The den of ritual killers in Soka forest in Ibadan, Oyo State which has existed for the past 10 years have finally been discovered by angry commercial motorcyclists searching for their missing members
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Apr. 7, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
IT WAS a woeful tale of man’s inhumanity to man and how bestial some criminally-minded people could go to make money to live big in the society. The shock of the discovery of an enclave where dead decomposing bodies, skulls detached from the human body and skeletons from already decomposed bodies littered the forest has cast a new light on the sleepy city of Ibadan, which is described as the oldest city in West Africa. Known for harbouring a lot of relics of old buildings, a reminiscence of its old age, Ibadan was jolted out of its slumber and quietude on Saturday, March 22, when the gory tales of ritual murder seeped out of the bowls of the thick Soka forest. For the past 10 years, evil was perpetrated in the forest without anybody raising eyebrow until some commercial motorcyclists boldly invaded the forest in search of their missing members.
It was alleged that criminals harbour kidnapped victims there and that those who were still alive were huddled to and hidden in an underground tunnel in the forest. When an alarm was raised on the suspicious activities of the criminals in the forest, security men and early responders, who went to the evil forest had an indescribable feeling of sickness in the pit of their stomach while some thought they were having a nightmare in broad daylight. The nauseating odour from decomposing bodies cast an overpowering aura of fear and death mixed with a palpable sense of loss on them as they waded deep into the Soka evil forest in Ibadan, Oluyole local government, Oyo State, to discover where hundreds of allegedly kidnapped victims either met their untimely death or languished in agony before they were recently rescued.
From the look of the dead bodies scattered all over the place only forensic experts can identify them as well as the gender of the bones of different shape and sizes that littered the forest. Some of the fresh bodies also discovered were evacuated to the mortuary. Apart from dead bodies and skeletons, other items that littered the forest are school uniforms, women under wears, a pair of security boots, several pairs of shoes, baby wears and thousands of clothes, especially in the big hall in some of the uncompleted buildings and in the open field.
The forest has attracted thousands of people across the country whose relatives are missing. Some came from Kwara, Osun, Lagos and Kogi states as well as from Northern parts of the country. When Governor Abiola Ajimobi of the Oyo State visited the den of ritulaists, he revoked the certificate of occupancy of the land and promised that all the victims alleged to have been hidden in an underground tunnel will be found. He tried to calm the crowd of angry individuals who laid siege on the place, pleading for patience and attention. He explained that the visit was to sympathise with families of those who lost their loved ones to the kidnappers, get to the root of the incident and get all the suspects arrested.
“The reason why we came here today was because of an ugly incident that happened. We were informed that you, the residents, did not know what was happening here. As you did not know, so we, too, did not know. If you who live in the neighbourhood did not know, how then can we who live far away know? But, we thank God for exposing all these. All those who did these horrible things, God would expose them. We whom, you have entrusted the governance of this state through your votes, God will use us to punish the culprits. As you say amen, God will use us to reform the state. As from today, try to be vigilant. I have learnt a lesson from this, anywhere we are, let us be very vigilant and not hesitate to report matters like this to the security agents,” he said.
At the Adeoyo State Hospital, Ibadan, Nafiu Shittu, Michael Ola, Titi Adeniyi, nee Dokpesi and Wale Atoyebi, survivors of the evil forest, said that they were victims of hoodlums who capitalised on the urban renewal initiative of the government to arrest some hawkers under the pretext that they violated the environmental law even though they did not have the authority of the government to do it.
Shittu, one of the survivors, recalled how he disappeared. He said he was selling his herbal medicine at Agodi Gate when some men swooped on him and forced him into a waiting car. “I was sitting somewhere at the Agodi Gate area of Ibadan, when some people just swooped on me and rushed me into a vehicle. I had been in that place for four months. In the forest, we may not be given food for a whole week. People were dying,” he said.
Another victim, who identified himself as Adeniyi, said she was picked up at the front of her house and forced into a vehicle and later found herself in the evil forest. “I am from the compound of the late Baba Awolowo of Oke Bola in Ibadan. Some people came and kidnapped me while I was sitting in front of our house. Nobody was around then. My people were in Lagos. They said I was wanted somewhere and that they came to arrest me. They then took me away in their vehicle. Later, I found myself in that forest. I don’t know whether people were being killed or women giving birth. Where they kept us was where I used to be. Once I covered my head with my cloth, I would just sleep off,” she said.
In a statement released to the press, the Oyo State Police Command stated that a man had been arrested in connection with the discovery, while arms and ammunition were also discovered at the scene. “Incident report on murder/unlawful possession of firearms about 1730 hrs yesterday (Saturday). Information received at tollgate division that behind the Oyo State urban mass transport yard, Soka area Ibadan, some area boys, about 100, invaded the area, searching for two missing cyclists. They discovered an uncompleted compound where two women and five men were found chained and looking unkempt. Some decayed corpses and skeletons were also found in a nearby bush.
“The scene was visited and one Abideen Akanmu was arrested. He said he was employed by one Gbadamosi, now at large, to take care of the destitute found there. Victims evacuated to hospital, while a corpse was deposited at same hospital mortuary for autopsy. Five security men in a nearby company were also arrested and the following items were recovered from them – three single-barrelled gun, one bow, 16 arrows, 22 cutlasses, 40 life cartridges, seven table knives, two axes, two iron files and one phone. Angry mob set the security post ablaze but the fire was put out. The State Criminal Investigation Department is investigating the discovery.”
But the incident took another turn on Wednesday, after the governor of Oyo state ordered that the area be demolished. As the demolition squad were underway, they were suddenly stopped in their track following “an order from the above”. The Sun newspapers reported that Mohammed Ndabawa called to say that the police headquarters ordered that the exercise be suspended to allow the team of forensic experts from the police headquarters in Abuja, carry out their investigations. According to him, concrete evidence that would help the police to carry out its investigation would have been destroyed if the exercise was allowed to continue.
However, a statement issued by the Oyo State government and signed by Festus Adebayo, special adviser on Media, said the demolition and the clearing of the bush will, however, resume on Friday as the forensic experts are expected to have completed their investigations on Thursday (March 27).
While most Nigerians are watching keenly to see the outcome of the investigations, the Accord Party, AP, and All Peoples Congress, APC, are trading blames over the Soka evil forest incident. The AP is urging the global human rights community to hold the state government responsible for the horrific deaths, mass deprivation and human suffering at the Soka forest. It wants the Human Rights Commission and other civil society groups to probe alleged culpable role of the Ajimobi regime on how the place evolved. The Accord Party alleged that the state government had used the place as a resettlement camp for destitutes removed from the streets of Ibadan when the government began its urban renewal programme. The party said that the destitute were initially fed but were later abandoned due to apparent failure to sustain their upkeep.
But the APC has accused the AP of trying to politicise the state’s collective grief and seeking cheap and undue popularity. APC said that rather than accuse the state government of insensitivity, it was the security consciousness of the government that led to the discovery of the den and its prompt response. “The people of Oyo State are in a state of grief and shock at the horrendous discovery of ritual killers’ den in the state. The situation calls for sober reflection from all and sundry. To be confronted with cheap politicking in the name of infantile accusation by the Accord Party is like opening the fresh wound of the people who are still mourning their dead and lamenting the ugly incident,” a statement by the Dauda Kolawole, the interim publicity secretary of APC, said.