By CHIOMA IGBOKWE
■ We only recycle the bones – Suspects
Three suspected human parts dealers, two of them Islamic clerics, are now helping police detectives to break the demand and supply chain of a trans-border syndicate which trades in human skulls.
The suspects already arrested in connection with the illicit trade include Clement Omodijie as well as two clerics, Olasukunmi Owolabi and Usman Saliu who were all arrested by operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, attached to the Lagos State police command, Ikeja. The suspects were nabbed recently when they were about to supply three human skulls to their buyers at Ikorodu.
According to police sources, the suspects alleged that the skulls found in their possession were sold to herbalists who in turn claimed that they used them to prepare concoctions for their sick customers. They also alleged that some were sold to customers from across the country who needed the skulls to perform rituals.
Of late, several syndicates involved in human parts have been busted within Lagos, a development that made the state Police Commissioner, Umaru Manko issue a directive to detectives especially those in SARS to intensify their searchlight on such illicit trade. This led to the arrest of the suspects who were accused of going to the Igbogbo cemetery in Ikorodu at night to exhume human skulls.
Looking sober and ready to bare it all, Omodijie, who works as a grave digger in the cemetery, pleaded that the only reason he succumbed to demands for human skulls was that the buyer, Owolabi, claimed that he was using the ground skull to assist barren women to conceive.
“Owolabi happens to be my friend and for months, he had requested that I should assist him with human skulls instead of setting them ablaze. Initially, I told him that I do not indulge in such act but when he explained in details why he wanted the skulls, I decided to do his wish.
“Normally, after three months, we will dig out the skeletons to make space for others. In Igbogbo cemetery, there are areas that are not owned by anyone. It’s the general burial ground and it gets filled up easily. To create a room for others, we will dig up the skeleton and cremate it. What I normally do is to select the bigger ones and throw it inside the bush without the knowledge of my colleagues. I will pick them up on my way home at night”, he stated.
He claimed that since he secured the job five years ago, he had never been involved himself in the sale of human skeletons till he met Owolabi. According to him: “I used to be a block moulder till I got this job. It was a better alternative since they were paying me N23,000 a month. I did not indulge in the act for financial gain. I was only paid N4,000 which was just given to me by Owolabi as a way to say thank you. I know that he is a herbalist and one of my relatives had once told me that ground skull can be used to make native medicine potent.”
“Besides, the skeleton belongs to no one and I felt it was being recycled. Instead of setting it ablaze, why not dedicate it for procreation. I really don’t know my crime, why police chose to punish me. I am innocent. I do not sell fresh corpse because it is an abomination. It was just like going to the garbage to select things that can still be of use and sell them. If it is a crime, I am sorry. Please, forgive me and do not allow my children to suffer unjustly”, he pleaded.
Another suspect, Owolabi, who hails from Oyo State claimed that he learnt about the potency of human skull two years ago. His words: “I did my Arabic studies in Kwara State 13 years ago. I used to organise prayers for people and at the end of the day, they will show appreciation. It could be for business, child bearing and so many other issues of life. For those who are sick, I will mix herbs and roots for them.
In the course of my duty, I travelled to Kano and Kaduna states. Most of my colleagues taught me that I could get better in healing people especially barren women if I add a little bit of ground skull to my drugs.
I was reluctant because it is a taboo to be found with a human skull in Nigeria. I refused to give it a try but in recent times, my business started dwindling. People were no longer coming back for prayers and some of my colleagues told me to look for ways to make my drugs more potent. It was then that I decided to give it a try.”
Determined to boom his business, Owolabi started sourcing for human skull. “I decided to make, Omodijie, my friend. We became good friends and hanged out severally. It was in one of our outings that I mentioned the idea to him. Initially he refused but I was able to convince him months later that his secret was safe with me. I knew that his salary was not much, so I told him that I will also pay him for his services.”
On their arrest, Owolabi lamented that he never knew that he was wanted by the police. “I was shocked when the man who claims to be an Alhaji turned out to be a policeman. I tried my best not to mention the name of Omodijie but when I realised that my captors were policemen from SARS, I had to tell them everything they wanted to know. This was necessary before they will assume that I am into ritual killing”, Owolabi stated. He also pleaded with our correspondent that his name should not be mentioned in this report for fear of losing customers. “I am telling the truth. Please, do not publish this story because my customers will run away”, he begged.
The third suspect, Saliu, who hails from Ilesha in Osun State, also claims that he attended an Islamic school where he learnt Arabic studies.
“I do not believe that human skull can be used to prepare charms but some of my colleagues, including Owolabi, believe in it. I knew that he had access to human skulls, that was why I contacted him to help me. I know colleagues who had demand for it; all I did was to contact Owolabi. I never knew that it was a set-up by the police to arrest us. I am terribly sorry and will assist the police to find those who I supplied the skulls to.”