Awful as it sounded when the news was first echoed in the last quarter of 2018, today, the hunt for female underwear appears to be one of the wonders of the world that has opened a new vista expanding the domain of crime in Nigeria. EMAMEH GABRIEL, PATRICK OCHOGA, TEMITOPE OLUWATOSIN and OGUNTADE ISMAILA write.
Five months back, no one could ever have imagined that a time shall come when the hunt for female undies will become the in-thing in Nigeria. But that is just what is happening now. Not too long ago, the bizarre videos of Nigerian youths suspected to be Yahoo boys (internet fraudsters) eating human faeces for money rituals went viral on social media.
News of using human parts for ritual purposes is not new in this part of the world, but forcing ladies to give up their pants or stealing them is actually a new dimension and who knows what could be the next in line.
Although the craze for female pants has not gained an alarming trend in other parts of Nigeria as reported in states like Delta, Ondo, Lagos, Ogun and Edo where women underwear mysteriously disappear from clothes lines and women being robbed at gun point almost on a daily basis for their undies, this mysterious development has sent chilling fears down the spines of women in other parts of the country.
Some churches have even made it a prayer point to avert attacks from the suspected ritualists. In fact, there are growing numbers of short video clips on social media showing some churches casting and binding the spirit of pant theft.
As underwear predators continue on the prowl, and because of the scaring tales about the end use of the stolen female underwear, ladies in the affected states are now reported to be going about without underwear.
In the same vein, while some women have even devised measures of fortification such like applying charcoal on their private parts as antidote to neutralise perceived spiritual effects, others have decided to apply the wash and watch tactics to prevent incidence of disappearance.
Reports say women in the affected states are stiff scared and even more conscious of where they visit, especially at night and are on the lookout for perpetrators.
In Edo State, it is widely debated that the new trend could be a reverse of what was witnessed some years back when ladies after sleeping with men, steal used condoms, extract semen from them and there after sold same to ritualists for money or for other spiritual purposes.
The criminals are not giving up as they continue to deploy new devices to beat their would-be victims, either by going around with pants to offer ladies going about without underwear, coerce them to wear and collect same from them and even in some cases, disguising as lunatics to draw attention or suspicious away from them.
For instance, in Ijebu Ode, Ogun State, a lady recently took to twitter, revealing how armed boys collected pants from ladies inside an eatery On Friday, January 11. She said some young boys stormed the eatery asked for ladies underwear. She revealed that the guys did not demand for anybody’s money, phone or property but the underwear of all the ladies in the eatery. She further stated that the ladies who were not wearing undies, were offered pants by the boys who appear to have come prepared for them. She said the ladies were forced to wear the pants for five minute and then retrieved one by one.
Though LEADERSHIP Weekend could not authoritatively confirm the genuineness of the story, it was all over on the social media.
Another almost similar incident was narrated to our correspondent in Benin.
‘’We heard a bus carry some passengers were stopped along Auchi –Abuja expressway by a gang of robbers who asked all the girls on board to pull their pants or be shot,” a young lady who simply gave her name as Faith told LEADERSHIP Weekend in Benin.
“For those without pants they were given a white piece of cloth to wipe their private parts. It is that bad. We learnt that these pants are sold to ritualists and the prices range from N250, 000 to N450, 000. The one with blood stain goes for about N750, 000.
“Since then any time I am travelling, I rob charcoal on my buttocks to neutralize their juju.”
In December 2018, a young man Bello (full name withheld) was caught stealing female pants in Okpella, Edo State, and was handed over to the Police and subsequently transferred to Benin where he was arraigned.
Bello, according to the DPO, Okpella Divisional Police Headquarters who spoke with LEADERSHIP Weekend, is currently remanded in Oko Prison in Benin.
A hair stylist, Precious Titus in Benin, told LEADERSHIP Weekend that she witnessed an incident where three girls who were returning from a midnight church service to usher in the New Year, were robbed of their underwear in Ugbowo. She said she no longer wear pants whenever going out in order not to fall victims to the ritualists.
Recently, two private security guards, Samuel Linus and Adekunle Ogundana were paraded by officers of the Ondo State Police Command. It was gathered that the guards were manning an Orthodox Church situated at Arakale road in Akure where they allegedly stole underwear belonging to the daughter of a clergyman.
“The daughter of the pastor was said to have washed and spread two of her pants outside at about 8pm in the presence of the guards but by 6am the following day, the pants have disappeared. The case was reported to the Police,” Femi Joseph, Police Spokesperson, Ondo State Police told journalists while parading the suspects.
Recently, a man suspected to be a ritualist was nabbed in Akure, the Ondo State capital for allegedly stealing female underwear and also for using soaked sanitary pads.
The suspect, a 60 year old man, who according to eyewitness, Adeola Oluwasegun, was initially mistaken for a lunatic, was caught at Danjuma in Isikan road following his suspicious movement within the neighbourhood.
It was gathered that the suspect was caught by some commercial motorcyclists who had earlier beaten him to pulp before handing him over to the men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).
Confirming the incident, the Public Relations Officer, Ondo State Command of the NSCDC, Oladipo Samuel, disclosed that the suspect was already in the corps’ custody and investigation has begun.
On Tuesday January 21, one Opeyemi Adeleke (23) was remanded in Ilesa prison custody by an Osun Chief Magistrates’ court. Opeyemi had stolen underwear belonging to a lady identified as Gift Sunday.
These are just a few selected incidents in some parts of the South-South and South-West where the incident has been reported.
What is fuelling it?
LEADERSHIP Weekend investigation point to the activities of ritualists and the craze for easy money by some Nigerians.
Some suspects apprehended were said to have confessed that they sold the underwear to ritualists who used it to make some rituals for the purpose of making quick money.
Prices of used underwear are said to vary between N250, 000 to N800, 000 depending on the ages of the women or girls. The ones with body fluid or stain are said to be the most potent and in high demand by the ritualists.
However as the fear pervade in Edo State, majority of the girls LEADERSHIP Weekend spoke with said they have devised ways of safeguarding themselves against female underwear predators.
‘’These days I hardly accept offer of lift from men even if I know the person,” said one of the girls who also revealed that because of the fear most girls no longer use tissue to clean up after sex, instead, they prefer to use water. “It is that bad because you can’t trust anybody these days. The desperation by young boys is alarming,” she said.
‘’The other day I heard that one scavenger was apprehended at Ekenwa road and when he was searched, six pants and two braziers were found in his bag. He confessed that he found them from dustbin. He said someone have contacts of people who buy them.”
A banker, who does not want to be mentioned said because of the fear she now sits to watch her pants dry whenever she washed them for fear of losing them to underwear thieves who are on the prowl.
“We are really scared. We read on social media and hear all kinds of stories about this ugly situation,” she said. “How can a boy of 17 or 18 years old who probably is battling to pass his secondary school leaving exams, be riding expensive cars all around the town without a defined source of livelihood? It is simply ritual money.
“Some of them don’t even hide it anymore. They are even proud to be identified as ‘Yahoo’ or G boys’. I don’t have any underwear for anybody to steal. In fact I don’t even wear any again.
Another respondent, a student of the University of Benin said female students are very careful on how they dispose their used pants and menstrual pad since the incident of pant theft gained popularity.
“We no longer just throw our used pants into waste bin. We make sure we burnt them to avoid being picked or ending up in the hands of ritualists. I heard some girls who have been robbed of their pants have taken ill. I don’t wear pants anymore. I am scared,” she said.
Twenty-seven years old Merit Esosa, a graduate of Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma, said she heard that the theft in pants is very rampant in neighbouring Delta State.
“We don’t feel safe anymore,” Esosa said. “For me I don’t wear pants while going out because I’m scared of these underwear robbers. We hear it is ‘Yahoo yahoo boys’ that are doing all these. Any girl that wants to avoid this should stay away from yahoo boys because most of them work in collaboration with ritualists.”
Eva Nogwero, a bead maker and a stylist however attributed the development to desperation, lack of jobs and craze for quick money. She advised young people to embrace descent means of livelihood rather than resort to evil means of making money.
“There is so much desperation among yahoo yahoo boys to make it at all costs and that is why they are busy stealing pants everywhere to make rituals for money. I don’t feel safe anymore; we are very scared now. We heard that they sell it to ritualists for exchange of woman’s wombs.
In Ondo State, the story is not different. Speaking on the trend, a student of the Rufus Giwa Polytechnic Owo (RUGIPO) in Ondo state, Miss Funke Adebimpe said she and her roommate no longer wear pants to avoid falling victim.
Adebimpe further revealed that the situation has made life uncomfortable for girls especially during their menstrual periods.
“It is a big issue for us because few weeks ago, one of the girls in our hall (hostel) cried out over her missing underwear which she had washed and spread outside before going for lecturers,” said Adebimpe who revealed to LEADERSHIP Weekend that she now burn her pants after her regular monthly circle.
Funke Adekunle, a Part II student of the Adeyemi College of Education, (ACE) in Ondo who also lent her voice to the growing trend stated that when the situation became rampant, she had to review some of the things she usually did, especially with regards to her undies.
“Anytime I am leaving my room, I make sure I count all my undies, even to the extent of taking note of the different colours I have and I repeat same the moment I return to my room,”Funke said.
“The truth is that, many of us don’t even know what these boys are up to, they are too desperate. I have to be vigilant as I am not ready to die now.”
For Tosin Ibidapo, a 300 level student of state owned Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko (AAUA) who spoke with LEADERSHIP Weekend, said that when the trend became frightening, most girls in her hostel burnt all their pants.
“Some months ago when the situation became so real, most girls who stay in the hall (hostel) stopped keeping their pants around,” Tosin said, adding, “The situation is now worrisome, when we need to wear pants, we just buy one and after using it, we dispose them off by burning them into ashes.
“What is even scary is that you can’t trust anyone amongst the girls here (hostel). A girl was accused for trying to steal her friend’s pant the other day. She was beaten up and she went into coma, but was later resuscitated.
“They said one of the yahoo boys on campus had begged her to get the pant for him after promising to give her huge amount of up to N200, 000.”
What about pants business?
It is a mixed reaction from traders dealing on female underwear. While many are complaining of low sales, others are experiencing a boom. What is however not clear is what is driving the increased patronage and who is buying, ladies or yahoo boys?
Leadership visited the popular “Oja Oba”, market in the heart of Akure, the Ondo State capital, and it was gathered that buying and selling of female pants and underwear have reduced drastically in the market.
A trader at the Olukayode wing of the market, who simply identified herself as Madam Chinyere Ayerile, lamented that since the news of underwear stealing started, she no longer gets patronage like before.
Ayerile added that all her female customers who are mostly students no longer come to her shop as they fear that wearing of pants is now a big threat to life in the hands of the yahoo boys.
According to her, all her friends who are also into the same business are facing similar challenges as their customers are mostly young ladies.
“We no longer make sales and I am even planning to change my line of business into other things because when I call my customers, what they told me was that they no longer wear pants due to fear of yahoo boys,” she said.
Mrs. Janet Boniface, a trader in Lagos, while speaking with LEADERSHIP Weekend said the issue of stolen pants as reported in some parts of the country has no effect on her business at the moment.
“Both ladies and women patronise us on daily basis. I only heard and watched it on social media from people because nobody has reported it anywhere.”
Another seller, Florence Joseph, while corroborating her stand, said she has recorded increased sales in recent times. She said the story of pant theft has no effect on her market.
According to her, “Here in Lagos, we have not witnessed any situation like that and if we were to say ladies or women should not be wearing pants or underwear that means something else has happened.”
Monarch, Clergy, Spiritualists and security personnel react
Worried by the spate female underwear stealing in Edo State, the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, recently warned youths of the state to desist from stealing female pants.
Obviously worried by barrage of reports on the social and other media that there have been alleged cases of internet fraudsters called “Yahoo Boys” taking female underwear for rituals, the Oba said the development is alien to Benin customs and tradition.
The monarch spoke during a thanksgiving service at the Holy Aruosa Cathedral in Benin to round off the 2018 annual Igue Festival Celebration and further advised those engaging in such acts to stop or face the dire consequences of their actions.
Commenting on the matter, the Spiritual leader, Oasis of Fulfilment Ministries International Incorporated Church in Benin City, Pastor Enoch Malachi, described the desperate crave among youths to get rich as regrettable.
The clergyman who urged youths to acquire skills through vocational training however noted that the Church has a greater role in moulding youths to imbibe good character.
He said: “The Bible says God blesses the work of our hands. Sadly, some of these people who steal women pants don’t want to work. The get rich syndrome is destroying our society and youths.”
He said the Church has taken it upon itself to provide the right counsel by organizing seminars, engaging the youths in Skill acquisition programme so they can start their own small businesses.
“We have a young man in the church whom we supported to start his business with as little as N10, 000. He sells recharge cards and today he is a landlord. Our young ones must learn to be proud and engaged in decent source of livelihood.”
He however, pleaded that those caught stealing female undies can be brought to his church for rehabilitation.
Edo State Police Public Relation Officer, Chibuzor Nwabueze, declined to respond to repeated calls to his cell phone.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP Weekend, a Chief Priest in Benin who pleaded not to be named said that the boys perpetrating the evil in town are enriching themselves with ‘blood money’.
“I do not know such type of rituals, but I know very well that those boys are always looking for what I will call ‘sudden money’ and they can get to any length to get it.
“Truly, you would see people call it, internet fraud, but it is purely a means of getting rich through ‘blood money’.
“The lady whose pant or underwear is used dies within a few days or if she did not die, she starts reducing in seize or she will be in pains and the more the pain, the more the money rise for the boy.”
Meanwhile, a Pastor with the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC), Oke Ise Parish Akure, Emmanuel Adewale, condemned the development.
Pastor Adewale who spoke recently at a youth programme to mark the end of year youth anniversary said that the world is gradually coming to an end hence the increase in evil in the society.
“What we see today is different types of rituals, the latest one is stealing of female underwear. Let me advise our ladies to avoid spreading their undies outside.
“Even, when God is protecting us, we too have to be very careful. The signs we are seeing today show that the world is coming to an end.”
On his part, Femi Joseph, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) for the Ondo State Police Command said the security agents have been investigating cases relating to ‘yahoo boys’.
Mr Joseph who spoke with our correspondent on the phone disclosed that the command has arrested some boys engaging in the criminal activity and they are being interrogated.
Reacting on the issue, Chief Ifakayode, President General of Ifa Olokun Foundation of Nigeria, Ota, Ogun State, advised that women should always keep their pants safe even in their own homes, no matter the situation.
“Women’s underwear should not be spread on clothesline outside the house because a woman’s undies is her closest cloth to her body and should be kept in a private place.
Although there is no reported case of pant stealing in Lagos, LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered that a female student of Lagos State University (LASU), who was once a victim but did not want her identity revealed said she was held at gun point by some people who asked her to remove her pant. It was not clear whether the attackers succeeded in taking away her undies or not.
“Yes, guys are now using guns to rob female of their pant. It’s now your pant or your life” she revealed.
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