Located only 25 minutes from Makurdi, the Benue State Capital, the rural town of Daudu was in the news recently over allegations of missing genitals. These rumours led to a riot, the lynching of a suspect and the suicide of another. And still, despite a curfew, the water is far from settled.
There is uneasy calm in the rural town of Daudu in Guma Local Government Area of Benue State following alleged theft of male genitals.
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After the lynching of a cleric accused of stealing genitals, clashes between the deceased’s congregation and members of the community ensued, resulting in the local government authority imposing a curfew in the area.
Rumours started spreading in September that mostly young adults are missing their genitals, causing tension in the otherwise tranquil community.
By Tuesday, November 3, the tensions resulted in the burning of buildings belonging to people suspected to be behind the cases of missing genitals in Daudu.
The irate mob had in the process burnt down the Divine Shadow Church, Daudu, because they suspect its founder, Prophet Joshua Uhembe, to be behind the disappearances.
The riots had started with peaceful protests three days before on the major Makurdi-Lafia highway, which passes through Daudu. It was triggered by rumours that six persons have had their genitals stolen within the space of one month. They blamed the theft on Prophet Uhembe and his alleged accomplice, Noah Saka.
Another person, Tyoakaa Tyosue, had, on October 11, hung himself after villagers pressured him to restore the genitals of a young man they accused him of stealing.
His body was found dangling in a classroom at Victory International Secondary School in Daudu.
A witness, who gave his name simply as Jonah, said the deceased was drunk and on his way home when he was accused of the theft.
Jonah said a mob gathered and demanded he restored the missing genital because it was not the first time he was being accused of such crime.
“The pressure on the deceased was too much so I think that was why he ran away to the classroom and hanged himself. His body was discovered early Monday morning,” Jonah said.
Nongu Angpianbee Francis, who claimed to be a victim, told our correspondent that his genital was stolen on October 10 allegedly by the late Tyoakaa Tyosue.
Francis said trouble started for him sometime in September when the deceased engaged him in a conversation while he was helping at his farm.
The late Tyosue, he alleged, promised him monetary assistance to help him travel to Kaduna for a screening exercise into the Nigerian Air Force, which he (Francis) had applied for.
“When I showed up at his house later that evening because he requested that I see him at home, he gave me a calabash to fetch water from the stream. When I returned with the water, he added a substance in it and ordered me to bathe with the water and I did.
“He then instructed me not to sleep with a woman for six days. Then on October 10, he called me to his house again and gave me a calabash to fetch water from the stream. This time, when I returned, he asked me to strip naked and I obeyed after which he poured a substance into the water, mixed it and rubbed same on my chest, hugged me and asked me to come to see him very early the next morning.
“But when I told him I may likely not be able to wake up early, he instructed me to sleep in his house for that night and I did, only to wake up to discover that my manhood was gone. I couldn’t get an erection as usual. My manhood could no longer function, and I no longer have sexual desires.”
Francis alleged there were many like him who were bewitched by the deceased and his accomplices, who would later recommend their victims to the accused pastor for deliverance and possible restoration of their sexual organs at a fee.
“He (Tyosue) had killed himself so now I don’t have a solution. I’m hopeless,” Francis said.
Francis said he reported the matter to the deceased’s family who appealed to him not to involve the police or any other person. They promised to do everything within their means to amicably resolve the issue at that level. He alleged that the family cited instances of similar interventions after cases were brought before the pastor.
“But on that October 11, the man killed himself. And he was the one who said we should go to the pastor for him to pray for me and that’s why I refrained from reporting the matter to the police,” Francis said.
A young man in the community, Mark, said the pastor was charging as much as N15, 000 to pray for alleged victims, which was why the youths linked him to the controversy.
Mark said that before the youth went on a rampage they had approached their traditional ruler who didn’t show much concern, so they took their protest to the highway that Saturday before attacking the buildings of the suspects three days later when it appeared the authorities were not listening to them.
Our correspondent reports that the acting traditional ruler of Daudu, Chief Chado Oliver, had told newsmen in Makurdi by telephone that when they presented the matter to him, he told them to bring a victim, so he could verify their claims but that they couldn’t bring anyone.
Oliver said he went to meet another monarch to discuss the matter only for him to be called back that his youths were protesting. He returned and met the Divisional Police Officer in Daudu and they both went around appealing for calm.
But, the trouble escalated on Tuesday, November 3 at a stakeholders meeting also involving the police. Tempers flared when the youths attempted to seize two accused persons, one of which was the cleric.
“We are surprised that someone who calls himself a man of God will stoop so low as to remove private parts of men for ritual purposes,” a local said. “The youths have done this to serve as a deterrent to other people who may have such wicked intentions. We believe that if he (Uhembe) is not stopped, he may extend his activities to women too.”
Our correspondent, however, could not trace the accused pastor for comment on that fateful Tuesday as some villagers alleged that he fled the scene of the fire in his church alongside his family. The police were said to have whisked away his alleged accomplice, Saka.
However, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) for Benue Command, DSP Catherine Anene, was later to confirm that the irate mob caught up with Prophet Uhembe and killed him while he was attempting to flee Daudu in his car.
Anene who could not say precisely when the man was killed but said that the police in Daudu was to place the pastor in protective custody but he rushed to his vehicle and fled.
The police said he was likely accosted by a mob and killed along Lafia Road.
Anene, in a statement on behalf of the State Commissioner of Police, Mukkadas Garba, noted that the Daudu Police Division commenced an investigation and reported that “Alleged victims claimed to be experiencing dysfunctional male genital organs and not total removal as earlier reported. Victims were taken to Benue State University Teaching Hospital where they were certified OK by a medical doctor, but they insisted that their genital organs were removed.
“A stakeholders meeting was convened by elders of the community on 3/11/2020 at about lO, OO hrs. During the meeting, one Saka Iorhemba, ‘m,’ and Prophet Jacob Uhembe of the same address were alleged to have conspired to mystically perpetrate this act and extort money from their victims as a fee for healing.
“In the heat of argument at the meeting, the angry youths in attendance attempted to lynch the accused. Saka Iorhemba was whisked away by the Police and is currently in safe custody while the Prophet escaped to an unknown destination. Properties belonging to the suspects were burnt down by the mob,” Anene stated.
The police said they have arrested eight people for actions liable to cause a breach of peace and causing mischief and are still on the trail of those who torched buildings in the community.
Worried by the development, Governor Samuel Ortom had visited the community and warned the people against taking laws into their hands.
Despite the governor’s warning to people to disregard rumours of genitals missing, a few days after, some youths also claimed they lost their ability to perform sexually and alleged that agents of the genitals thieves were still on the prowl.
One such alleged victim, Vitalis Timbee, 29, visited a church in Makurdi where he told our correspondent that he had gone for prayers to restore his manhood stolen on November 8.
Timbee, married with a child, said, “I went to Daudu from Makurdi to evacuate my mother because of the happenings in the area. I was on the road in Daudu when suddenly my body began to vibrate, and I realized my manhood was lifeless. It didn’t disappear, but I can’t function anymore. That’s why my brother brought me to this church in Makurdi for the pastor to pray for me for restoration. I don’t know who to suspect because I touched many people that day in Daudu.”
His brother, who declined to give his name, said cases of manhood theft are still rampant despite the death of some suspects, adding that the people of Daudu now live in fear.
“I’m however more worried that despite all these, Governor Ortom, who visited our area, has dismissed the claims with a wave of a hand. In fact, he inspected one of the victims on the day he visited and told us the man was okay. I don’t know why he is doing this. Our youth are now very angry with him,” he said.
Meanwhile, a consultant psychiatrist with the Benue State University Teaching Hospital (BSUTH), Dr Agbir Terkula Michael said the situation in Daudu might be psychiatric.
“It’s a psychiatric issue. What is happening to the alleged victims is a mental issue. But I can’t delve into full details now. I have an emergency matter at hand,” he said.
Similarly, Dr Obekpa Isaiah Obekpa, Head of the Psychiatric Unit at the Federal Medical Centre in Makurdi, dismissed the claims of genitals thefts, noting that there are more serious issues to give attention to.
In Obekpa’s estimation, “these stories are not new. We have heard such stories while growing up and of all communities in the state, why is the case only reported in Daudu. I think there may be other underlying issues in the community which they are using missing genitals as a cover for.”
Following the unrest, the Guma Council Chairman, Caleb Aba, imposed curfew in Daudu community to run between 8:00 pm and 6:00 am to restore law and order.
Aba told newsmen in Makurdi via telephone that the curfew would be in place until the security situation improves.
He added that the youths had on Monday invaded the Divisional Police Station in the community and wanted to burn it down over fresh false alarm of missing genitals.
“The reason we imposed curfew is that the youths in Daudu community have raised alarm and accused certain persons of removing their genitals.
“They went ahead to burn down the properties of those they suspected and even killed a pastor of the church, whom they accused of being responsible.
“We talked to them and pleaded with them to allow the law to take its course. Even the governor of the state went there himself to talk to them.
“But last Monday, the youths mobilized and went to Police station in Daudu threatened to burn it down, accusing one other man whom they beat to a state of unconsciousness while accusing him of removing someone’s genital organ.
“It appears they will cause more destruction if they are allowed to be moving about freely,” he said.
The threat to burn down the station arose when an okada rider alleged that a passenger he picked up had stolen his genitals.
Mr Aba said the okada rider had been arrested for raising a false alarm.
While the curfew is still in place, our correspondent reports that there is still tension in the community as the lynch mob is still very active, threatening to lynch anyone accused of this mystical thievery.