Uneasy calm in cemeteries, as raiders, scavengers hunt for human parts
Invasion of Cemeteries and vandalisation of tombs is seriously discouraging people from burying their loved ones in public cemeteries, as activities of robbers and scavengers who specialise in mutilating dead bodies, especially vital human parts and ‘market’ it for ritual and purposes, are gradually reaching an alarming rate. GBENGA AKINFENWA, who visited some of the cemeteries, reports.
Trade in human parts has become one of the many lucrative illegal businesses thriving in the country today. Its rapid growth has made the business commonplace. This is fuelled largely by the menace of ritual practices involving those desperate for quick wealth, high positions in society including, political appointments, and even those in search of long life and protection.
Despite the daily discovery of ritualists’ dens and arrest of human body parts merchants, the business still booms by the day, as the high demand for human parts is fast outweighing supply.
The Guardian learnt that fresh and dried human parts like skulls, eyes, teeth, livers, hearts, genitalia, tongues, fingers and thighs, among others are in high demand across the country.
The Guardian’s investigation also indicates that the practice, which has become widespread in the country, is deepening in the South West and the Middle Belt, where ritualists abound and money rituals thrive.
The investigation further revealed that different types of rituals determine the type of the body parts, the gender and the form (fresh, decomposing or dry human parts).
A herbalist, Omoronke Ifatunde, said while the fresh and decomposing type can easily be obtained in ‘markets,’ (that is ritualists’ dens, human parts merchants, herbalists, and open markets) dry human parts are not easy to come by, though can be bought from herbalists and trado-medical doctors.
Due to their high demand, which by far outweighs supply, dry human parts are very scarce in markets, where available, they are very expensive. This is part of what has led to the invasion of cemeteries where these vital parts are stolen from freshly buried corpses.
The Guardian reliably gathered that there has been sustained onslaught on cemeteries in Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Osun, Ekiti, and Kwara states as the theft of vital human parts continues.
The investigation further revealed that some tombs in isolated and highbrow areas across these states have been ravaged by human parts hunters, just as it showed that skulls, thighbones, legs and arm bones were some of the most sought-after dried parts.
A skull sells for between N12, 000 and N40, 000; thighbone goes for N50, 000, while others parts range from N10, 000 to N12, 000. These prices vary from place to place, but urgency also plays a role in determining the prices of the parts.
In Kwara State, a large number of cemeteries and graveyards in Ilorin, the state capital and the suburbs have been invaded, vandalised and essential parts removed from the bodies, and the graves left open. This development has left many in shock.
A native of Ilorin, Aminu Jimoh told The Guardian that many tombs in the state capital appeared “touched and milked,” as the human parts merchants currently invade the nooks and crannies of the state exhuming corpses as the cost of these parts soars.
Between 2015 and now, according to investigations, invasion of cemeteries and vandalisation of tombs have become daily occurrence in the state, as agents believed to have been hired by politicians have intensified efforts to get dry human parts by all means. The two hot spots are Osere and Oke-Oyi.
Another resident of the ancient town, Nureni Hameen, who confirmed the development to The Guardian said the rate at which graves are vandalised and body parts removed, is an indication that it is a booming business.
He linked the development to personalities, especially politicians, who are eyeing top political offices, or those seeking spiritual assistance to achieve their heart desires. He predicted that as the 2019 general elections draw near, more of such heinous acts would be committed.
This development has forced many to bury the remains of their loved ones within their homes and compounds.
Not long ago, a family that laid their loved one to rest according to Muslim rites at a cemetery in Oke-Oyi, in Ilorin was surprised to find the body dismembered outside the grave when they returned the second day to lay the tomb stone.
Early in 2016, a priest and founder of a church in the Osere area of Ilorin, Gabriel Josaya, was arrested alongside Gabriel Moyosore, Yinusa Sa’ad Ayinla and others for unlawful entry into a Muslims cemetery in Osere area.
The suspect was alleged to be involved in selling human skulls at the rate of N8, 000 since 2009.
The Guardian’s trip to Ogun State led to startling revelations on the modus operandi of the human part thieves. It was discovered that the thieves only focus on tombs with inscriptions, showing the full names of the deceased, the age and time of death.
At a cemetery in Arigbajo, Ewekoro Local Council of Ogun State, it was observed that of the numerous tombs in the cemetery, all the ones that were vandalised had these inscriptions on them, and mostly the skulls taken out. None of the tombs without inscriptions were touched. Tombs with concrete slabs were also not touched.
Early in 2017, a ritual killer, identified as Adebayo Mubashiru, was arrested alongside three others in Abeokuta and Owode Egba areas of Ogun State by men of the State Police Command.
Mubashiru confessed that he and his colleagues buy human parts, including skulls, eyes and teeth, for N12, 000.
Their arrest led to the discovery of fresh and dried human parts, dead lizards and charms in their hideout.
Despite the tight security at Ikoyi, Atan and other cemeteries in Lagos State, the theft of body parts still takes place in these resting place for the dead. Stories abound of the thriving nature of the business in these places, which are done in connivance with cemetery guards.
These body parts thieves exhume corpses in isolated area of these highbrow cemeteries in Lagos.
In the Jafojo area of Agege, on the outskirts of Lagos State, several graves were invaded and the corpses ripped-open before steps were taken to secure the place.
Before this time, according to a resident who gave his name as Ijogbon, the trade in human parts was business as usual. Normalcy has since been restored to the area.
The Guardian’s visit to Matori Cemetery, located in the heart of the Ladipo Auto Spare Parts Market, Mushin, showed that the place is unusually busy, despite being bordered by bushes.
Apart from people, who throng the place for enquiries, a number of persons loiter around with nylon bags.
According to some, whose relatives are buried there, it takes only a few weeks for parts or a corpse to disappear from its resting place.
One Madam Abike Olurebi, a resident of Mushin, who spoke to The Guardian, said those who bury their people there always forget about them totally due to the issue of missing body parts and sudden disappearances.
Osun State is not left out of this heinous act. Last September, the Osun State Police Command arrested a man, Adeyeye Adeniyi, with a human skull at Oba’s compound in Moro.
The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fimihan Adeoye, said the suspect was apprehended by detectives attached to Ipetumodu Divisional Headquarters.
In January 2017, a 72-year-old man, Idris Ajao, was arrested by the state police command, for being in possession of a human skull. He was nabbed in the process of exhuming one of the corpses buried at a cemetery around 8:00pm.
Ajao, who claimed to be a bricklayer, had perfected plans to transport the human parts to Iwo. In his confession, he claimed a herbalist, Tajudeen Jawesola, contracted him to exhume skulls from graves in a cemetery for a fee of N10, 000.
Last June, a 38-year-old man, Ajibade Rasheed, was also caught with fresh human parts in Osogbo. The commissioner of police said Ajibade was caught by policemen at Olu-Ode area.
Freshly cut head, intestines, lung, vargina, and liver of a woman and a bottle containing blood were recovered from the suspect in his car.
In Oyo State, men of the state police command, late last year arrested a suspected ritualist, Mr. Taju Olalekan, for being in possession of a fresh human head. Olalekan was arrested at Modina area, Idi-Aro, Ibadan, around 6.30 a.m.
During interrogation, the suspect disclosed that the exhibit was given to him by an accomplice’s younger brother, Saheed Olalekan, who was at large.
An investigation also revealed that the suspect and his cohorts have been dealing in human parts for years.
In October 2017, the Ondo State Police Command arrested three men for allegedly killing a student of Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo, for money ritual.
The suspects were arrested by a team of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) dispatched to Ondo town following a tip-off.
A new dimension to this menace is the fact that these body parts are now being shipped abroad for monetary gains.
The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), which raised the alarm, described it as organ harvesting.
The Director-General of NAPTIP, Julie Okah-Donli, who disclosed this in Port Harcourt recently, during a working visit to Rivers and Bayelsa states said: “The new dimension in trafficking is what they call organ harvesting. It also takes place in different forms. Organ harvesting is a situation where one’s organs like the kidney, liver, heart and other vital organs are taken and sold for money.”
Okah-Donli said the challenge confronting the agency was lack of useful information, even as she said most of the crimes were committed behind closed doors.
In all instances of vandalisation of graves, investigation revealed that the invasion could not be done successfully without the knowledge of cemetery keepers, even as another school of thought fingers the cemetery guards as also being human parts merchants.
Last year, a cemetery worker, Oluwatoyosi Akorede, was nabbed by the police in Ogun State, while being in possession of two human skulls.
Akorede was an attendant at Ayepe Cemetery, at Isale Oko area of Sagamu. He was suspected to have gotten the skulls by exhuming bodies of dead people. He confessed that the items were needed to perform rituals.
The cemetery keeper at the Matori Cemetery, who simply gave his name as Lanihun said the involvement of gravediggers in the heinous act, cannot be totally ruled out considering that some have been caught in the act under the cover of darkness.
When asked to comment on the issue of corpses that disappear from the graves few weeks after burial, he claimed that based on the cemetery policy, there is a fixed amount to be paid to get permanent space, noting that those who fail to pay the price are those whose “corpses are moved to another place.”
But aside from their use for rituals, The Guardian authoritatively learnt from a herbalist, Ayinla Adifala that some herbalists and fetish people who believed so much in the efficacy of either human bones or flesh use them to prepare concoction. “They would add a little of this to the ingredients. They believe that human parts have the potency to heal. So, they are not only used for ritual purposes, that is why there is a desperate search for them now.”
The State Commander of Vigilance Service of Ogun State (VSO), Mr. Soji Ganzallo, confirmed the rising spate of the heinous crime to The Guardian. “We are so much aware of this and we have arrested many suspects perpetrating the act and handed them over to the police.
“We have been moving around, our patrol teams-both foot and mobile patrols-have been tasked to patrol all cemeteries in the state. Don’t forget that our men are scattered throughout the state, even in the remotest villages we have our men. It is very rampant now, bodies are no more allowed to rest peacefully, bones and other body parts are now being sold to ritualists.”
He noted that the perpetrators don’t invade the cemeteries in the daytime, but at night, saying the arrests they have made so far were all at night. “But since we started the monitoring last year, the menace is on the decrease.”
The Ogun State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Abimbola Oyeyemi, indicted cemetery attendants for conniving with the perpetrators. He noted that three attendants have so far been arrested, and they have confessed to being engaged by ritualists to dismember bodies for a fee.
“Both the ritualists and the attendants were arrested and they are in court now for an unlawful possession of human parts. We are liaising with cemetery authorities to always do background check of whoever they want to employ to avoid connivance.”
He stressed that it is not only in cemeteries that this is happening, noting that human part scavengers are going to the extent of removing dead bodies in front of family houses and compounds, in connivance with family members.
“I think it is penchant for money that is causing this, people are looking for money everywhere,” he said.