IBADAN – Residents of Arowona Adegbeye Estate, Idi-Mangoro, Soka area, the adjoining community to the recently-discovered den of kidnappers have raised the alarm that some persons may still be trapped in an unknown hideout.
This suspicion arose because, according to them, the commercial motorcyclist, whose disappearance led to the discovery of the den, was still missing.
The missing okada rider had allegedly told his colleagues on phone that about eight of them were kept in an underground cellar.
The community’s public relations officer, Hon. Segun Adepoju, said, “The okada riders said the missing okada rider contacted them on the phone and told them that he and some other people were still underground.
“They said the last time he reached them was about three days ago, so they suspected that his phone battery had gone flat now. They said he called and told them that they could feel people walking above them at the time people trooped to the place, but that no one heard them.”
The missing okada rider, according to reports, last Saturday, took two passengers to the den from the city centre before his disappearance. With his phone, he was able to call his colleagues at the park to tell them that he had been kidnapped and was being held at Soka area.
Some okada riders reportedly stormed the area in search of their friend and found his motorcycle around the den. However, reports said they did not find their friend, but stumbled on the den with body parts and some kidnapped persons in chains.
“So when they saw his motorcycle, they probed further and found the victims, human bones and body parts. Maybe the abductors of the okada rider didn’t know he was with a mobile phone,” Adepoju said.
Meanwhile, there was an eerie calm at the forest on Friday, when our correspondent was there. There was no activity at the den except for the presence of a few visitors, some police officers and an armoured vehicle stationed at the Macmillan Bus-Stop, the nearest junction to the den. While our correspondent was there, the visitors came in and were not more than three at any point in time.
Residents said it was the first time since Sunday that the place would not witness a large number of visitors. Some of the visitors were said to have come from across the country in search of their missing loved ones, although, many of them were also said to be onlookers and hoodlums.
Since the report about the forest broke out, many Nigerians have wondered how the kidnappers’ den had managed to exist without anyone noticing or informing the police.
However, residents of the estate said they knew all along that something sinister was going on close to them, but were assured by the police that everything was alright. However, the residents dispelled the reports that claim that the kidnappers had been using the forest for about 10 years.
They said the kidnapping activities must have started around 2012.
The community and the forest are separated by Ogunpa River. So from the community, one could see the forest across the river.
Residents identified the person running the den as Gbadamosi, who was said to have had facial tribal marks.
The estate’s Chief Security Officer, Pastor Samson Okoh, said the suspected kidnappers started using the forest about two years ago. He was, however, quick to point out that residents never knew about the kidnapping ring.
He said, “We noticed that they used to bring people in chains to the river to bathe. They would line them up. We were concerned and so the residents’ association took the matter up.
“We went there and saw the man in charge, who had tribal marks. He told us that the then Oyo State Commissioner for Environment gave him approval to treat mentally-ill people there. He showed us a paper (document) to prove it.
“He showed us round the place and what we saw was very unpleasant. The first room he took us to was full of people who looked like mad people (mentally-ill). The second place was a hall with over 100 people. The place smelled of faeces and urine. If one stayed there for one hour, one could become mentally-ill. He asked them, ‘won’t you greet them?’ and they echoed ‘good morning sir.’
“The third room had people who looked more normal than the others and he told us that they had newly been brought there.”
Okoh said Gbadamosi also appealed to the landlords to support the cause with food and clothes whenever they could.
“He told us that he was working for the state government to rid the streets of mentally-ill persons by picking them from the streets and caring for them there. So we’re surprised to hear the state government denying being aware of the activities going on there,” Okoh said.
In spite of Gbadamosi’s reassurance, the residents said they were still concerned about having ‘mentally-ill’ persons close to them.
For instance, Adepoju said an incident occurred in 2012 when about four persons in chains escaped from the den and passed through the community.
“They crossed the river to this side and passed through the community. They looked like mad people. So we were concerned for our children,” he said.
Following the incident, Adepoju said community leaders went to report the activities going on at the den at the nearest police station, Sanyo Police Station.
He said, “But we were told that the police station at the Lagos-Ibadan Toll Gate was in charge of the place. The then Divisional Police Officer at Toll Gate Police Station was not around but we met the Divisional Crime Officer 1, who confirmed that Gbadamosi was working for the state government.
“So after that confirmation, there was nothing else we could do. Since then, there had been no incident until we recently heard that they found dead bodies and body parts there.”
Adepoju also said that residents used to hear cries of agony from the place but could not take the case up because of the reassurance given to them by the police.
He said, “Sometimes, we heard people shouting ‘oro o’ in the night and sounds of digging, but we thought what they were doing there was legal since we had been assured by the police.
“We had even planned to go to the State Public Complaints Commission, but decided against it after the police confirmed that they knew about Gbadamosi’s activities there.”
Before the 2012 issue that took the community leaders to the den, they had previously been there because of a different issue affecting the community.
An elder in the community, Mr. Emmanuel Adighibe, said the community wrote to the State Ministry of Environment to complain about some companies dumping wastes inside the river from the forest.
He said, “One hospital was dumping excreta there and one brewery was also dumping waste there. Then, the odour of the wastes pervaded the whole community.
“So we complained at the secretariat and after some time, they came to see things for themselves. After that, they stopped the dumping of wastes there. This happened in 2011 and there were no persons there at the time. So kidnapping could not have started since 10 years ago. We went to the place then and the people in chains were not there at the time.”
Meanwhile, some of the residents of the estate had to abandon the community for fear of being attacked by hoodlums.
One of such residents is Mrs. Alake Adeniyi, whose house is one of the closest to the river.
Adeniyi said her family left the community following threats by hoodlums to kill them. Since the evil den was discovered, Adeniyi said residents had been threatened by hoodlums, who accused them of being part of the kidnapping ring.
“They stoned our house and damaged the doors, windows and some other things. We fear for our lives,” she said.
Adepoju, who just returned to her house, added that the hoodlums accused them of living large and buying cars with “blood money from the forest.
“You can see we are also living modestly. We are not rich and most of the houses here are not even painted,” she said.
Meanwhile, the state government has denied that it was using the forest to care for mentally-ill people in the state.
The Special Adviser to the Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi, on Media, Mr. Festus Adedayo, could not be reached on his mobile phone as his line was not available. Our correspondent sent him a text message, but his line was still unavailable as of the time of filing this report.
In a statement by the Publicity Secretary of the ruling party in the state, All Progressives Congress, Mr. Dauda Kolawole, the party said the forest had been in existence before the present administration came to power.
The statement blamed a rival party in the state, Accord, for spreading false reports about the administration’s knowledge of the activities in the forest.
The statement read, “The people of Oyo State are in a state of grief and shock at the horrendous discovery of ritual killers’ den in the state. The situation calls for sober reflection from all and sundry.
“We are aware that the Accord had been attempting to use this unfortunate event to come back to reckoning by instigating the people and selling them cheap lies of government using the forest as a camp for mad people.
“Unfortunately for them, the evidence of victims who told the world that they were not insane has put a lie to their campaign of destruction.”
In a phone conversation with the Oyo State Police Public Relations Officer, Olabisi Ilobanafor, she said that Gbadamosi was “on the run”.
She added that police officers at Toll Gate Police Station denied ever confirming to anyone that they knew about Gbadamosi’s activities at the forest.
Ilobanafor also called on the friends of the missing okada rider to “come forward with his phone number or text messages sent to them”.
She said, “So many people have gone there to dig the place and nothing has been found. They should come forward with his number or the text message sent to them so that the telecoms companies can assist track the location where the call was made from. It will also help us to be sure because it might be the work of people spreading rumours.”