By Levi Obijiofor

Conditions are fast deteriorating in Nigeria. Armed robbery, kidnapping, ritual murders, political assassinations, as well as other criminal activities are on the rise. Blood is spilled unnecessarily every day. Precious lives are wasted. Human life has no value anymore.

The most dreaded of the criminals are ritual killers. Ritual killing is a trade that features elderly people, young people, men, and women. Teenagers are considered most deadly and gruesome because of the methods they use to asphyxiate or terminate the lives of their victims.

Ritual killers are popping up in every corner and community of Nigeria, defying the filial bond that connects children to their parents, husbands to wives, and siblings to one another. True friendship does not exist anymore. In place of these long-established relationships, friends murder their best friends for the sake of money. Sons kill and dismember their parents just to serve ritualists who demand body parts as a precondition to make them wealthy. Classmates lure their colleagues to secret locations where they hack the unsuspecting colleague to death.

The other day, a group of teenagers conspired to lead an innocent girl to an outer location where they cut off her head and went to the bizarre and mindless point of boiling the head in a pot. So repugnant. So grisly. So callous. So brutal. So silly. So senseless. So unforgiveable.

The quest for instant prosperity is driving youth to commit heinous crimes. They cannot think of engaging in any productive activity other than how to kill anyone within their reach. A country that was once gripped by fear over incessant abductions has now been overtaken by ritual killers. Most human relationships are now cultivated on a spurious platform. No one trusts anybody any longer.

There is something deeply disgusting about a country in which wives assassinate their husbands regularly and husbands take the lives of their wives so freely, a country in which sons murder their mothers and boyfriends slaughter their girlfriends, all for ritual purposes. These crimes are often committed in response to prompts by ritual priests, native doctors, or double-dealing pastors who promise to transform people from a life of penury to a life of unsurpassed wealth.

In this environment of crime, beheading has become a common way of terminating people’s lives. These killings are occurring and persisting because people have been deluded to believe that, by cutting off human heads or other body parts and taking them to ritual priests or native doctors, they would become rich overnight.

The pastors, priests, and native doctors look so miserable, so shabby in appearance, and so deceptive they do not appear as if they have the capacity to make other people wealthy. Is it possible for a pastor or native doctor to turn another person into a multi-millionaire by a twitch of the finger?

Our youth are gullible. They believe anything. They are easily fooled to believe it is possible to become rich without hard work. There is no evidence anywhere to show that anyone can become wealthy through ritual killing. People must learn to apply their God-given ability to think, to reason, and to question swindlers. Youth must learn to distinguish between a twaddle and truth, between fiction and imagined life and reality. Nothing comes easy in life.

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Here is some harsh truth. A criminal can eliminate the entire population of their village and still remain wretched. Killing in cold blood is never a genuine vehicle to acquiring wealth. That is a fact. No one deserves to be a victim of tricksters.

The question has been posed: Why are ritual killings so prevalent in Nigeria? There are factors that drive people to commit terrible murders. First, the level of economic, financial, and social deprivations in Nigeria is high. There are no public institutions or services that cushion people from facing the full and devastating impact of these deficiencies. Second, youth unemployment is crushing. When youth deprived of the basic needs of life have nowhere to turn to, they find a life of crime attractive. Three, political and social systems in Nigeria are not constructed to assist needy youth or indeed anybody. Add to these the spectre of endemic corruption, poor governance, and lack of social welfare.

These are some of the causes but certainly not all the factors that prompt the youth to engage in criminal activities. There are other sociological, psychological, structural, and cultural factors that could explain the rising trend of ritual murders in Nigeria.

Regardless of these issues, the point must be made. Poverty cannot justify arbitrary or systematic killings in the society. And Nigeria is not the only country with a large population of youth who are financially or economically broken. There are other countries that are less politically organised, poorly endowed economically, and appallingly led than Nigeria and yet ritual killings are abhorred or unheard of in those countries. So, why are these crimes exacerbating in Nigeria?

One common response is that people kill and dismember their victims because they have been brainwashed by criminally minded pastors and native doctors to believe that if they brought some body parts, particularly body parts of their family members or cherished friends, they would be transformed into immediate millionaires. How misleading. How tempting. How disingenuous. As a proverb states, a tree that grows overnight and bears fruit that matures overnight cannot be genuine.

Most recently, the source of ritual killings and unbridled pursuit of wealth was attributed to religious leaders who preach the kingdom of God while promoting prosperity, luxurious property acquisition, ownership of flashy cars, private jets, and residence in exotic homes. Unfortunately, there is a huge gulf between what religious leaders preach and their lifestyles.

Overwhelmed by mixed and contradictory messages coming from their so-called spiritual leaders, churchgoers feel that, in such a free-falling state in which there are no rules, no morals, and no genuine role models, everyone is free to do whatever they like. There is a sense that religious institutions and their leaders, as well as political leaders have lost their role in society.

It is by their lifestyle, not by what they say, that religious leaders should be regularly assessed. When they preach piety but live a reckless and amoral life in which they display unparalleled greed, affection for wealth, lust for female members of their congregation, lack of humanity, total disregard for laws of God and society, their sermons become worthless and fail to stir their followers. When religious homilies are dominated by emphasis on money, it becomes obvious the church leaders are not looking to assist impoverished members of their churches but to deprive them of the little they have.

Evangelism in Nigeria is under threat. Religious organisations have lost the spark, respect, recognition, and widespread admiration they enjoyed previously. Some of the leaders promote ritual killings and associate with dubious characters. Yet some others are known to have raped defenceless members of their churches. There is no redemption in sight. The house of Christianity that God built has been sullied, abused, and trashed by duplicitous men and women who parade themselves as servants of God.