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Impact of ritual killings on sociocultural deterioration in Nigeria

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1.1 Background of the study

It is of no doubt that moral decadence has completely replaced core moral values in present times. This ravaging phenomenon is the cause of some of the major problems Nigeria is facing as a Nation. A society where the youths do not think of how tomorrow would be better than today or how to invent new things to automate processes involved in our daily activities rather focusing on how to enrich themselves by any means and controlling enormous wealth at a tender age which they achieve through ritual killing(Afuye, 2013). Ritual is a set patterns or prescribed procedures and orders for carrying out religious actions or ceremonies (Shujaa 2009). Sacrifice is a vital aspect of every religious ritual (Stebbins 2010). This involves giving up something of value for the sake of something that is of greater value (Ayegboyin 2009:). Human sacrifice 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 (La Fontaine 2011). Some of the objects of sacrifice for this ritual are whole or severed parts of human being, such as the head, genitals, breasts, eyes, intestine, arms and legs as well as exhumed dead body or its severed parts. Ritual sacrifice can be said to be designed as a “faith strategy” to acquire money, wealth, success, fame, favour, greatness, power and protection from dangers. Ritual killings 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.

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. There are some known cases of people who killed their wives, husbands, mothers or even their children for money making rituals (Aiyetan, 2003). According to Aghawenu (202), the crazy desire cuts across all geographical boundaries and social strata and the extremes Nigerians can go in their bid to satiate their appetite for cheap wealth and varieties of life are unprecedented which is contribute to sociocultural deterioration  of the society.

1.2 Statement of the problem

In the last few years or so, our traditional norms have seriously been threatened by vanity or material life as displayed by various foreign media contents. This has changed our perception and orientation, moving us away from religion and patriotism towards materialism which has led to moral decadence. 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 hence prompting young people into get rich quick method viz prostitution, robbery, kidnapping and the chief of all ritual killing. Salisbury (2012) noted that those who practice ritual killings believe them to be acts of spiritual fortification. Motivations to carry out these acts include the use of  human body parts for medicinal purposes  and  the  belief  that  human  body  parts  possess  supernatural  powers  that  bring  prosperity  and protection.  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. These  beliefs  have  been  identified  to  further  encourage  some  youth  to  participate  in  ritual  murders  to appease deities, pray for supernatural favours, ward off misfortune or create mystical wealth hence endangering their moral development.

With  these  recurrent  incidences  of  ritual  killings  in  the  country, one is forced to ask why such brutal and barbaric act persists and what effect will this contribute to social and cultural values especially to the security of citizen Although various explanations have  been offered  by  scholars  and  many social  scientists. While 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. While these reasons are valid, no study has been directed on the consequence of these immoral act on societal values. Thus, it is against this background that this study seeks to examine impact of ritual killings on sociocultural deterioration in Nigeria

1.3 Objective of the Study

The broad objective of this study is to examine the e impact of ritual killings on sociocultural deterioration in Nigeria. Specifically, the study seeks:

i. To determine the nature of ritual killings perpetuated by Youth in Ibadan.

ii. To ascertain the purpose of youth engagement in ritualism in Ibadan.

iii. To investigate whether youth involvement in ritualism undermine  social sanctity and security of lives in the society.

iv. To establish whether high rate of  ritualism contributes to loss of cultural and moral  values in Nigeria Society

1.4 Research Hypothesis

HO1: Youth involvement in ritualism does not  undermine social sanctity and security of lives in the society.

HO2: High rate of ritualism does not contributes to loss of cultural and moral  values in Nigeria Society

1.5 Significance of the 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

The scope of this study borders on the impact of ritual killings on sociocultural deterioration in Nigeria. The study will further discuss the nature and purpose for ritual killings perpetuated by Nigeria Youth. It will investigate if youths’ involvement in ritualism contributes to loss of social values in society and if high rate of  ritualism contributes to moral decadence in Nigeria Society. The study is however delimited to South-West region with reference to Ibadan metropolis, Oyo 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  implication of ritualism on  sociocultural deterioration. 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-West region with reference to Ibadan metropolis, Oyo 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

Ritualism:  Also known as Ritual killings 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 development: Moral development focuses on the emergence, change, and understanding of morality from infancy through adulthood. Morality develops across a lifetime and is influenced by an individual's experiences and behavior when faced with moral issues through different periods of physical and cognitive development.

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.


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.

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

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.

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