A former government official in Oyo state has countered the claim that a property with decomposing corpses and emaciated people discovered in the Soka area of Ibadan was a den used by kidnappers and ritual killers.
Ayodele Adigun, a former secretary to the state government, said the property was an abandoned government-run camp for the mentally challenged.
Writing in the Guardian Newspaper, Mr. Adigun alleged that the premises discovered last March was an abandoned sewage treatment plant converted to a camp for lunatics abducted from the streets of Ibadan by the Oyo State government as part of a campaign to beautify Ibadan.
The news of the discovery of the alleged kidnappers den and its horrid condition filled the sensibilities of Nigerians with horror.
Over 20 decomposing corpses and horribly emaciated people, some in the throes of death, were found at the den when a group of commercial cyclists allegedly searching for a missing colleague stormed the premises.
Some of the inmates, who claimed to have been fed just once a week, said they were abducted by unknown persons and brought to the compound. It was alleged that their abductors kept them and sold their body parts for fetish purposes.
However, Mr. Adigun, also a former Commissioner for Special Duties in the state, said the tales being spread about the property were nowhere close to the truth.
He traced the history of the facility in Soka to the award of the contract for the channelization of the Ogunpa River.
He explained that the place was converted to a sewage treatment plant after the contractors working on the channelization of the river failed to deliver on the project.
According to him, despite being a source of revenue to the government, the sewage plant was discontinued in 2012 following complaints by residents of the area over the offensive smell oozing out from the plant.
“These facts completely debunk the notion that the place was a ritual den since about ten years ago because a government agency could not have operated a project generating revenue for government where such a nefarious activity was going on,” he said.
According to him, the place was converted to a camp for lunatic when the Oyo State government, following the award of a contract to Messrs Kolaful Company Limited to clear Ibadan streets of lunatics.
Mr Adigun alleged that the lunatic abducted from the streets were kept at the Soka premises.
To validate his point, Mr Adigun made reference to a report in the Tribune Newspaper of August 15, 2013 titled ‘Oyo Government moves lunatics from Ibadan roads’.
According to the report, a Toyota Hiace commercial bus, with Oyo registration number XF 843 NRK, was seen picking up lunatics from the streets of Ibadan. When accosted by the Tribune reporter, one of the state government officials, Afinju Leke, said they were from an agency under the Ministry of Environment and Habitat, commissioned to rid the road of mentally challenged people.
When contacted the spokesperson of the Ministry of Environment, Cosmas Oni, confirmed that the agency was indeed commissioned by the state government and was initially attached to the ministry, the Tribune reported
“It is true that the agency was commissioned by the state government to do the job. However, it has been moved to the Ministry of Women Affairs, so it’s no longer under Environment ministry again,” Mr Oni reportedly said.
According to Mr. Adigun, the Oyo State government should be held responsible for the deaths and the condition of the near-dead people rescued at the site.
“The fact is that the agents of government starved most of these unfortunate people to death. Those who did not die were on the throes of death with emaciated physiques when they were rescued,” he said.
“May I confirm that the Ladoja administration did not initiate any programme to move lunatics from the streets, neither was it done by the succeeding administration of Akala. Oyo State Government should be honest enough to take responsibility for this inhuman, wicked and irresponsible act rather than trying to hide behind a needle. There is no other word for this act than genocide! The nefarious acts were committed between 2012 and 2014.
“It might have been possible for ritualists to take advantage of the shoddy arrangement by government but the fact is that government used its resources to gather these unfortunate people to a location where they became vulnerable to human predators and the elements. I sincerely hope that the police and human rights organisations will get to the root of this evil.”
But in its reaction, the Oyo state government said Mr. Adigun, a member of the opposition Accord Party, is “on a junket of lies” to discredit the government.
A spokesperson for the administration, Festus Adedayo, told PREMIUM TIMES that what happened at the property was well-documented by the media and from the reports it is clear that the place was an actual den for kidnappers and ritual killer.
“What his piece succeeded in doing was to make the whole world a liar, especially the crop of energetic and painstaking journalists who make up the Nigerian media who have feasted on the news since it broke,” Mr. Adedayo said.
“Virtually all Nigerian and foreign newspapers, including the Mail of London, as well as radio and television houses, have done features, interviews and on-the-spot assessments of the Soka area. Indeed, the resilient men and women of the pen, who churned out news daily from the horror scene, gave graphic accounts from released captives, interviewed the community members and wrote gripping stories of fresh blood spillages, gallows where captives were slaughtered and sundry other revelations from the horror scene.
“The media have shown us pictures of baby wears, shoes, garments, school children’s uniforms, identity cards and bank account statements that were found at Soka. We would need Mr. Adigun to tell us that these were his imaginary mad men and women whom he claimed that the government shepherded to the expansive land. Why would anyone play politics this brazenly and unmindful of the souls of the murdered at Soka?”
On the concern raised by some critics that the Oyo government might be attempting to cover up its involvement in the Soka horror after it prematurely ordered the demolition of the structure while investigations were still going on, Mr. Adedayo said the government was acting on the request of the community for the demolition of make-shift structures in the area to allow for better visibility.
The police ordered a stoppage of the demolition, saying it could not be done until investigations into the matter are completed.