…Residents allege cover up by church and police
…Mother of victim forced to shut-up
…Police arrest three suspects
By Emma Nnadozie, Crime Editor
Palpable anxiety has gripped residents of Okegbodo, a suburb of Ikorodu in Lagos State, following reports that a 16-year-old apprentice was allegedly tortured to death inside a popular Celestial Church in their community.
In fact, members of the community now restrict the movement of their children and diligently monitor their activities, after they alleged that killers of the apprentice are freely walking the streets after they were allegedly unceremoniously released by the police, who arrested them few hours after the murder was discovered.
However, police sources said three suspects, including the leader of the church, have been arrested and detained, while efforts are being made to locate where the boy was buried.
Crime Guard learned that the events that led to the murder of the apprentice started on May, 6, this year. A close neighbour to the Celestial church, who gave a vivid account of what transpired in the area, said thus: “I was passing behind the Celestial church when I heard a few people, including men and women, crying and saying ‘Olorun Oshoffa (God of Oshofa) should help them’.
“I was so curious to know what was really happening, but I was not able to make any meaning out of the strident cries of supplications for God’s intervention being rendered in the church.”
In the same vein, occupants of a six block of flats behind the church also confirmed that they heard the boy begging for help to be freed from where he was tied. “All of a sudden, we could not hear the anguished cry of the boy any more. What we heard next was ‘Olorun Oshoffa, bami ji’ (God of Oshofa, wake him up); Daddy where is your faith?. I must not be put to shame, somebody is dead, etc.
“On the following day (May 7), a team of policemen from Imota Police Station came and arrested the leader of the church. People expected the police to carry out a proper investigation, because there were stories spreading around of how a boy was killed and buried in the premises of the church, but the arrested suspect was released on May 11.
“Later, we ascertained from some members of the church, who were around when the incident happened, and they narrated how their leader sent for the boy, where he was learning tailoring, at about 10:am, and he and two other men started interrogating him over amissing N5,000 in the church. The boy reportedly denied all the allegations and refused to succumb to threats during interrogation, prompting leaders of the church to subject him to torture, after tying him on a tree inside the church premises.
“They allegedly used lit candles to burn his scrotum, while trying to force him to admit being in possession of the money, but the boy insisted that he was innocent. He gave up the ghost around 4pm, after several tortures and beatings, and all efforts made to revive him failed. They then hastily buried him and pretended as if nothing had happened.
“We are all aware that the church leaders later sent for the mother of the boy and informed her of the death of her son, attributing it to a mistake. They also made threats to the mother to conceal the incident. Furthermore, they promised to pay all her debts in a micro finance bank and offered further assistance. The anguished mother was then instructed to tell any person that asked about the boy that he went to Oworoshoki.”
However, the story took a different dimension, following a discreet investigation by Crime Guard. which led to an informal report made to the Divisional Police Officer at Imota in Ikorodu, Lagos, and he swiftly swung into action, leading to the arrest of about three members of the church, including their leader.
Police sources said that, initially, after their arrest, the suspects vehemently denied knowledge of such incident, but after detectives invited the mother of the dead boy, she confessed that her son was wounded but later taken to a hospital, where he died. She further disclosed that he was buried in a private cemetery in the area. Crime Guard learned that when detectives stormed the cemetery, the attendant confirmed that the boy was buried there, but without official formalities.
However, some residents of the area, who spoke under the guise of anonymity for fear of their lives, disclosed that they heard the strident cries of the boy, while he was being tortured, but his cries abruptly stopped. They alleged that he was buried inside the church, after he collapsed and died. They also raised eyebrows over police inability not only to seal the church premises after such weighty allegation was made against its members, but also to investigate the actual burial place of the boy.
Meanwhile, police sources hinted that one of the detained leaders of the church developed an undisclosed illness inside the cell and was rushed to hospital for treatment, while police are making preparations to transfer the case to the State Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Department, SCIID, Panti in Yaba, Lagos, for further investigation.