Liberia constitutes another never ending story as far as ritual killings are concerned. The reported ritual murder case below is shocking but, unfortunately, has a strong ‘seen before’ character.
The killing of Worteh Koffa is another murder in the southeastern part of Liberia, notorious for its ritualistic murders. The article below elaborates on these cases including Liberia’s most notorious ritual murder case which led to the arrest and subsequent conviction and sentencing – ‘death by hanging’ – of seven convicted rituals murderers, among whom two so-called ‘big shots’, the Superintendent of Maryland County, James Daniel Andersen (the personal representative of then Present Tolbert in this part of the country) , and the representative of Maryland County in the House of Representatives, Allen Yancy. (webmaster FVDK)
A man in his late 20s, named Worteh Koffa, has been found dead “with body parts missing” in Grand Kru County.
The deceased, according to a 15-man coroner jury in Grand Kru County died as a result of ritualistic killing. The coroner jury reported that the late Worteh’s eyes, tongue, fingers and toenails, and other body parts were missing upon discovery of his body in early April 2022 on the beach in Grandcess City, Grand Kru County District #1.
Worteh’s death comes just a year after a 23-years old motorcyclist named Mordecail Nyemah for ritualistic purposes in Maryland County, which is a southeastern county like Grand Kru. The deceased was discovered dead with his right eye plugged, and right fingers cut off in Pleebo during the morning hours of March 25, 2021, and it triggered a wave of violent riot both in Pleebo and the Maryland County’s capital, Harper.
Suspect Moses Mlamah said in a video interview that he was sent by a man identified as Daniel Wesseh to get blood for reasons and was paid to do so. He added that he enlisted the help of two others to carry out the act. The issue about ritualistic killings in the southeast is not anything strange with Maryland County seeing a series of ritualistic murders that occurred around Harper, in the 1970s.
Between 1965 and 1977 over 100 murders occurred in Maryland County, many of which were considered ritualistic due to the mutilation and removal of body parts. During the 1970s, Liberians in Maryland County were constantly under the threat of ritual murders. Between November 1976 and July 1977, 14 people had disappeared in the county prompting Liberian president William Tolbert to fire Superintendent of Maryland County, James Daniel Anderson, who failed to report the missing people. Tolbert publicly declared “Anyone who kills deliberately: The law will kill that person.”
These murders went unreported and uninvestigated until the murder of a local fisherman and popular singer, Moses Tweh. Tweh was abducted on June 26, 1977. His body was discovered on July 4, 1977, heavily mutilated with his eyes, ears, nose, tongue and penis removed. Prior to the discovery of Tweh’s body, Wreh Taryonnoh, the girlfriend of Assistant Supervisor of Schools, Francis Nyepan, was allegedly heard by a group searching for Tweh saying that “if they would be so lucky to find him, only his bones they might see”. This sparked the arrest of 12 people, a majority of whom were government officials.
During the first Harper Trial, Joshua Brown and Teah Toby were released and later became state witnesses. The other ten defendants were found guilty and sentenced to public execution by hanging. Tagbedi Wisseh appealed his conviction and was pardoned by Tolbert before execution. Wonplu Boye and Koti Weah both died before execution, it was rumored their own family members poisoned them to avoid shame.
On 16 February 1979, the seven remaining people convicted of Moses Tweh’s murder were publicly hanged at dawn in Harper. The media dubbed them the “Harper Seven” The crimes back then were regarded as “Liberia’s most notorious ritual killing case” due to the number of murders, the involvement of high ranking government officials and their subsequent public executions.
Meanwhile, up to press time, the Liberian National Police Detachment in Grand Kru County is still tightlipped on the investigation of Worteh’s death.
Worteh’s mother has therefore called on the government to probe the mysterious death of her son as “her family remains peaceful and awaits the outcome of any investigation. His death has caused fear among youths in the county and there appears to be a self-imposed curfew among residents of the area, fearing for their own safety.
Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker and Acting Chairman of the Grand Kru County Legislative Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa, on has condemned the gruesome and ritualistic murder of Worteh Koffa and called on the Minister of Justice to put more resources into the investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators.
On his Facebook page, the Grand Kru County District #2 lawmaker noted that: “We condemn in the strongest terms the gruesome and ritualistic murder of young Worteh Koffa. I have placed a call to the Minister of Justice to put more resources in the investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators.”
Cllr. Koffa added: “The age-old practice of ritualistic killings, for whatever purpose, must end. I call on the peaceful citizens of Grandcess to remain calm and law-abiding and assist in the investigation. No young person should have his promising life taken away by nefarious and heartless creatures. I call for a swift and speedy investigation.”
Nigeria ranks Number One in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) when it comes to ritual murders (locally referred to as ‘money rituals’) – and not only because this West African nation is SSA’s most populated country. Nevertheless, I was astonished reading about the number of recent ritual killings in some of Nigeria’s main cities. In Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, in less than four weeks, beginning from June 1 of this year, at least five persons were savagely murdered by suspected ritual killers. One of the victims was a five-year old boy. Also in August 2019, ritual murders had been reported, with six victims within one month in the same Akinyele Local Government Area. Consequently, the population of Ibadan lives in fear, everyday, of becoming victim of the suspected ritual killers, despite the assurances of the police and governmental authorities and the attention of traditional rulers for these heinous crimes.
As one of the local chiefs stated: “The way the killers have been operating left me with no option than to believe that they are killing for money rituals.”
Warning: the following article contains graphic details (webmaster FVDK).
Ibadan – City of blood Fear, anxiety in Ibadan over ritual killings • Police, government assure residents
Published: June 27, 2020 By: The Sun, Voice of the Nation- Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
Ibadan is fast turning into a city of blood, no thanks to a yet-to-be-apprehended group of ritual killers that invaded the city recently and left in their wake a long trail of blood of victims. The affected local government district, Akinyele Local Government Area, is currently under a siege. In less than four weeks, beginning from June 1, 2020, at least, five persons had been killed by suspected ritual killers in different communities of the local government.
Understandably, the development has sent shivers down the spines of residents of one of the 11 local governments that makes up Ibadan, the state capital, and one of the 33 local government areas of the state. The local government, which has 12 wards, was created in 1976 and occupies a land area of 464.892 square kilometres with a population density of 516 persons per square kilometre.
Experts have said that using 3.2 per cent growth rate from 2006 National Population Census figures, the 2010 estimated population for the local government has been estimated to be 239,745. It hosts notable institutions including International Institute of Tropical Agricultural (IITA) at Idi-Ose; Nigeria Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER) at Ojoo, Federal School of Statistics at Ajibode Road; 2nd Division of the Nigerian Army and reasonable percentage of the University of Ibadan land.
A spate of mysterious killings
Since the first ritual killing that took place on June 1, 2020, at Akinyele town, the ritual killings have been consistent. The June 1 incident involved Miss Baraka Bello, a female student of the Department of Science Laboratory Technology (SLT), Federal College of Animal Health and Production, Moor Plantation, Ibadan. She was reportedly raped before being killed. The killers, operating in a way that is reminiscent of the infamous Badoo Boys, were said to have smashed her head at the back of her father’s house at Oloro area of Kara in Akinyele town.
On June 5, 2020, ritualists also smashed the head of 29-year-old woman, Mrs. Azeezat Somuyiwa, with a big stone, at Ijefun community, near Ojoo. She was said to be seven month pregnant at the time of killing.
On Saturday June 13, 2020, a National Diploma student of Oke Ogun Polytechnic, Saki, Oyo State, Grace Oshiagwu, 21, was raped and killed inside a church at Idi Ori, Sasa, Ojoo area of Ibadan.
On Monday, June 22, 2020, five-year-old boy, Mujib Tirimisiyu, was killed by ritual killers, who reportedly hit his head with a shovel at Olorunsogo Phase II, Tose, Moniya, Ibadan. He suffered the fate while he was allegedly defecating behind their house. His loud shout attracting the attention of his mother to rush to where he was defecating. On getting there, she saw some boys dragging his lifeless body into the bush. On sighting her, the attackers reportedly dropped the corpse and fled.
On Wednesday, June 24, 2020, the life of 42-year-old woman, Mrs. Olusayo Fagbemi, residing at Ajibade Street, Sasa, Ibadan, was cruelly cut short by ritual killers. She was allegedly attacked while she washed plates in front of her residence on that Wednesday morning. And, the assailants were said to have hit her on the head, with either a shovel or a cutlass.
On being hit with the weapon, she shouted. This made her husband to rush out from their room. On getting outside, he met his wife in a pool of her own blood. The attackers reportedly took to their heels the moment they sighted her husband and other alamed residents of the house, rushing out. The woman was said to have been rushed to a private hospital for medical attention to save her life. But unfortunately, she could not make it. She was confirmed as ‘brought in dead’ (BID) in the hospital.
Police reassure residents, amid fear
A climate of fear now exists among the natives as no one knows who could be the next victim or when detectives could crack open the conundrum of ritual killings ravaging the community and help bring rest to restless minds. A resident of Sasa, who agreed to speak on the promise of his name not being used in print, blamed suspected ritualists as being behind the incessant killings in the local government area.
“I don’t want my name to be mentioned because those evil people may be residing in the same community with us, and I don’t want them to zero in on my family,” he said. “I think communities should set up vigilance groups to address this ugly trend. Also, the security agencies and the state government should halt the incessant killings in this local government area.”
The Police Public Relations Officer in Oyo State, Olugbenga Fadeyi, who confirmed the death of the five persons, said the police, who he said, are already on the trail of the assailants, have already commenced investigations. Confirming the incident that occurred at about 5:40am on June 24, 2020, he said the deceased “was attacked right at the frontage of her house while she washed plates and she sustained injury on her head. At her shout, her husband rushed out and met her in the pool of her blood, while the assailant(s) ran away. She was rushed to a hospital where she was confirmed dead. Efforts are being intensified to apprehend the culprits as the Police is on their trail.”
Fadeyi who confirmed that some arrests have been made, assured that efforts are being made to nip the incessant killings in the bud. He explained that the Commissioner of Police in the state, Nwachukwu Enwonwu, and Special Adviser to Governor Seyi Makinde on Security, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, a former Commissioner of Police in Lagos and Benue States, had visited Akinyele and have been working assiduously to arrest the situation.
Speculations on the cause of killings
Meanwhile, some residents of the local governments have accused some landlords and village heads (Baales) of either letting their houses or selling their land to suspected ‘Yahoo Boys’ or ‘Badoo Boys’ who have in turn been decided to terrorize the local government. A middle-aged man, who did not want his name mentioned in print said he warned many of the village heads then, but they did not heed his words because of pecuniary purpose.
This correspondent had, in August 2019, exclusively reported two stories in the Daily Sun, about how ritual killers resurfaced in Ibadan, after a similar development was nipped in the bud at Ikorodu in Lagos. It was reported then that at least six persons were dispatched to their early graves within one month. They killed all the six victims then in the same Akinyele Local Government.
Then, the first reported incident occurred at Abatakan, near Ojoo where four persons were said to have been killed. The second and third reported cases happened at Fatokun in Moniya and Olomowewe in Akingbile, on Saturday August 24, 2019. One person each were reportedly killed in the two places. The three incidents followed the same pattern as the assailants, operating like the Badoo Boys that once terrorized Ikorodu, Lagos, were said to have struck their targets at about 10 a.m. The killers, it was gathered, used grinding stones to smash the heads of their victims, and handkerchiefs to wipe their blood before taking their leave, without stealing anything from their victims.
Lawmaker’s advice on how to stay safe
The recent resurgence has filled the residents with déjà vu. Their leaders assure that this time around they are up in arms. Chairman, Oyo State House of Assembly Parliamentary Council, Ayotunde Fatokun, and the member representing Akinyele Constituency I, told Saturday Sun: “On the issue of ritual killings in Akinyele Local Government, we are trying to do a number of things to ensure that the phenomenon is curbed. In terms of security, we appreciate Governor Seyi Makinde for his efforts and for moving the Special Adviser on Security to the local government to see things for himself and have a first-hand view of what is going on there.
“Many arrests have been made in the last couple of weeks on the incessant killings. But the new killings have shown to us that there are more than one group involved. And efforts are ongoing to ensure that we bring the perpetrators of the evil to book. Most importantly, one major concern as the lawmaker representing the constituency is to enlighten my people on basic security tips and steps they should take to ensure that we are able to curb this menace in no time. Of course, I will like to advise people that they should stop staying outside alone and that they should ensure that they are in company of somebody to guide against eventualities.
“For houses that are close to the bush, we should clear the bushes in order to make it uneasy for these perpetrators of evil to get in and out of residences of people, and also make it uneasy for them to run away. If you are inside the house, let us ensure that we lock our doors. If we notice anything, let us make calls so that something can be done. You may need to shout for your neighbours to come to your aid. If you are able to reach your phone, you can call the 615 Emergency Number of Oyo State, so that security agencies can attend to you promptly.”
Traditional rulers speak on security measures
Speaking on the scary insecurity issue, Alakinyele of Akinyele, Oba James Odeniran, in a chat with Saturday Sun, said: “I must confess to you that we have to subscribe to the fact that the people that are committing the crime are living within our local government. That is why as one of the steps being taken, we have resolved that the issue of landlords and tenants relations should be taken into consideration. At the landlord association’s level, they should be able to know where their tenants come from, the jobs they are doing, know whether they have means of livelihood and know if they are working.
“Also, based on the name of the name of this council, people have found it difficult to differentiate between Akinyele Local Government Area and Akinyele town, with regard to the incessant killings in the area. I want to say it categorically here that apart from that of Barakat Bello, all other incidents were not from Akinyele town. As a result of these incidents, people are now afraid of coming to Akinyele town. I want to say to the whole world that there is relative peace in Akinyele town now. We have taken some steps when the incident of Barakat occurred to ensure adequate security in Akinyele town.”
The Oniroko of Iroko, Oba Olasunkanmi Abioye, believes that if the ritual killings have something to do with the alleged sale of land to the so-called Yahoo Boys, it is not so in his domain. “As far as my own town is concerned, there is no land that was sold to ‘Yahoo Boys,” he said. “But these developing areas like Moniya and Ojoo, if you get there, you would find ‘Yahoo boys’ there. The way they behave and the amount they pay to rent houses in those areas is something else. They can rent a flat for N450,000 per year. Is the money available in circulation like that?
“On this development, we should warn landlords and the Baales about accommodating these people in their houses and communities. The baales and Kabiyesis should be vigilant. They should not sit in their houses or palaces without taking actions. They should go round their domains and get people that should be giving them information about their domains. They should not sit down and expect people to come to them and give them envelopes, and many things. What we need in Akinyele Local Government now is to watch out for those ‘Yahoo Boys’ because they are too many in our local government areas now.”
One of the village heads in the local government, the Alagbagi of Agbagi, Chief Babatunde Fabunmi, said he did not believe that the people perpetrating the evil are ‘Yahoo Boys,’ who bought land from Baales. “The baales could have sold land to people, irrespective of whether you hail from this local government or this state or not,” he said. “To fish out the killers, we should not focus only on those we sold our land to. The evil people could also be among our own people from this local government. God is the only ultimate judge.
“The way the killers have been operating left me with no option than to believe that they are killing for money rituals. They would use dangerous objects to break the heads of their victims and would use white handkerchiefs to collect their blood and run away with it. I must tell you that in our different communities, we have put strong security measures in place, with the support of the government. I can tell you that in Ikereku area now, the government has beefed up the presence of security personnel there. If you are passing through Ikereku now, no matter your personality, the security agents would stop you and do thorough search of your vehicle before they allow you to go.”
LG chairman thanks Gov. Makinde
The Chairman, Akinyele Local Government, Toaoheed Adedigba-Jimoh, thanked Governor Makinde, for his continuous support. “The support that we need to overcome this menace in Akinyele Local Government, he is ready to give us,” he said. “He has directed his Special Adviser on Security, and relevant security commanders in the state to visit this local government.
“They have allowed us to incorporate community policing into the security architecture of our local government. They include hunters, Soludero Hunters Associaton, members of Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) and local vigilance group. So, we are using all security means to overcome this challenge.