Mr. Babatunde Hassan, and his beautiful wife, Ann, were rescued from one of the shrines demolished by the police in Lagos recently. He tells Punch’s Toluwani Eniola how they got to the shrine.
What do you do for a living?
I am a car dealer based in Lagos.
How did you get to the shrine?
Recently, when I was trying to do some transaction in Ibadan, for my car business, my wife called me. She complained of a sharp pain in her chest and back. She had told me about this before. There is a fellow called Alfa Toheeb who I met in Iwo Road, Ibadan, during the transaction. I discussed with him that I was tired of the pain my wife always complained about. Toheeb said it was an evil arrow and that he would introduce me to one native doctor. He said the evil arrow could kill my wife at any time. He then took me to Agbowa in Ikorodu where I met a native doctor known as Baba Araba.
When was this?
That was in December last year. I met the baba, looking frail like an old man. He always covered his face with clothes which he rolled over his head. It was even difficult to see his eyes clearly. He sat quietly in one corner of the shrine. The first day I went there, fear gripped me. It was far away from town and secluded. Everywhere was bushy. I expressed my fears to Toheeb who assured me that nothing would happen. Based on his assurance, I summoned courage.
The old man was talking like a 100-year-old person. I knelt before him and told him about what my wife had been going through. He said he would help me. He then warned that if I didn’t do what he would tell me to do within seven days, my wife would die. My heart skipped. He then mentioned all what we would need for the sacrifice which he said would cure my wife’s ailment.
What did he ask you to buy?
I can’t even remember them because they were local items. But I remember he mentioned igun (vulture) and others. He said I should talk to alfa to help me get the materials. I then gave alfa the money.
How much did you give him?
I gave him N500, 000. He mentioned a long list of materials. At a point, I was confused. He calculated everything totaling that amount so I gave it to him. I didn’t rely solely on the native doctor. I continued praying while my wife visited the hospital. The pain reduced. Four weeks ago, the sharp pain started again. She started experiencing a burning sensation in her body as if she just came out of fire. There were wounds all over her body. When the pain starts, she won’t be able to breathe well. I called the baba.
He then told me to bring my wife and that he would prepare water that she would use to bath. He promised that once she baths with the water, the problem would end. I was skeptical because I didn’t want anything to happen to my wife. I told my wife about the arrangement and that we should be hopeful. She took some clothes and we went to the shrine.
What then happened?
The baba asked us to come in the evening of Tuesday two weeks ago. I asked him why we could not come in the morning or afternoon. He said the bathing would be done at sunset. When we got there, I missed the road. I couldn’t recognise the route to the shrine again. I was driving. Suddenly, I saw two okada riders trailing me. They asked me if I was going to Baba Araba’s place. They said I had missed my way, that the baba sent them to pick us. They said we should park somewhere. So, we rode the bike into the forest.
I greeted the baba and he demanded the drinks he said I should buy. I handed five alcoholic drinks to him. Then he started chanting some incantations. He then told my wife that the enemy wanted to kill her. He claimed it was the arrow from the enemy troubling her. Our belief was that he would take her to where he would bath for her as promised and then we would leave. The next thing we heard was that we would do another sacrifice. I asked him about the bathing plan. He said that plan had changed. He said what he saw had changed. He called one of the guys that were arrested at the shrine to bring a paper. He started mentioning materials for the sacrifice to him. He mentioned igun, akara (bean cake) and other things which I don’t know. When I looked at the calculation, it was about N400,000.
Did you pay the money?
I told the baba that I didn’t have money with me. I told him I didn’t bring money because I thought he would only bath for my wife. I told him all I had with me was N10,000. He then said no problem, that we should go and get the money. He warned that we needed to get the money quickly. He then said we should buy eyele (pigeon) with the N10,000 we had on us. As I was trying to give the boy who would buy it for us, the police stormed the shrine. It was when the police arrived that I knew that I was in a dangerous place. I realised that if they killed anybody in that shrine, nobody could trace and know about it. My wife too began to shake in fear. It then dawned on us that we had been dealing with 419 ritualists.
How did the police know you were there?
They said they were patrolling and saw my car and two bikes parked by the side. That was how they trailed us.
What happened when the police got in?
They asked us what we were doing at the shrine. We explained to them. The baba and some other people ran away. We heard sounds of feet running away. They caught one of them. He claimed he was the only one there. But we told the police it was not true. The police went inside and couldn’t see anybody. Later we learnt there was an escape route in the bush.
I reasoned that they were ritualists because when the police came in, if they were not up to something, they would not have run away. The boy the police arrested lied that he was the only one there. It was then that I became suspicious of their dealings.
Did you see human parts or skull in the shrine?
No. I only saw only deities.
Do you think you were hypnotised?
Definitely. If the police had not stormed the shrine, I would have probably paid the N400,000 because I thought the solution was with them. At no point did I reason that I was in a dangerous place. If not for the police, I would not know they were ritualists and kidnappers. It was when the police stormed the place that I realised I was in the wrong position. Because of the problem my wife had, it didn’t occur to us. Several people had told us it’s an herbalist that can do it. I think the baba is a ritualist and 419. If the police had not come, I would have sold my property to give to him.
Did you meet any victim there when you visited the shrine?
No, I didn’t see anybody when I went there.
Describe the place?
It is a shrine. When we entered, we saw deities on the right, left and where the baba sat. When you enter the compound by the left, there were deities there too. There were places for visitors to seat before entering the shrine.
What do you think he would have done if the police had not come?
Maybe he would have killed us or something equally terrible. I was told that if the baba was unable to get more money from you, he would kill. I thank God and the police. They did a wonderful job and demolished the place.
What of Toheeb that introduced you to the baba?
I have not heard from him. His phone numbers were not connecting when I called. He must have disappeared.
What is the state of your wife now?
She is gradually recovering. We have been to a church. This is a strange experience for me. I have never experienced this in my life. I didn’t know I could be a victim of fraudsters or ritualists. I don’t even know why I didn’t believe God. Many people were criticising me for going to the herbalist. It was only done to save my wife’s life. I was desperate for a solution. It’s the first time I am doing this.
This has taught me to believe my God and not to run to strange places for help.