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The impact of peer pressure on youth involvement in ritual killings

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1.1 Introduction

Ritual killing is a common phenomenon in Nigerian daily life. It has become a regular event when hundreds of Nigerians lost their lives to ritual killers or what Nwakanma, & Abu, (2020) called, “Head Hunters.” The ritual killers go about in search of human parts – heads, breasts, tongues, and sex organs – as demanded by witch doctors, juju priests, traditional medicine men or women and/or occultists who require such for their dubious sacrifices or for the preparation of assorted magical portions (Igwe, 2010). In the contemporary Nigeria, ritual killing has taken new dimension. Tell magazines describe the scene as the “Reign of the Ritualists” (Elesho 2004). Many diverse means are used to kidnap people with evil intentions; especially for rituals. Many of those kidnapped for such purposes are long gone but there are a lucky few who actually live to tell the story of their encountered with the ritualists. Some of the kidnappers caught with their victims some time dead or half-dead also testified of their dubious acts (Aiyetan, 2003). There are all sorts of stories of various techniques of kidnapping; some people disappeared on picking or touching some items set as trap by ritualists or kidnappers. It seems obvious in Nigeria that ritual killers are more prevalent at certain seasons in the year – like the weeks leading to Christmas and during some yearly pilgrimages. It is generally believed that people engage in sacrifice of human beings to get money to spend at such festive periods.

Phenomenally, according to Shujaa (2009) ritualism is a set patterns or prescribed procedures and orders for carrying out religious actions or ceremonies through human sacrifice.  Stebbins (2010) opined that sacrifice is a vital aspect of every religious ritual. This involves giving up something of value for the sake of something that is of greater value.  While human sacrifice according to  Ayegboyin (2009)  is a blood sacrifice that involves killing of a living creature as a ritual offering to a god or spirit, usually in expectation of a return in the form of good fortune, whether generalized or as the granting of a particular prayer. This could be influenced by socio economic factors like poverty, unemployment, materialism, media or pressure from peers,  headded.

From time immemorial peer pressure has, constituted reasons and actions embarked upon by a group of people or individual. Is like the case my mates or group members are doing it, then I must do it. La Fontaine (2011) also opined that the peer pressure has a great influence on youths’ disposition to engage in criminal behaviours like ritual killing and internet fraud know as Yahoo. Thus youths are pressurized by the use of money and material thing to be conscripted into bad gangs or secret cults like Yahoo Plus where they are exposed to some dangerous techniques to inflict pains on other innocent people just to attain wealth. Bond (2003), Henslin (2008) and Adeyemi(2019) indicated that peer groups are so powerful that members are willing to deviate from the norms of the society in order to protect the interest, values, norms and expectations of their group thus members are under pressure to conform to peer subculture because the group consists of friends and people that they value highly and depend on for getting along in life. Thus it will not be out of context to affirm that the increase incidence of ritualism, kidnapping, internet fraud and other criminal behavior is influenced by pressure from peers and groups in the society.

1.2 Statement of the problem

Although rituals have been in existence since time immemorial, he practices were employed in an attempt to appease an unknown higher being for protection and provision. However, over time, ritualism has evolved into something more dangerous than how our ancestors practiced it.  The causes of such decay can be traced to the collapse of family institution, lack of gainful employment for parents and school dropouts, preferential treatment of the rich against the honest and the knowledgeable in the society, corruption, poverty; inflation and adoption of social practices, peer pressure hence prompting young people into get rich quick method viz prostitution, robbery, kidnapping and the chief of all ritual killing.  According to Igwe (2010), many young people  still  believe  that  charms and  ritual sacrifices can  fortify them  spiritually,  enhance  their  fortunes  in business and during elections,  or protect  them from harm, disease,  poverty,  accident, death or destruction.  According to () one great factor that leads young people to ritualism is is the peer pressure from their friends and associates, which tempts them into believing that there is something better they can acquire through these practices. This includes wealth, job promotion, entrance into good schools/colleges.

Importantly, with  the  recurrent  incidences  of  ritual  killings  in  the  country, one is forced to ask why such brutal and barbaric act persists. Various explanations have  been offered  by  scholars (Igwe 2010 and La Fontaine 2011) and  many other  social  scientists. Some scholars blame the problem on the socio-economic conditions in the country especially as ritual killings increase in  periods of economic hardship; some argues that home video story lines on ritually acquired wealth has contributed to ritual killing as youth and adolescent tend to practice what they watch. Others scholars has also  argue that traditional beliefs in fetish and ritual religious practices have permeated the  prevalence of ritual killing twenty-first century. Bizarrely, none has focused on the impact of peer pressure on youth involvement in ritual killing. Thus, it is against this background that this study seeks to examine the impact of peer pressure on youth involvement in ritual killing using Benin Metropolis as case study.

1.3 Research Objectives

The broad objective of this study is to examine   impact of peer pressure on youth involvement in ritual killing using Benin Metropolis as case study. Specifically the study seeks:

i. To determine the nature of ritual killing youth involve in Benin Metropolis.

ii. To ascertain the purposes for youth engagement in ritual killing in Benin Metropolis.

iii. To investigate if pressure from peers influence a youth into ritual practices.

iv. To examine if unhealthy competition among cliques and group contributes to high incidence of ritual killing in the society.

1.4 Research Hypothesis

HO1: Pressure from peers does not influence  youth into ritual practices in Benin Metropolis

HO2: Unhealthy competition among cliques and group does not contributes to high incidence of ritual killing in the society.

1.5 Significance of Study

The result of the study will be of relevance to policy makers, Nigeria Youths and religious bodies. To policy makers, findings of the study will enlighten policy makers on the need to establish guiding principles to curtail ritual killing and establish punishment for those caught in this devilish act. To government, the study will also emphasize on the need to introduce poverty alleviation program, employment opportunities and support of entrepreneur as this will go a long way in reducing criminal behaviour among jobless youths. More the study will emphasize the need for  to intensify teaching of moral education in schools, universities and as well encourage teachers/lecturers that teach moral education to be role model for our youths among others as this will reduce the rate of ritualism in Nigeria. Empirically, the study will add to the body of existing literature on ritualism as serve as reference material to scholars and student who wishes to conduct further studies in related field.

1.6 Scope of the study

1. The scope of this study borders on the impact of peer pressure on youth involvement in ritual killing.The study will discuss  the nature of ritual practices youth involve and for what  purposes. The study will also  investigate if pressure from peers influence a and  unhealthy competition among cliques and group contributes to high incidence of ritual killing in the society. The study is however delimited to Benin Metropolis in Edo State.

1.7 Limitation of the Study

Like in every human endeavour, the researchers encountered slight constraints while carrying out the study. The significant constraint was the scantiness of literature on   the impact of peer pressure on youth involvement in ritual killing discourse. Thus much time and organization was required in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature, or information and in the process of data collection. Also the study is limited in period as the study covered only South-South region with reference to Benin metropolis, Edo State. Therefore findings of this study cannot be used for generalization for other regions or State  which  creates a  gap for further studies.

1.8 Definition of terms

Ritual: A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed according to a set sequence. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious community.

Ritual Killing:  Also known as ritualism is a violent and extreme type of criminal homicide in which vital organs of the victim are excised by the slayers for use in “sacred” rites.

Moral decadence: This means a gross reduction in the moral values in a particular society. It appears to be a fall' in the moral standard of the society and a  deterioration or a collapse in upholding our societal values, beliefs, norms and ethical standards.

Peer Pressure: Peer pressure is the direct or indirect influence on people of peers, members of social groups with similar interests, experiences, or social statuses. Members of a peer group are more likely to influence a person's beliefs and behavior. 


Adeyemi, B. (2019) “Influence of peer pressure on junior secondary school students’ academic performance in Social Studies in Mushin Local Government Area, Lagos State,” South Asian Research Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 233-239.

Aiyetan, D. (2003, December 29). Reign of the Ritualists. Tell, p. 25

Ayegboyin, Deji. 2009. “Sacrifice,” in Encyclopaedia of African Religion edited by Molefi Kete Asante and Ama Mazama. California: Sage Publications, Int.

Bond, R. (2003) Group Size and Conformity‟ Group Processes and Intergroup Relations 8, 4, 2005: 331 – 354

Elesho, R. a. (2004, August 23). Gory Rituals. The News, p. 18.

Henslin, J. (2008). Social Problems: A Down into Earth Approach 8th ed. Boston: Allen and Bacon

Igwe, L  (2004), Ritual  Killing and Pseudoscience in Nigeria. Skeptical  Briefs. Volume 14 (2).  Accessed 29th  January  2015  at  3.59pm

Igwe, L  (2010), Ritual killing  and human  sacrifice in  Africa. International Humanist and  Ethical Union. African  Commission  on  Human  and  People’s  rights  — 48th  Session  November  10-24, Banjul, The Gambia.

La Fontaine, Jean. 2011. “Ritual Murder?” Interventions Occasional Paper Series #3, Open Anthropology Cooperative Press

Nwakanma, Emmanuel & Abu, Owapiriba. (2020). Cultural Issues In Violence Against Women And Ritual Killings In Nigeria: Assessing The Implications For Sustainable Development. 18. 15447-15457.

Shujaa, Mwalimu J. 2009. “Rituals,” in Encyclopaedia of African Religion edited by Molefi Kete Asante and Ama Mazama. California: Sage Publications, Int.

Stebbins, Morgan. 2010. “Sacrifice,” in Encyclopaedia of Psychology and Religion, edited by David A. Leeming, Kathryn Madden and Stanton Marlan. New York: Springer Science +Business Media LLC.

This material content is developed to serve as a GUIDE for students to conduct academic research


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