…’We live in toxic socio-cultural environment’
…Churches doing their best, crime should be treated as an entity
It has become commonplace in the recent past to hear cases of bizarre crime being committed in Ogun State, with many taking the coloration of somewhat spirituality and rituals. The state being home to many of the top churches in the country has also not reflected in the increasing crime rate across the state.
There is currently no type of crime that is not seen or heard of in Ogun State. This has made some people to classify the state as the leader when it comes to crime rate in the country. However, the state is also home to many of the big churches in the country.
They range from father killing son, father raping daughter, son sleeping with mother; man killing wife, wife killing husband with pestle, and the list is endless. In September, a 20 year-old man identified as Ridwan was arrested by the So-Safe Corps in Ogun State for killing his father over money ritual.
The Corps Commander, Soji Ganzallo during a routine patrol heard a strange noise in a building while at Oshoku, which led the team to the crime scene and the subsequent arrest of Ridwan. “The suspected killer was nabbed where he was hiding in a bush. He confessed to have killed his father, Ishau, with a rope tied to his neck and a knife used to remove the needed parts of his body for ritual purpose.”
In another case of son killing father still in Ogun State, it was reported in August that So-Safe corps arrested a 38 year-old man, Matthew Ifeanyi, who allegedly macheted his 100-year-old father, Anthony Nnadike to death around Olorunda area, Eruobodo Ntabo, Ijoko in Ado-Odo/Ota Local Government Area of the state.
Ifeanyi was said to have butchered his centenarian father to death over his inability to produce the sum of N70, 000 kept with him since 22 July 2022. He was said to have allegedly confessed to killing his father during preliminary investigation.
He further confessed that he was forced to commit the condemnable act, having resigned from his previous job with the intention to embark on a business, but his father could not provide the money.
The suspect was said to have been transferred to the Nigeria Police Force, Sango Divisional Headquarter for further investigation and prosecution.
Instances like this and many more have made some people within and outside the state to continually link the increasing and incessant crime rate in Ogun State to the inability of the churches to influence the lives of many people in the state.
However, another school of thought, this time from the church, is of the opinion that the church has lived up to expectations in creating a safety net to curb the rate of crime in the state.
“It is not that the church is not working or having an effect on its immediate society; the socio-cultural environment that we are in is already toxic – churches are doing their best coupled with the economic situation in the country is making the situation a bit more difficult.
“There is nothing impossible with God and to the best of my knowledge, churches are doing their best,” Olusola Daniel Olatomi, senior pastor, Christ First Truth Assembly, Ota, Ogun State, told BusinessDay.
According to him, the level of crime across the country is multifaceted and requires a holistic approach for effective management. He is of the view that people get involved in criminal activities for many reasons, hence it would be wrong to conclude that the church is not affecting its immediate environment positively.
“I pastor in Ogun State and know some things first hand – churches are doing their best, but the economic and socio-cultural environment that we are in is making it difficult for people to really live right,” Olatomi said.
However, another pastor based in Ogun State told BusinessDay that there is a need for the church to think outside the box, and be innovative in its approach to tackling crimes and criminality in its immediate environment.
According to him, criminally-minded individuals do not go to church and are usually outside the four walls of the church.
“While we are doing our Sunday service waving holy hands and these guys will not come and join us. And because of that the church has to think outside the box so that we will be able to look for a method to approach our immediate environment,” Sunday Kujore, a pastor with Winners’ Chapel Shagamu, Ogun State said.
According to him, crime rate and social vices will continue to increase on the back of the increased smart phone/digital adoption, and the introduction of social media among the youth population.
Kujore, himself a product of the Sunday school fellowship in Mushin was of the view that the church in Nigeria has failed in catching them young. “Because we were not able to catch them young before the devil went ahead and ransacked every one of them,” he said.
He disclosed that even though his immediate environment of Mushin was known then for notorious activities, himself and others like him were able to live above board because some persons reached out to them early enough.
“They caught us and led us to Christ and since then we have never left Christ. So, who is going to go after these guys now to introduce them to Christ or introduce Christ to them?
According to him, cultism is now rampant in both primary and secondary schools across the country; while prostitution has gone beyond what it used to be in his days as a youth.
Another pastor based in the Akute area of Ogun State told BusinessDay that crime should be treated as an entity on its own and should be seen as a self-will adventure.
According to her, people are driven by what they see and the things they lust after – greed, pressure and other things. “These are personal traits, which are inborn with a lot of individuals,” Ngozi Oluwagbemiga, senior pastor, Famous Gospel Proclaimers Church, said.
She further said that the church is doing what the church should be doing.
“Maintaining the territory and preaching the gospel – in fairness everybody is doing their best. In my own church, we have not retrained ourselves from warning the people against sin, against the urge and against the excesses and lust after the things of this world that have driven the people into madness,” he said.
According to Oluwagbemiga, crimes sometimes are rooted in the economic situation of a country, though it should not be a yardstick; people should not lose their morals – it’s not about church.
“If you rate the people committing these crimes, you cannot really say 50 percent of them are in the church; rather they cut across the society.
“We cannot say the church or the mosque is at fault, I don’t even know what they preach in the mosque; I have not been there before. But, let’s treat this crime rate as an individual stuff. Some people have a distorted background, some people are cursed, some people are driven by grid, they want to have what other people have; some people are just stubborn,” Oluwagbemiga said.
Speaking further, she said the reason some people are not joining crime would be that they are restrained by the same values of the church. According to her, the Holy Spirit restrains Christians from being wicked.
“The Holy Spirit is the reason why you will see something that is not yours and you will not covet it, talk less of stealing it. So, remove the Holy Spirit and the entire world will be upside down. So, what we should be looking at is individualistic driven appetite that is in us – how can we curb it,” Oluwagbemiga said.
However, a political scientist and school proprietor told BusinessDay that people committing heinous crimes such as patricide, matricide, incest and rituals are as old as men themselves.
He further said that while there is no justification for these dastardly acts, it is however, unfair to limit such acts to Ogun State.
“Though, recently, the state has been in the news for one of these crimes being committed on a weekly basis. While it’s pertinent to look beyond the place(s) where the crimes are committed, it behoves us to beam our search light on the root cause, their implications on the economy of the areas where they are committed and suggest what could be the likely solution,” Badru Saleh, proprietor, The Source School, Lagos, said.
According to him, societal values have been lost, with people substituting their consciences and goodwill for emergency wealth.
“It’s worthy of note that most of these reported crimes have elements of money rituals in them. The people who are supposed to be the custodian of values and mortality have lost their voices to wealth. Community parenting has since died and been fed to dogs,” Saleh said.
The school proprietor also said that parents have failed in their primary responsibility, which is parenting. He said that children who lack basic home training and respect have taken over the family roles from their parents.
“Cases of missing vital organs, mutilated human parts and sudden disappearance of young girls in the state are all the end results of getting rich quick syndrome of these untrained children,” Saleh said.
According to him, cases of matricide in the past used to be attributed to spiritual attacks or curses.
“While in the past, we have had cases of fathers having carnal knowledge of their daughters mostly for money rituals, in recent times, these perhaps could be attributed to lack of self-control, drunkenness or drug influence,” he said.
Speaking further, he said that other causes of these could be due to irreconcilable differences among couples, frustration, jealousy, extra marital affairs among others.
“People have been committing heinous crimes from time immemorial. Therefore, it has nothing to do with a geopolitical zone or state.
“To nip these unfortunate events in the bud, the state government has a lot of work to do legislative wise, orientation wise and religious wise in order to save the image of the state lest people will twist the meaning of the state from Ogun (River Ogun) to Ogun (Charm) and above all drive investors away from the state,” Saleh said.