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Ritualists Suspected of Abductions of Small Children in Nigeria’s Displaced Peoples Camps

Kids at Benue IDP Camp. Photo courtesy of Dede Laugesen.
Kids at Benue IDP Camp. Photo courtesy of Dede Laugesen.

By Justine John Dyikuk | TruthNigeria | July 6, 2023

JOS—Parents of small children in Benue State’s Internally Displaced People’s [IDP] camps are scrambling to protect their kids from kidnappers known as “ritualists” who are believed to have abducted 6 children under five years of age.  In Nigeria, ritual killings involve the extra-judicial murder of human beings to obtain their body parts to propitiate spirits that can bring financial wealth, political favor, success in business or advancement in religious organizations.

Thousands of IDPs living in makeshift camps for people dislodged from their homes by the intractable terrorist menace across Benue State, North Central Nigeria are now contending with suspected cases of ritual abductions and murders related to practices known in the Western hemisphere as voodoo. Beliefs in the supernatural and in magic objects are rooted in the traditional culture of West Africa.

The displaced farmers pushed off their farms in Benue State are caught in a vice between powerful Muslim herding clans armed with assault rifles and Muslim-friendly government security forces that stand accused of turning a blind eye to terrorism.  Besides facing the trauma of being forced from their homestead and surviving on aid and donations from the Church, IDPs in recent months worry that their pre-school children will be snatched away at any moment.

The latest report from one of the camps indicates that “five children were reported missing in the Daudu camp, and a three-year-old boy was abducted by unknown men at the Ichwa camp,” according to a humanitarian priest caring for the IDPs who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation.

 Above: makeshift shelters of mosquito netting for displaced residents of northern Benue State in Nigeria. Photo courtesy of Dede Laugesen.

“This new form of attack on the IDPs is allegedly carried out by ritualists who lure the starving children with gifts and food. Men around the camp have raised the alarm and become more security-conscious about strange faces and vehicles in the concerned areas,” the priest told Truth Nigeria.

The phenomenon of child-ritual killing “calls for the need to increase security around the camps and to provide livelihood opportunities and food to the displaced to combat such attacks” the humanitarian aid worker suggested.

Ritualist Murder History in Nigeria

According to The Cable, an online Nigerian newspaper, ritual killings are on the increase in Nigeria. “[I]n recent times, reported cases of ritual killings have surged in many parts of the country” (The Cable 26 May 2021).

Police in Benue state have jailed some suspects earlier in the year. A police prosecutor arraigned one Terkaa Ikyoyer and Lorlumun Akule in April before the Makurdi upper area court 2A, following the disappearance of Emmanuella Nyam, a six-year-old girl, on Feb. 20.

The police prosecutor, Rachael Mchiave, reportedly said the suspects were facing a two-count charge of criminal conspiracy and advance fee fraud.

Ms. Terkimbir Nyam, the parent of the missing girl, reported the case to the state criminal investigation department on March 13, according to prosecutor Mchiave.

In 2018, there was a similar incidence of suspected ritual killing at Daudu IDPs camp located in Guma local government area of the state.

One of the displaced persons, 36-year-old Peter Ioryoosu, told Investigative journalist Patrick Egwu that he believes that his niece, Membe, 4, might have been kidnapped by ritualists.

“We think they are kidnappers or ritualists. They saw a woman playing with the child around. Later she took the child and said she wanted to buy her something to eat, and, in the process, she took the child without reporting to the mother. At first, we thought they were lying until we couldn’t find her. We don’t know where they took her to, whether Gboko or Lafia,” said Ioryoosu.

The Nigerian government reportedly has been investigating targeted murders of children since 2013, but critics have complained that this ends up as promises never leading to implementation.

In February 2022, Nigeria’s House of Representatives urged the Nigerian federal government to declare a state of emergency due to the rising incidence of ritual killings in the country.

This was sparked by the arrest of 4 teenagers by the police in January 2022 in connection with the killing of twenty-year-old Sofiat Kehinde in Ogun State, Southwestern, Nigeria.

Ritual killings have been cropping up in Nigeria for years.  In 2004, the police uncovered dozens of corpses near the Okija-Shrine in Anambra State, a notorious hub where top-politicians in the region are initiated in ritual-oath taking they believe will ensure political victories.

Nollywood Knocked for Glamorizing Cult Killing

The idealized portrayal of ritual killing by Nigeria’s vaunted film industry, known as “Nollywood,” was referenced by legislators in the nation’s lower chamber as another factor responsible for rising ritual killings across the West African country.

Although The European Union Agency for Asylum (EASO), reported that “deaths due to witchcraft and ritual killings account for 1 percent of all violent deaths between 2006 and 2014” in the first five months of 2018, there were “72 deaths related to ritual killings, according to a study by the Austrian Red Cross, (

Above:  left: Truth Nigeria senior editor Douglas Burton and Bishop Wilfred Chikpa Anagbe, CMF, Diocese of Makurdi, Benue State at June 5 meeting in Washington, D.C.  

Abduction of children in Benue, tragic though it be, is only a partial picture of the general pogrom underway in Benue State, according to His Excellency Wilfred Chikpa Anagbe, the Bishop of Makurdi. “I think I speak for all Christian communities in Nigeria when I say that our experience in Benue mirrors what is taking place across the country. The experience of the Nigerian Christians today can frighteningly be summed up as that of a church under a sustained strategy of Islamic intimidation and persecution,” the bishop told a gathering of religious freedom activists in Washington, D.C. on June 5.

The Bishop, a Claretian, who bemoaned that “We are like an endangered species” disclosed that “Between 2022-2023, 18 priests have died – within the year 2022 and May 2023, you have had about 140 attacks in Benue, and about 591 persons killed. The specter of ritualistic abductions simply worsens the crucifixion of Christians in Nigeria.

Justine John Dyikuk, a Catholic priest from Nigeria’s Bauchi Diocese, who specializes in political communication and reporting religiously motivated violence, is a Doctoral Candidate in Journalism, Media, and Communication at the University of Strathclyde Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom.

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