It reads like a horror novel, but it's bone-chilling reality: Nigeria is under attack by murderous cultists. The city of Ikorodu outside of Lagos has been beset by a series of gruesome murders for the past two years. Home to around half a million, Ikorodu has suffered at the hands of the mysterious Badoo cult, one that is responsible for dozens upon dozens of murders. While the cult was thought to have been vanquished following mass arrests in late 2017, recent murders attributed to the cult means the Badoo are back with a vengeance.
"I am Badoo"
The name ‘Badoo’ has been circulating in Ikorodu since at least 2015, when rumours of a mysterious criminal began to emerge. By 2016, ‘Badoo’ had become a household name in the city as an unknown serial killer and rapist began to terrorize the city with increasing frequency. With the identity of the killer a mystery, very little could be gleaned about him. Killing and raping at random, the killer would write “I am Badoo” on the doors of his victims, behind which lay their gruesome remains.
By mid-2016, the city was abuzz with talk of Badoo, with locals staging mass protests calling on the governor to act. On June 12th, an individual later identified as Badoo was captured and handed over to law enforcement officials, yet he managed to make his way back onto the streets in November. Whether he escaped or bribed his way out of police custody is unknown, but the incident severely shook local confidence in a police force already marred by incompetence and corruption.
Eventually, on November 12th, Badoo was apprehended after allegedly violating a minor in the backstreets of Ikorodu. This time the mob took no chances and summarily burned Badoo alive in broad daylight in order to prevent him from escaping custody yet again. This act highlights a disturbing trend of vigilante justice both in Ikorodu and throughout Nigeria in general; one fuelled by weak rule of law and mistrust of the authorities. While not the first instance of so called “jungle justice”, the incident helped set off a wave of mob violence in the coming months.
One may wonder why that would be the case, what with Badoo dead; yet the death of the individual known as Badoo would prove to be only the first chapter in this bloody tale.
"We are Badoo"
Not long after the death of Badoo, a new wave of violence began to sweep Ikorodu. Specifically, a group of mysterious criminals adopted the Badoo name and ushered in a new era of fear and death in the city. The name crops up in a January 2017 article, but it was during the spring of 2017 that the Badoo group began to operate more regularly, and with murderous efficiency. Various other gangs and criminal organizations hound those living in Lagos and beyond, but what differentiates the ‘Badoo boys’ - as they became known - are their ritualistic murders.
In March, two separate attacks led to the deaths of seven individuals: a family of three, as well as a grandmother and her three grandchildren at a church in Mosatejo. On April 12th, a family of three was killed in Ikorodu, with residents surmising that the cult was to blame. “This is the handiwork of Badoo boys,” explained one resident - “At times they would rape their victims before smashing their heads in with a grinding stone. At other times they would not rape but just kill. They don’t spare any family member whenever they strike.”
Killing victims with a grinding stone quickly became the group’s weapon of choice, adding a morbid connotation to a common household item found in many Nigerian homes. By May 2017, at least 15 people had been killed by the Badoo, which led to widespread paranoia among the city’s residents. This sense of panic led to the deaths of four land speculators at the hands of a local mob, following rumours that the men belonged to the Badoo cult. This suspicion turned out to be unfounded, yet the men were part of a racketeering ring demanding ‘royalties’ from local builders.
Said gang in turn returned to the area in question to carry out reprisal attacks to avenge the deaths of their fellows. This resulted in many locals fleeing the area, both before and during the attack, which itself resulted in thousands of dollars worth of damage.
Cases of mistaken identity have become increasingly common, adding yet another threat to life and limb for Ikorodu’s residents, as vigilante gangs conduct witch hunts for suspected Badoo members. The term ‘witch hunt’ is an apt one as the Badoo are known for their ritualistic practices and appeals to black magic.
Blood magic for sale
By smashing the heads of their victims, the Badoo are able to collect blood and brain matter on white cloth, which they then use in their rituals and incantations. Dabbed in the blood of the victims, these scraps of cloth are then sold to witchdoctors and herbalists for use in charms and spells. Various upwardly mobile Nigerians have also been found in possession of said items, which are purchased (for around $1,400) to aid spells or blessings for financial success.
The everyday nature of these items means that anyone with white handkerchiefs or a large stone is seen as a potential cultist. This only further increases cases of mistaken identity, with innocents set upon by vigilante mobs seeking to root out Badoo members. One prominent case of mistaken identity occurred in early July when three men were lynched after a vigilante group found a large rock in their car. In a twist of macabre irony, one of those killed was famous local comedian MC Think Twice; the advice of his moniker unfortunately went unheeded.
This unfortunate event occurred after a particularly brutal month, which left the community on edge. On June 2nd, a family of four, including a pregnant woman were murdered, and the foetus removed by the cultists. A few days later, a man was lynched by a mob after applying black oil to himself and trying to escape through a window during questioning. June also saw four buildings attacked, resulting in three deaths on the 21st. The gang’s preference for attacking people in their own homes during the night has led many to sleep with machetes and whistles. Moreover, some have reported waking up to strangers in the house, and there are widespread claims that the Badoo hypnotize their victims prior to killing them.
Alongside killing individuals at night, various cases of child snatching have occurred in which children are led away and sold to Badoo-linked 'prophets' for use as ritual sacrifices. One such abductor admitted to selling children to local holy men for as little as $360. In one instance, police arrived too late to stop the 4am ritual killing and dismemberment of a child on church grounds in June. In the wake of these snatchings and murders, police have ordered Ikorodu residents to carry ID cards with them at all times in order to prevent more deadly cases of mistaken identity.
By the end of June, over 50 people had been killed by the Badoo since their appearance, and July was no better. Three worshippers were killed at the Crystal Church of Christ following a late night vigil on July 4th. Indeed, late night worshippers have become a favourite target of the Badoo. Three naked individuals covered in engine oil were also seen attempting to break into a gas station in July, one of whom was captured and summarily set ablaze to prevent future release by the police. On July 18th, a local landlord admitted to showing the Badoo where his residents slept and July 31st saw four killed in another attack.
The situation in Ikorodu has become so bad that 72 percent of residents do not go out at night, with 37 percent of respondents restricting all their movements. Moreover, polls of residents indicate that the majority will seek to move if the attacks continue, while around a third noted they have nowhere else to go and would rather join vigilante or other community protection groups. This in turn presents another problem, with researchers noting that:
“while the activities of the Badoo gang [have] undoubtedly had an effect on the lives of residents, we observed an almost equal [...] effect of the activities of vigilante groups which have cropped up in response to the insecurity. This is in order to avoid harassment by the vigilante groups who have mounted road blocks at which encounters quickly devolve to jungle justice if a person is suspected to be a Badoo member."
Even those who leave the town are still faced with hurdles, as 150 residents fleeing Ikorodu for neighbouring areas where defrauded of $138,000 by real estate agents preying on desperate townsfolk looking for safe accommodation
Fall and return of the Badoo
In the midst of this violence, a series of police crackdowns in July were met with success as hundreds of suspected Badoo members were arrested following raids on the group’s hideouts and shrines. Moreover, in August a herbalist was arrested after admitting that he sold charms to the Badoo. A move by some 500 youth gang members to voluntarily hand in their weapons and renounce cultism was also a boon for the much beleaguered police force.
After these mass arrests and other events in July and August, there followed a lull in violence, with the Badoo not heard from for several months. However, any hopes for a final respite from the cult were short-lived as the Badoo have re-emerged in recent weeks. Three individuals were killed on November 23rd, and the pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God was murdered by the Badoo on November 27th.
Just as the ‘Badoo’ name rose from the grave after the death of the original Badoo, the cult has revived and is back to terrorize the residents of Ikorodu.
Jeremy Luedi is the editor of Asia by Africa. His writing has been featured in Business Insider, The Japan Times, The Diplomat, FACTA Magazine, Yahoo Finance, Asia Times, Huffington Post and Qrius. His insights have also been quoted by TIME, OZY, and the Washington Times, among others.