Lagos — In the ancient town of Ikorodu in Lagos State and the communities that surround it where gruesome killing seems to have become virtually a daily affair, it is not uncommon to hear the shout of 'Badoo' attend every murder incident. When the Badoo name alone sneezes, even without a face attached to it, the entire Ikorodu town and its environs go limp with cold.
That was what happened on June 8, 2017, in the latest of such killings. A mother, Mrs Tawakalitu Rafiu, living on Sotunyo Street in the Odo-Kekere area of Ikorodu had left his seven-year-old son, Kazeem, in the custody of a neighbour before going out. However, on return, the boy was missing. Her enquiries led to a revelation that a certain self-styled pastor who has his church in the community had lured the boy away.
When the pastor, Eri Imole, said to be a friend to Kazeem's father, was arrested in the early hours of Thursday, he admitted that he had sold the boy to a prophet for N130,000 and that the boy would be used for ritual by 4am same Thursday.
By the time the police mobilised to get to where Imole said Kazeem would be killed, the boy had already been beheaded. His head was said to have been found buried in the church's premises, while the remains were packed in a bag. Along with Imole, the police arrested an accomplice, Adedoyin Oyekanmi, both of whom are in custody, under interrogation. The police said the two men admitted to the murder, saying they belong to a gang of ritual killers operating all over Ikorodu and the neighbouring communities.
Presently in Ikorodu and environs, ritual killers like Imole and Oyekanmi are simply believed to be members of the Badoo gang, especially when the signature killing is cruel, like beheading that was done to Kazeem, and the crushing of heads with stones that have become commonplace over the last one year.
When our correspondent visited Ikorodu main town and some neighbouring communities like Agbowa last week, he observed a population on edge. At the hearing of the faintest noise, people are quick to pop out heads through the window to be sure of who is approaching.
Residents told Daily Trust on Sunday that, that has become the situation, especially since March 2017, when a 56-year- old woman, her two children and her grandson were brutally murdered by some killers. Hakeem Kilani, a commercial motorcycle operator who led our correspondent from the bus stop in Agbowa into Oshiyemi Street, Mosafejo, where an uncompleted building is standing alone close to a swamp, said, "that is the church you are looking for."
Imoleayo Cherubim and Seraphim (C&S) on Oshiyemi Street, Mosafejo, Agbowa, a few kilometres after Ikorodu, that Kilani pointed at looked more like an abandoned poultry than a church.
Inside it, a lady Kilani referred to as the Ojise Olorun (messenger of God)looked at the reporter curiously from a distance as he approached the worship centre, which also serves as living quarters. Abiodun Kokoroaiye, 28, the messenger, peeped through the window of the church from her seat, apparently thinking the stranger had come to seek the face of the Lord. She smiled.
But the smile faded into sadness after the reporter introduced himself and tried to warm his way into her friendliness. For a moment, the reporter thought she would turn him back, but shaking her head, she eventfully asked the reporter to sit down on a plastic stool by the entrance to the church while she went inside an inner room to pick up a cover cloth.
In a slow, but determined movement she flung the cover cloth around her body, at least to keep herself warm. After a long silence accompanied by a long stare and a heavy sigh, she said, "you were here in March when the incident that threw my entire family into sudden sorrow occurred. My son, Yusuf, would have been five-years-old now, if he had not been sent to an early grave by members of the Badoo cult gang. He was my only child and hope for the future."
Kokoroaiye tried to fight back the tears that were threatening to cascade down her face but couldn't. In a teary voice, she said, "since then things have not been the same and will never be the same for me. Before that incident occurred, things were going on well with us, as we all lived a moderate life."
Narrating her ordeal, Kokoroaiye said that on that fateful day, the hoodlums sneaked into their church where her mother and three others were sleeping and murdered them in cold blood.
"The killers smashed their heads with a grinding stone and used machetes to dismember their bodies. Christiana, 9, Yusuf, 4, and Debora, 11,were all butchered in the most horrific manner."
She said that before the killers left the area, they went to another compound on Olayinka Street, where three other persons - a father and his two sons - were murdered in a similar manner, showing that it was the same gang which killed my family members that did the same thing to the others.
Presently, she added, the community has been deserted for fear of possible attack by the gang.
"The daughter of Seun, my elder brother, was also killed. And to worsen matters, my brother was detained, though later released. The multiple murders happened around 3am but the police did not respond to our distress call till 6am, an indication that the area is not secure," she said.
A walk down the road took the reporter to the home of Abiodun's elder brother, Oluwaseun Kokoroaiye. If Abiodun had recounted a sad story, that of Seun was much