however, said to have escaped with the head of the infant while the resident rescued the woman with the headless body of her child.
When the suspect was arrested, he led men of the state Criminal Investigation Department to the crime scene.
The head of the infant could not be found but the knife with which the suspect carried out the attack was recovered.
The police said the suspect claimed to have sold the head to a woman in Ibadan, disclosing that detectives had launched a manhunt for the buyer.
The suspect, in a chat with news men at the scene of the crime littered with blood, confessed to have raped the woman, killed her son and cut his head which he claimed to have thrown into the bush.
The police however saved the suspect from being lynched by angry residents of the area.
Meanwhile, the police recovered the boy's head in a bag in a bush when the suspect took the investigation team to Mokola area of Ibadan, Oyo State.
The police have yet to unravel the identity of those who gave the suspect the job.
The rampant activities of ritualists and kidnappers in Ogun has, however, given room to rumours which have led to attacks, destruction of property and the killing of innocent persons.
The fears of falling victims to the ritualists and kidnappers have resulted in a dangerous development whereby, at the slightest suspicion, the destitute and mentally sick persons have become targets of lynching by mobs in the state.
Only recently, a man, alleged to have sprayed an unknown substance in the face of two secondary school girls around Kugba, Saje area of Abeokuta in a bid to kidnap them, was lynched by a mob and his body set ablaze.
Also, on April 21, at the Enugada and Lafenwa areas of Abeokuta, respectively, two persons of unsound mind (mad men) were attacked by some miscreants on the suspicion of being kidnappers and battered before they were rescued by the police.
On Easter Monday, angry protesters stormed a two-storey building in Agbole - Ogun Compound in Ijaiye area of Abeokuta, vandalizing the property belonging to a former top police officer (names withheld).
The intervention of the men of the Nigeria Police, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and the Ogun State Vigilance Service prevented the burning down of the building rumoured to have been a suspected ritualists' den littered with human parts.
Policemen had to shoot into the air to scare and disperse the restive mob, resulting in a commotion in which some people sustained injuries.
The State VSO Public Relations Officer, Soji Ganzallo, said: "The rumour came from no where and before we knew what was happening, there had been distress calls from all our units at Ijaiye area. When we got here we decided to seek the permission of the Balogun of Ijaye, who equally heard received similar distress call."
The Balogun Ijaiye, Alhaji Chief Balogun Alemo, confirmed that the "intervention of the Police, the VSO and civil defence prevented the burning of this house."
Worried by the development, the state police command has warned residents to desist from meting out jungle justice to anyone suspected to be involved in kidnapping or ritual killings or risk prosecution.
Towards this end, the police in the state recently arraigned in court 17 persons arrested for allegedly carrying out a mob attack on the house belonging to a retired deputy superintendent of police over allegations that the property was being used as ritualists' den.
Ogun State government, in the same vein, vowed not to fold its arms and allow criminal elements to take over the state.
As part of the efforts to check crime, the state Commissioner for Community Development and Cooperatives, Chief Samuel Aiyedogbon, spoke on the need for leaders of Community Development Associations to take charge of community policing.
Aiyedogbon said if such a move was made, it would go a long way in checking rising crime, particularly in the areas of baby-making factories and ritualist's dens.
Aiyedogbon advised landlords to always ascertain the business their tenants engage in before renting their buildings to them.
He also urged owners of uncompleted buildings to ensure that the environment of such buildings were kept clean so as not to serve as hideouts for criminally minded people.