Locals have aptly described it as the “house of horror”, a reference to a one-storey building in the Sako area of Ibadan, the Oyo state capital, where the police made a grisly find of human skulls, decomposing bodies and “dying men and women”on Saturday, March 22. Many badly malnourished people were also found wandering in the bush surrounding the run-down building in which another 15 people were found shackled. The grounds were “strewn with the rusted hulks of at least five tractors and a dozen other vehicles. It has been cordoned off since the grim discovery Saturday”.
It is said that the building, located about a kilometer (less than a mile) off the main Lagos-Ibadan highway, was once used as the office of a construction firm.About 50 bags of solidified cement were visible in the building, according to an AFP reporter who visited on Monday, March 24. “Inside the building, there was an overpowering stench of death and swarms of flies, forcing onlookers to cover their noses and mouths with facemasks. Personal belongings such as clothes, shoes, sandals, bags, bank cards and cooking utensils could be seen littered on the floor of its eight rooms.”
The police command in Oyo state that made this grim find said Monday that they were tipped off by commercial motorcyclists looking for one of their own who they believed was abducted. According to Commissioner of Police Mohammed Indabawa, six persons, including five security guards “armed with guns, bows and arrows” were arrested at the scene. He did not say what he thought the building was being used for, but some residents said it was a home for mentally ill people while others suspected it was being used for ritual killings. “Anybody who is found wanting or connected with this heinous crime will be prosecuted,” the commissioner of police assured.
On a sympathy visit to the scene of the find on Monday, Governor Abiola Ajumobi assured residents that “Those behind this dastardly act will be punished by God. (But) we too will punish them when we get them.” However, his assurance and that of the police were not enough to prevent a riot at the scene, in which some 20 people were believed to have been injured. “We want to rescue our people who are still underground and crying for help. But the police are saying no and we are angry,” one unidentified rioter told AFP.
There are several reasons why we demand a thorough investigation of this horrific find. One, it is to protect the rustic heritage of this city, described by poet John Pepper Clark as “broken China in the sun”, a reference to its pristine innocence, and its integrity as a seat of scholarship. Two, Nigerians need to know exactly what the building was being used for, and three, the role of the unidentified construction firm in the macabre find. Four, whether there exist other killing sites. Somehow, the nation must get to the roots of this ‘house of horror’.