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Saturday, May 28, 2022

Anxiety over growing national evil

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By Cosmas Omegoh, Kunle Olafioye (Lagos), Tony Osauzo, Ighomuaye Lucky (Benin), and Laide Raheem, (Abeokuta)

There is no pretence anymore. Nigeria has never been at such crossroads as another monster of gargantuan size and stature – ritual killing for money – bulldozes its way into the national psyche, staring every one in the face. It has the dimension of a national malaise. Denying this evil is awful, fruitless and needless. That is the reality many are now slowly, but regrettably beginning to acknowledge.

Over the past years, abduction of people has been on the rise. Some individuals simply vanished without any trace. A few who managed to return home alive have told  nightmarish and unbelievable tales of what they saw in camps where they were taken to. There, victims were dismembered right before their own eyes in such a gruesomely mindless orgy, leaving their blood streaming down in rivulets. Their essential parts were chopped off there and then, and kept away for customer who needed them.

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At the centre of this burgeoning human parts trade are men and women who prepare charms to enable them make money they did not work for. When they cannot buy already-harvested parts, they abduct their victims, kill them, and later discard their remains. Then in collaboration with their juju doctors, they proceed to use what they have for “money rituals,” as it is now called in street parlance. How that works, remains a mystery that might take science an age to unravel. 

According to Sunday Sun investigation, this “money ritual’ now making Nigeria and Nigerians edgy didn’t start yesterday. It was birthed as Internet scam. Growing like a weevil, it began gnawing at the fabrics of the Nigerian society, gradually forcing things to give way, allowing them to fall apart steadily. Many did not notice. Those who did merely waved away the crime, leaving things unattended to, unaddressed. Now, it has gathered pace. 

Some people believe “money ritual” has already attained a menace of epidemic proportion,  spreading far faster than ever imagined, treacherously threatening the real existence of the Nigerian society now in distress.

Sunday Sun learnt that the involvement of a band of desperate, unrelenting youths is worrisome. They go by the name “Yahoo, Yahoo,” boys. Many of them are graduates from the various tertiary institutions. Even barely literate ones who only know that the evil trade fetches money are joining in their droves. 

 Our correspondent further learnt that in the beginning, the Yahoo Yahoo boys who were majorly Internet fraudsters were mainly coning, and scamming the unsuspecting ones – both Nigerians and foreigners. But gradually the tempo of their ill began to wane. Many had begun to know both their tactics and their antics. So gradually they shifted to the next level – using human blood to make money. That is their new frightening platform. They hypnotise their victims sort of, and cause them to be under an influence they cannot explain and begin to do their bidding. That they now call “Yahoo Plus.”

On the other hand, Yahoo Plus boys kill their victims and use them for money rituals. They target their parents, sibling, friends and neighbours. It is either they drag their victims to a juju doctor, or do so through a remote spiritual means or kill them by themselves. There are some who do assorted things that nauseate. Once things go as they planned, in no time, the Yahoo Plus chap is already super rich, reeling in wealth.

Now, in their blind quest for money, some are told to either eat their own feaces, or make love to their parents or do such weird and discomforting stuffs that provoke humanity to revolt. Not many saw this bizarre act carried out for money sake coming. But it is here, and threatening to stay for as long as it is allowed to be.

Money ritual and NOA

According to Paul Odenyi, assistant director, Press, at National Orientation Agency (NOA), Abuja, ritual killings and advance-fee fraud are considered a part of the general concept of value decay in the country.

“One would think that the young generation, with their exposure and spread of religious faith, will have nothing to do with rituals. But what we are seeing shows that the youths and the whole society appear to be saying “anything that will give us money is worth trying.”

Ritual killing, he said, “is based on the belief that you can sacrifice human beings to make money. It is a wrong belief which the whole of society should rise against.

“Just like ritual killing, Yahoo boys are exploiting the rise in Internet economy to scam of people of their hard-earned wealth.” 

 

Legislators raise the alarm

Days ago, the House of Representatives raised the red flag, following the wanton killing of innocent citizens for ritual purposes mostly for money making. 

The lower chamber wanted the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on the social vice now on the rise.

It tasked the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba Alkali, and his officers to take proactive measures and up their surveillance and intelligence-gathering game so as to arrest and prosecute those involved in the evil.

The parliamentarians also tasked the National Orientation Agency (NOA), parents, schools, religious leaders as well as the media to begin campaigns to change the trend.

The pronouncements were sequel to a motion brought on the floor of the House by the Deputy Minority Leader, Toby Okechukwu entitled: “Need to Curb the Rising Trend of Ritual Killings in Nigeria.”

Okechukwu was aghast that ritual killings had attained frightening heights in recent times.

According to him, “the Red Cross Society in 2017 reported that it received 10,480 reports of missing persons in Nigeria.”

He lamented that “merchants of such wicked acts often use the social media as a ready tool to advertise their evil behaviours.”

He added that “such cruel and barbaric acts should no longer be promoted in our society, given the demands of today’s world,” declaring them as “unacceptable norms.”

Ritualists’ recent activities

Mid last week, a video of Yahoo Yahoo boys emerged, showing them celebrating their exploits. In the viral video, some of them were pouring celebratory drinks on their phones, in the hope it would bring them fortune.

Another video also surfaced lately featuring youths who stormed a bank in Lagos wearing adult diapers. Witnesses reasoned that the youths were told that at the recitation of some incantations at the bank, either the staff or the ATM might begin to dispense money for them to collect.          

Recall that a fortnight ago, the Ogun State Police Command arrested one Majekodunmi Balogun, a 20-year-old, who confessed to collaborating with his friends to kill his girl friend, 18, for money ritual.

The young man was arrested alongside three other teenagers.

In Delta last year, a young man also killed his girl friend for ritual purposes.

Meanwhile, the gruesome killing of a young woman, Iniubong Umoren, who was lured to a particular location in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State for a job interview, remains a sour point.

In Owerri, lately, a viral video of an alleged Yahoo Yahoo boy was seen. In the video, the man sitting on a potty was cleaning his anus with slices of bread and eating the same at a road media. Some people said the video was conjured, but that mirrors a social malaise spiraling out of hand.

EFCC dealing with vice  

Some days ago, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), acknowledged that the Yahoo Yahoo boys were now adding a spiritual angle to their crime, vowing to sustain its onslaught against them.

In its Facebook page, EFCC lamented that the fraudsters had raised the stakes, but assured that it would not be business as usual as anyone caught in the act would pay the price.

“No going back on the onslaught against Yahoo-yahoo or yahoo-plus, whatever nomenclature,” the agency said. 

“Give up, or give in. The Eagle will get you anytime, anywhere.”

Over time, the anti-graft body has made hunting down the cyber fraudsters a big chunk of its duty.

In Abeokuta for instance, EFCC arrested 60 suspected Internet fraudsters during an award ceremony at a hotel. Similar sting operations in Lekki-Ajah axis in Lagos said to be home of many Yahoo Yahoo boys had yielded unimaginable results. Major cities in the country like Benin City, Port Harcourt, Owerri, Ibadan, Osogbo, Ilorin, Abuja,  among others, are home to many cyber fraudsters.

Nigerians react to menace

The traditional ruler of Umunkwo autonomous community in Imo State, Eze Declan Izim, a lecturer at Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri, condemned the Yahoo Yahoo menace on the rampage, declaring: “I condemn it in its entirety.”  

In Benin City, Edo State, residents also flayed the spate of rising ritual killings, and traced the root of the menace to get-rich quick syndrome spirit now ruling the youths.

Commenting on the development, the Vice President, South-South of National Youth Council of Nigeria, (NYCN), Comrade Innocent Ajayi‎, who is also the immediate past Edo State chapter chairman of NYCN, said it is painful that ritual killing is resonating among the teeming Nigerian youths.

“Taking the life of an individual to acquire wealth is not the best way to go; but there is something that we must understand: these young people we are talking about are people who must have passed through the tutelage of our various leaders, either through parental upbringing, religious ways or through education.”

An anonymous responder said that he was yet to get over his recent attack and the backlash he received from his colleagues and the Yahoo boys.

He told Sunday Sun that he publicly criticised them for what they stand for, forcing them to turn against him.

He disclosed that the so-called Yahoo boys are those who spray them good money while artists in the town perform on stage.

He said that some artistes were so bitter over his comments that they accused him of blocking their opportunity to make good money, stressing that the Yahoo boys are now the ones making their shows to blossom.  

He flayed the lifestyle of some Nigerian celebrities, maintaining that they are influencing the younger ones in very many negative ways.  

In a recent radio broadcast monitored in Lagos, a native doctor told him listeners that the Yahoo Yahoo challenge had become so terrible that even some parents now bring their children tasking him to prepare charms to enable them excel in the evil business.  

Also in Lagos, a serving Nigerian army soldier last year was allegedly caught among the Yahoo Yahoo fraudsters while understudying the trade.  

Cause of the problem

Looking at how Nigeria is getting it all wrong, a Yoruba Ifa priest, Chief Yemi Elebuibon said: “We can adduce this to the hardship in the country. People are going through very difficult and challenging times with many finding it hard to meet up with their daily financial obligations, including being able to feed themselves and their families because the government has failed in its responsibility of providing employment opportunities for the populace.

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“The youths on the other hand, do not deem it appropriate to get engaged in viable economic activities. Instead, majority of them have resorted to desperate means of making it in life, including the money-ritual option and engaging in cyber crimes.

“One would have expected that these youths would consider taking up viable economic activities and earning decent living. It is unfortunate, however, that majority of them have taken to cutting corners and embracing   the most reprehensible options.”

On the likely consequences of the menace, he noted that any wealth acquired illegally is bound to be fleeting, and can only be enjoyed for a limited time.

“Whatever one does not labour for cannot be enjoyed as one would loved to. What we are witnessing now is very strange to Yoruba land. It is particularly disturbing that we don’t know where these people get the information, how they go about it, and those who agree to do it for them. But, there is no doubt about the fact that those who engage in this practice will always live to regret their actions; they won’t go scot-free.

 

Appeal to political class

Some people believe that politicians are escalating the problem with their big salaries and ostentatious living. One of such is Comrade Ajayi who said: “Let me appeal to our political class that it is time for their members to stop using money flamboyantly, showing the world that they have arrived.

“I remember when I was growing up; I never had the opportunity of seeing people throw money as if they just went somewhere to pick it.

“And so, the Yahoo Yahoo we are seeing today is a product of what the young people are seeing; that is why they want to make wealth by all means.”

Get rich syndrome root of problem

On his part, Mr Tony Abolo, a veteran broadcaster and media consultant, blamed the quest to make quick money rather than hard work as being the root of the problem.

He said until the society starts asking questions about the source of people’s wealth, and the political class stops displaying their wealth, the society is bound to face much ills.

“We are dealing with moral depravity of society. We are dealing with people who think money is everything. That is the life style of the political class. Everybody is running around chasing money; nobody is chasing hard work; that is the problem,” Abolo said.

 

Society has failed

According to Eze Izim, what is going on signifies “loss of societal values. I remember in those days, there were things people easily got scared of. That was blood; the other is the sacredness and sanctity of the human life.

“In those days, there were some men of title who abhorred blood; they couldn’t shield even a chicken’s blood; they would faint at mere seeing blood.

“But now, teenagers are even killing their own parents for money rituals – all because money has become everything.

“Then, kids learnt real values right from the home. They learnt that good name is better than riches. But now, money rules. That is why our teenagers are going haywire.”

He decried what happened in Ogun State recently, describing it as “blood-stirring.” 

He expressed sadness that “similar abominations are also happening elsewhere unreported.”      

Dr Grace Onyeabo, a parent and proprietress, God’s Grace Academy, Lagos, is also unhappy, saying that “what we are witnessing now is the outcome of the failure of the society to pay attention to the calls to address the need to re-orientate our children to embrace quality value system.

“Any culture that places too much emphasis on materialism is doomed to experience what we are witnessing now.

“Nigeria is one country that celebrates   wealth whose source people do not know.  

“Somebody who could barely meet his basic needs some months ago suddenly becomes rich and nobody is questioning his source of wealth. Instead those who should lead the way in trying to determine how he came about his sudden wealth are the ones at the forefront of making the arrangements to confer chieftaincy title on the dubious character.

“Things can only get worse wherever people fail to do the right thing. The people should start to report anyone they suspect to have acquired wealth illegitimately to law enforcement agents for proper investigation into their source of wealth.”

 

Government failure also responsible

Chief Elebuibon blamed the government for failing in its responsibility of providing jobs for the youths, although he said that the government’s failure should not be taken as an excuse to resort to illegality.

“Our youths should find ways of engaging themselves in something decent, meaningful and rewarding skills. They should stop looking for non-existent white-collar jobs. But above all, the government has a lot of roles to play in the lives of the youths.”

 

Role of parents also highlighted

Comrade Ajayi wants parents to begin to question their children.

According to him, “when a child who just graduated and has no job yet comes back home driving a car, and has no proof of what he did to buy such a car, I think the parents should ask questions before accepting him. Those who fail to do so are collaborating with evil.”

Towing similar line, Chief Elebuibon lamented that  how some parents even encourage their children especially those who are into ‘Yahoo yahoo.’

“Imagine a situation where parents do not see the need to question their children’s source of wealth when they come home with things that ordinarily should be considered beyond their income. Your child comes home with an exotic car for instance, but rather than question how he got it, you join in celebrating him. So, most parents should be blamed for failing in their responsibility.”

 

Solution to current menace

Chief Elebuibon believes diligence and hard work are ways out of the problem.

He also believes “those who are desperate to be rich will definitely pay for their desperation some day.

“In Yoruba land, it is believed that no deity will ever aid a lazy person. Diligence must always come first.”

 In the same vein, Eze Izim urged that while “the churches and mosques preach, and we the traditional rulers talk, the government should be committed to providing jobs.

“People in government need to help the youths learn new skills. They should embark on projects that directly impact the people, rather than embarking on political projects.”   

 

Reorientation also key

Eze Izim also called for reorientation on the part of all and sundry, declaring it “a collective responsibility.

“We need to go back to the norms and values of our society which have long been eroded.

“This is the job of the families, the villages, the schools, the churches and mosques, and even the government. The national and state orientation agencies should do something, the same for our role models, our celebrities.  

“Our politicians should mind the way they spend money. They make the youths see money as everything.”     

He called on the youths to redirect their energies towards useful ventures, think outside the box and embrace skill learning.  

 

What NOA is doing

NOA says it’s doing something to change the narrative. According to Odenyi, “our jingles and skits have been produced and will be out in the coming week.

“What we are campaigning is for parents to parent well, religious bodies and groups to teach the correct messages. We are asking community leaders to be watchful. It is the collective effort of the whole of society that we can overcome.”



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