Morbid trade in corpses’ garment booms
• Rich Men, Ritualists, Spiritualists, Others Major Buyers
• Deceased Clothes Cost As Much As N300, 000
• Clients Bank On Rituals For Promotion, Amass Wealth, Win Election Etc
The sale of corpses’ last wears is one of the unnoticed illegal businesses that are thriving in parts of the country. GBENGA AKINFENWA writes while the trade in human parts has gained immense notoriety over the years, that of corpses clothes is also blossoming in the background, as the country gradually becomes a nation of rituals. This is sustained by people’s unbridled desire wealth and power.
Last July, the Kwara State Police Command arrested a suspect for allegedly selling the body parts of his father, Michael Olagunju, to some ritualists in Kajola, Odo-Owa in the Oke-Ero Local Council of the state. After murdering the man on his farm, he connived with ritualists to excise his victim’s hands and heart, which the latter paid for.
The same month, a member of a syndicate that specialises in exhuming corpses from a church cemetery in Ondo town, Ondo State, Lanre Akintola, confessed that he and his team members bought human parts from the cemetery attendants for as low as N5, 000, while another suspect, Clement Adesanoye, equally revealed, when they were paraded by the police, that human chest were sold to yahoo boys for rituals at giveaway prices.
In September, ritual killers in the Akanran area of Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, beheaded a 76-year-old man, Adeniyi Adebisi Samuel, and had his body parts harvested for use. They were arrested following intelligence reports from the members of the public.
While they were being paraded at the Amotekun Headquarters, Dandaru, Ibadan, by the Deputy Commandant of Operation Amotekun in the state, Mr. Akinro Kazeem, they confessed that they sold human heads based on size, and cash available with their customers as at transaction time. And this ranges from N4, 000 to N100, 000.
While law enforcement agencies expand their dragnet to rein in as many ritual killers as possible, another ghoulish trade is thriving albeit clandestinely, and that is trade in corpses’ clothes. In other words, the last cloth worn by a victim when death came calling.
Shattered and still muddled in a myriad of pains over the loss of his dear mother, Azeez Ayinla was thrown into deeper confusion after an elderly family member put a call across to him asking him to remember to bring home the dress worn by his mother whenever she was being prepared for interment.
He recalled: “When my mummy passed on in 2016, at the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH), Sagamu, Ogun State, she was thereafter deposited at a morgue. After just one week, the family returned to the morgue to claim the body for burial. As the body was being prepared, I demanded the fabric that she wore when she was deposited there.”
Upon making the demand, the mortuary attendants felt unconcerned, their disposition nonchalant, even as they could not immediately respond to my demand. But when they perceived looming trouble, the cloth was produced after a three-hour wait.
With the sale of body parts being a major evil that many people are aware of, only a handful of persons are up to speed with the fact that the sale of corpses’ garments is the new goldmine for some despicable merchants.
Indeed, an investigation by The Guardian revealed that mortuary attendants, funeral homes and sundry services providers in the sub-sector are currently making money from the odd trade.
It was particularly revealed that the last outfit worn by a person at the point of death, or the one worn before burial/cremation are in high demand, as those in need of these fabrics for varying reasons/uses throng morgues and funeral homes to purchase them.
Even though findings reveal that usage of these fabrics differs based on location, tribe, and purpose, the major buyers of the fabrics include, the wealthy, ritualists, spiritualists, politicians, businessmen/women, as well as other such persons who use them for power and wealth acquisition.
While investigations showed that in the South West, it is mostly used for money rituals, evil spells, age swap and power grab, it is mainly used in South South and South East for money rituals, power grab, evil spells, and for long life. In the North, it is mostly used for money rituals and for power acquisition.
Parts of these clothes are usually shredded into pieces while still on the corpse’s body, and the amount charged is largely determined by the type of death suffered, age of the deceased, and the duration within which the clothes stayed on the corpse among others.
Investigations further revealed that a piece of the fabric can be procured for as much as N300, 000, or as low as N10, 000. This, again, depends on where it is being sold, and the personality involved.
For instance, the price of the cloth of a victim who died from serious disasters, including auto accidents, gunshots, collapsed buildings, or who suffered such calamitous fates, is different from someone who died of natural causes, from terminal diseases, or other types of deaths.
According to an Osogbo, Osun State-based Ifa priest, Ifatunde Ajagbe, the clothes of victims of mishaps are scarce and when they are available, they are highly-priced because they are always in high demand.
“Such clothes are used for rituals that are intended to cast spells on others, including making people to become mentally unstable, cause untimely death, and economic misfortune or subject people to grinding poverty. Since most victims of mishaps are quickly buried by their families because of the circumstance of their death, those who are taken to morgues pending identification by family members are mostly the ones whose clothes are sold out,” he said.
“Clothes worn by those who died through other means are also selling fast as people continue to engage in money rituals, especially with the country’s worsening economic situation.
“Also, as the 2023 general election approaches, those eyeing political offices have begun patronising mortuary attendants in their bid to curry favour from chieftains of their political parties. These are the factors that always determine the price. Averagely, a piece of cloth can be purchased for as much as N200, 000,” he said, adding that, “no cloth, or property of anyone struck by thunder (sanpona) someone that drowned can be re-used by anyone. Whoever died in a river should not only be buried by the riverside, his or her property will also be confiscated. Making use of clothes of such category of persons spells doom.”
According to Nathaniel Ayinla, a primary school teacher in Ondo State, clothes worn by accident victims are commonly used for age swap rituals.
“I stayed with my uncle, a herbalist for a long time and I noticed that many people that came around for age swap ritual had to purchase these clothes for that purpose. Others relied on my uncle to procure the fabric for them. Usually, they deploy some strange powers to decipher the real age of the deceased. Once it is revealed through the oracle that the deceased still had some years ahead, my uncle would make his clients believe that the deceased’s age will be swapped to give him or her more years on earth.”
A resident of Idemili in Anambra State, Emeka Orji, who confirmed hearing several stories that border on such practices in the region, said that those indulging in the act do so secretly.
Even though he claimed little knowledge regarding their modus operandi, he, however, alleged that those who use these clothes for money rituals often fall victim to an untimely death, stressing that this could be responsible for the numerous untimely deaths of many young rich people whose sources of wealth remain questionable in the region.
Prophet, Oluwasegun Abayomi Olanlokun, a cleric, who is also into embalmment confirmed to The Guardian that apart from rituals for money, long life and age swap, corpses clothes are also used for several wicked acts – impoverishment and for invoking untimely death on a target.
“For long life, the cloth of an aged deceased is always recommended to make the ritual potent. On the other hand, if the deceased was not quite old, certain rituals are carried out to achieve the desired result. The use of clothes and specifications depends solely on the ritualist involved because their operations differ.
“On age swap, it is easy for the herbalists involved to foresee the destined age of the deceased. For instance, as a prophet, whenever any sick person is brought before me for healing, it is very easy for me to know if the person will die or survive. So, what the concerned herbalist only needs to do is to ask from the oracle the expected age that the deceased was destined to spend because several people die, or get killed prematurely before attaining their destined ages. Once this is ascertained, the ritual will be carried out with the motive of letting the client continue with the deceased’s destined age.
However, it is important to point out that there are persons whose clothes or property can never be used after their death, and whoever tries to do that will experience serious calamity. Be that as it may, as this unfortunate practice continues, some deceased families are beginning to have wind of it hence they ensure that everything used while preparing their deceased loved ones for burial, including the sponge and water used to bath the body are taken away from the morgues, or funeral service providers. However, when some mortuary attendants see suspicious family members stick around in the room to observe the body of their loved ones being prepared for burial, some queer mortuary attendants introduce into the atmosphere, chemicals similar to pepper spray that would force affected persons to exit the room to allow them to perpetuate their evil acts.”
Another cleric, Prophet Tunde Ade, who is also aware of the practice, confirmed that the clothes generally called aso waaji, were used by ritualists for many things, including fame, power, money rituals and others.
According to him, apart from herbalists some “pastors” who are working with herbalists, or who grew up among traditional practitioners were also indulging in the act.
He added: “Persons who get involved in money ritual or seek power and popularity from such avenues may eventually get it because it is believed that the spirit of the deceased will do their bidding instantly, but the beneficiary may not live long to enjoy the fortune amassed. On the other hand, if what the person has garnered finishes suddenly, such a person would return to extreme poverty because any act, or practice that is not written in the bible, or ordained by God is evil.”
At the morgue of the Ifo General Hospital in Ifo Local Council, Ogun State, it was observed that only a few relatives of the dead cared about the whereabouts of their relatives’ clothes, as they were busy mourning their departed ones. This is despite repeated claims of missing corpses’ clothes.
Attendants at the facility declined to respond to allegations levelled against them. The Chief Imam of Ogun State Secretariat, Alhaji Abdulfatai Muhammadu Buhari Makoju, who doubles as Head of Religious Operations, Ogun State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board, also confirmed the practice, saying that some people who call themselves alfas, imams, Islamic scholars or whatever names that they call themselves indulged in such acts, which “totally contradicts Islamic precepts and has nothing to do with the Islamic religion.
“I have heard about the practice severally, especially as it involves rituals and other fetish acts, but it has no basis in Islamic creed. The fact is that we can’t rule out the fact that people still indulge in such practices since Satan is still alive, and has a lot of followers. Basically, in Islam, it has no basis; it is a satanic deed and an act that infidels indulge in. Islam does not allow this, and this is not part of what the holy prophet handed to us.”
He said in one of the Hadith that whoever brings anything that is not in the religion’s tradition, and not in our practice will be rejected, which means the person does it for himself, not for the Islamic faith, or the religion’s course.
“According to the Holy Quran, these people are regarded as magicians. Allah SWT said in the Holy Quran that magicians will never prosper in anything.”
When his views on the issue were sought, the Commander of Ogun State Community Social Orientation and Safety Corps, Soji Ganzallo, promised to get back to The Guardian, but never did. Several calls made to his mobile phone over several days were never answered, nor returned.
However, one of the officers of the corps in Ifonyin, in Ipokia Local Council, who preferred anonymity, said cases of stolen or missing corpses’ clothes abound in the area, “but are always settled before they get escalated.
“Most of the cases reported to us are settled amicably among affected parties. Another reason most of the cases are not lodged with the police is that they are always considered as petty issues because the person directly involved is dead, hence the cases are buried,” he added
A sociologist, Dr. Yusuf M. Abdullahi, described the practice as black magic, or sorcery, adding that it has been going on in some cultures and locations in the country for a while now.
Said he: “Some families are aware of this practice in the society. Consequently, immediately they lose a loved one, everyone will be on the lookout to ensure they quickly collect and bury the cloth that the deceased last wore.
“Sometimes, the motive behind what these people are doing is economic, or personal, that is when someone has grudges against the deceased. There is no part of this country where this thing is not happening, but it only takes different forms and ways. A lady once told me that when she lost her husband, her family was advised to quickly remove, and bury, the last garment that he wore. However, those that are involved in these kinds of rituals include promotion and favour seekers; those that are looking forward to victory in elections, or those that are trying to woo their love interests among others.
According to Abdullahi, from the sociological point of view, several factors may cause people to indulge in such acts. “The ways that individuals behave are determined by several factors – personal factors, environmental factors and social factors. Personal factor relates to somebody’s past traits – biographical traits like age, gender, religion and learned characteristics. If a person is learned, a combination of his values, experience, intelligence, practical and intellectual abilities, go a long way in determining his behaviour and reaction to any given situation because his overall perception is informed by, among other things, these factors.
“The environmental factors, including the level of employment, income, general economic environment, technological influence on the environment, and political factors also go a long way in contributing to an individual’s behaviour, while social factors, which have to do with the family in which an individual is brought up, the group, which a person associates with, and the type of leadership within those groups also have their impact on individuals’ lifestyles,” Abdullahi said.
Also giving his perspective on the unfolding scenario, the former Head, Department of Sociology, University of Lagos, Prof. Lai Olurode, described the country as a country where rituals are predominant.
“Before some Nigerians venture into any business, trade or even politics, they believe that they have to make consultations/divinations; they believe in occultism; they believe that there is somebody with supernatural powers that must look into the future for them.
“Don’t forget that the current Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige, was taken to a shrine in Okija, in Anambra State, and in some of the stories that we have heard, we discovered that shrines, even in the South West are multiplying even faster than houses of modern religious doctrines. There are private shrines in homes in the innermost part of peoples’ houses.
“So, burial grounds and mortuaries fall into the same mythical existence, trying to understand the human and social phenomenon – what do they stand for? What do they portray? And people also believe that there are forces that direct the affairs that they have no control over. Therefore, they have to seek for help from the so-called gods to support, or assist them so that they can have control of their existence.”
He said when people are unable to understand why they are poor, or why their incomes are disappearing, they are likely to indulge in fetish acts.
“That is one of the reasons people tell their children, or relatives not to bury them in remote cemeteries. Not too long ago, in Ekiti, Oyo, Osun and some states in the South West, they were removing pants spread on the line. I could recall that even in schools, ladies were told not to dispose of their sanitary pads publicly. That is the mythical world that we now live in.
“But the main question is, do all these rituals that are performed everywhere really work, or do they translate to what is expected? If you get to Okija shrine, I once conducted online research – content analysis. It showed that important political office holders in that region patronise the shrines up till today. Because they are all over the place, especially in the southern part of the country. Corpses are kept in Okija shrine and politicians go there to swear to do all kinds of things. People even drink corpses’ bathwater, which is bought with a lot of money. So, rituals, the lack of understanding of the environment in which people live, the lack of control, and the fear of the unknown all help to shape this notion of the world. But for them, it’s rational behaviour,” the don concluded.
The Chairman, Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria, Ogun State Chapter, Prophet (Dr.) Daniel Adewale Adesanya, lamented the absence of a council, board, or regulatory agency to keep an eye on the activities of mortuary attendants, and that of the owners of the facilities.
Adesanya, who doubles as the Provost/Chairman, Governing Council, Royal Institute of Health Technology, Apomu, said mortuaries in hospitals are under the control of medical directors as the case may be. “The private ones that are sprouting up nowadays fall under the control of the Ministry of Health; there is no direct regulatory agency that keeps an eye on them the way the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) does on pharmacists or the way the Medical Laboratory Council of Nigeria regulates the practice of medical laboratories.
“At the Royal Institute of Health Technology, we have just developed a curriculum for the training of mortuary science technicians and assistants because for now, there is no formal training for all of them working in that sector – it’s just like apprenticeship sort of a thing.
“Anatomy laboratories, colleges of medicine, morbid anatomy laboratories and the likes also render these services. It’s supposed to be regulated by a morbid anatomist or pathologist. So, in our institution, we are domiciling it under pathology now. Like I pointed out earlier, there is no particular regulatory agency regulating them, and there is no particular formal training except what we are trying to develop now.”
A Medical Doctor at the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH), Zaria, Kaduna State, Dr. Sudi Abdullahi, said that like many others, he was hearing of the practice for the first time. “In our capacity as doctors, we hardly deal with mortuary issues; we are more concerned with the patients. The moment a patient dies in the ward, and we certify the person clinically dead, then we hand the body over to the nurses who wheel such bodies to the mortuary.
“The fact is that you can’t rule out things like the sale of corpses clothes happening because everything is possible. As doctors, it is only corpses that require autopsy that involve doctors, specifically consultant pathologists. By the time the pathologist finishes what he is doing, he’ll hand over the body back to the mortuary attendants and technicians. So, the attendants may tamper with the organs used for the autopsy. Embalmment and all these processes are not part of doctors’ job.”