Some residents of Isiala-Ngwa and Ihiala in Abia and Anambra states have fled their homes over the rising cases of ritual killing in those places.
SaharaReporters reliably gathered from fleeing residents that people were being hacked to death and their bodies mutilated by unknown persons, who go away with vital organs.
A resident of Isiala-Ngwa named Ifeanyi Okoli, disclosed that persons had been disappearing from the area mysteriously with their mutilated bodies later discovered in the bush or roadside.
According to him, at least four persons have been killed in this manner in recent times with the dismembered body later found.
As a result of this, some residents afraid for their safety have been moving out of the place to other areas they consider safe enough.
"I moved away from the community more than one week ago over the rise in mysterious deaths and mutilated bodies.
"Ritual killings subsided here a bit some time ago but it appears the evil has returned.
"Everybody is living in fear around this place because they don't want to be a victim of ritual killing," Okoli said.
A community leader in the area, Ezekiel Mba, told SaharaReporters that they were worried about the situation, adding that ritual killers were wreaking havoc around Isiala-Ngwa.
"The police and other law enforcement agencies should come to our aid before it is too late.
"We don't have peace of mind again, ritual killers are causing serious problem," he said.
More residents are contemplating moving out of the area as a result of the situation, SaharaReporters gathered.
In Anambra, a student of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Uli, under Ihiala Local Government Area of the state, Kelechi Anyoku, told SaharaReporters that some of her colleagues in the area had moved out of their apartments following rising ritual killings and diabolical attacks in the region.
She said at least three mutilated bodies had been discovered along a major highway linking the town and other parts of Anambra in recent weeks.
"Both the student population and residents of the local government area, everybody is afraid and seriously concerned about the ongoing development.
"At least three bodies with several parts removed have been discovered in recent weeks.
"This is in addition to rituals like Okeite that young men do around this region. This is common among Internet fraudsters known as ‘Yahoo Boys’, who release semen inside a lady and after sometime it decays inside her with the guy getting rich in the process.
"Many young ladies have been affected by this ritual, so a lot of us are afraid, we are careful of the places we go to these days," she said.
Uli and Ihiala communities share proximity with Okija – a sleepy town that shot to prominence in 2004 after decomposing human bodies were found at a shrine inside one of its forests during a police invasion.
Current Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, was in 2003 forced to take an oath of loyalty at the shrine by his then political godfather, Chris Uba, before he contested the state's governorship election and won on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party that year.
The Court of Appeal on March 15, 2006, nullified Ngige's victory, paving the way for Peter Obi of the All Progressive Grand Alliance to assume leadership of Anambra.
Disturbed by the latest development, a resident of Uwabakwem, a village close to Okija, Obinna Anokuru, told SaharaReporters that the activities of ritual killers were forcing people to move to safer places over fear for their lives.
"Everybody is afraid. The things happening these days are causing panic.
"Those of us who live here now ensure that we don't move far away from our houses late in the night or go anywhere without letting our family members know about our movement.
"It is the height of wickedness for somebody to kill a fellow human for ritual purposes. Something urgent has to be done about this evil in our land," he said.
Apart from the South-East, ritual killers especially individuals craving quick wealth have also been running riot in other parts of Nigeria, hacking both young and old to death in cruel ways.
A recent security alert by the police identified Ota, Lambe and Mowe in Ogun State, Ikorodu in Lagos, Ilorin in Kwara, Osogbo in Osun, and Oyo State as the major hubs of ritual killings in the South-West.
In an incident that shook Nigeria to its roots, a 20-year-old girl, Sofiat Kehinde, was on February 4, 2022 hacked to death in Abeokuta, Ogun State, by four boys for money ritual purposes.
The victim's boyfriend, Majekodunmi (19); his friend, Mustaqeem Balogun (her 18-year-old ex-boyfriend); and two accomplices killed Kehinde and were burning her head in preparation for a ritual when they were discovered and arrested.
Earlier on January 6 this year, residents of Otuja Harmony Estate in the Ikorodu area of Lagos raised the alarm over the constant invasion of a cemetery in the community by suspected ritualists scavenging for human parts.
Five days later, the police in Ikorodu apprehended a mother and her son for being in possession of fresh human parts.
The son named Afeez Olalere disclosed that his mother encouraged him to kill his younger sibling for a money ritual.
“My mother took me to an herbalist who told me if I want to be successful in the Yahoo business (internet fraud), I will have to sacrifice one life and that person must be a sibling to me," he said.
In December 2021, two siblings, Monsuru Tajudeen and Lawal Tajudeen, were arrested by the police in the Iwo area of Osun State after a ritual den was discovered.
In other parts of the South-West, ritual murders were equally rife in the outgone year with law enforcement agencies unable to nip the menace in the bud.
According to General Secretary, Traditional Religion Worshipers’ Association in Oyo State, Femi Fakayode, the lack of appropriate sanctions for persons found to be involved in ritual killings in Nigeria is responsible for the rise in the disturbing trend.
Fakayode told SaharaReporters that no genuine traditional priest will perform money rituals involving the killing of a human because such is forbidden in their line of work and comes with severe repercussions.
He said those carrying out such rituals for young people seeking quick wealth will suffer the consequences no matter how powerful they may think they are.
"Check all the reported cases and those arrested for carrying out money rituals for members of the public, you will realise that none are traditional priests. Most of them are alfas.
"No real traditional priest will do such because the punishment is instant.
"These killings thrive because our laws are weak and punishment is almost non-existent for serious crimes especially when the offender has money to bribe officials.
"In our traditional system, the punishment for such heinous act is instant. You can't escape it.
"Therefore, we must go back to the traditional system, the way we operated before alien religion came in.
"If we go back to that system, even our leaders who are looting our treasury and destroying the country will buckle down," he said.
Renowned traditional priest, Chief Yemi Elebuibon, told SaharaReporters that those killing fellow humans thinking that it would make them rich are wasting their time as there is no spirit anywhere that will bring money to them.
According to him, only honest and genuine labour could bring money and wealth in the long haul.
"There is really nothing like money rituals, there is no spirit anywhere that will bring money to you in your house. That idea is erroneous and unfortunately many young people in Nigeria today are falling for it.
"One of the best ways out of this problem is for government to create jobs for youths across the country to get them productively engaged. A lot of them are idle and that is why the desire to make quick money is rampant among them.
"It is very sad how we have come to this point where people just kill another human because they want to be rich. It is sad," he said.
Spokespersons for the police in Abia and Anambra states, Geoffrey Ogbonna and Ikenga Tochukwu, when contacted by SaharaReporters on Thursday, said that the cases will be looked into and appropriate measures would be taken to tackle the menace.
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives called for the declaration of a national emergency of the rising cases of ritual killings across Nigeria.
Minority Leader of the House, Mr Toby Okechukwu, moved the motion during plenary at the lower chamber of the National Assembly.
He and his colleagues urged the National Orientation Agency and other stakeholders in the society to embark on vigorous campaigns to open the eyes of members of the public especially youths to the evils of ritual killings for money.
But according to a Lagos-based sociologist, Nike Adetutu, tackling this dangerous trend in Nigeria will also require the return to core morals and values in society.
According to her, training and monitoring at the family level has broken down and that is why there are young people with misplaced priorities and poor orientation everywhere.
"We must go back to the family system, where everything starts, we have failed in that area as a society.
"Parents are no longer giving the right training and monitoring to their children and that is why many of them have gone astray.
"The return to core morals and values will save us from all these problems. If we don't act fast, we may not be able to handle the disaster already looming," she said.