Owners of the Soka, Ibadan “forest of horror” lost it all yesterday, with the state government acquiring the land.
Some victims of the bestiality were recovering at the hospital.
But it was learnt that one of them, a woman, died on the way to the hospital on Saturday.
Crowds of curious residents besieged the State Hospital, Yemetu in the Oyo State capital to see the rescued victims.
The hospital had a hectic time controlling the crowds who remained resilient for hours in their determination to see the victims. But they were prevented by security personnel to ensure that the victims had some privacy and medical personnel attending to them were not distracted.
Some of the victims are yet to be fully conscious of their new environment. Others have responded to treatment.
Two of them – Nafiu Shittu and Titi Adeyemi – gave some meaningful responses, suggesting that they were mentally stable.
Shittu said: “I am a native of Ibadan living in Foko and Olodo area of Ibadan. I sold pile medicine to people in the city. I was doing the business on the day I was kidnapped four months ago. After going round the area where I had customers, I felt tired and decided to rest. It was at the Gate area. Suddenly, a bus stopped by my side and two men came out and rushed me into the back seat. That was all I could remember. When I regained consciousness, I was in a room in the forest, chained to a wall. I was too tired to struggle and as the days passed by, I became frail because I was not given anything to eat.”
Asked if he was aware of his environment, Shittu replied: “I am a normal human being. It is not possible for me to know where I was because I was in a room all through my days in captivity.”
He said he was not the only one in the building, adding that people passed by it regularly as he heard their conversations.
Titi Adeniyi, 45, said: “I live at Awolowo compound in Oke Bola, Ibadan. I am not mad and I am not an old woman. Two months ago, I was in front of our house when some men grabbed me and said I was under arrest. Before I could protest, I was put in a bus and driven away. We did not go to any police station and I still don’t know how we reached the bush. I had N10,000 with me but they took it. I am 45 but in the few months I spent there, I aged quickly for lack of care. We were fed once in a week.”
Governor Abiola Ajimobi and heads of security agencies were at the “forest of horror” yesterday. A woman was allegedly killed by a stray bullet during a clash between policemen and some youths.
The main entrance to the forest was cordoned off by the police to prevent more residents from thronging the site, which has been attracting crowds of people since the news broke on Saturday evening. But the security agencies stopped people yesterday morning.
The middle-aged woman, identity could not be immediately ascertained.
The bullet was said to have hit her in the chest. She died instantly.
Ajimobi led members of the State Executive Council and all the arms of the security agencies with a forensic expert on an on-the-spot assessment of the forest. The convoy was flagged down by the crowd of residents, who reported what they called “police wickedness” and called for Justice.
Policemen stationed an Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) a few metres away from the entrance to the forest to prevent residents from visiting the site.
The governor urged residents not to take the law into their hands. He promised to address the issue.
Ajimobi, who was conducted round the forest by security chiefs, was sad at what he called “man’s inhumanity to his fellow man”.
Visibly moved by the gory sight at the forest where many people had been held hostage by yet unknown kidnappers, Ajimobi called for a minute’s silence and led prayers for the repose of the souls of those who died.
The governor announced the revocation of the Certificates of Occupancy (C of Os) of the expansive forest and directed that the bush be cleared.
He also pledged that the entire area would be combed by security agencies to fish out the perpetrators and bring them to book.
“We came here with all the security chiefs. We have seen things for ourselves. It is surprising that such a thing existed here for a long time. Nevertheless, we will take the following actions:
“We will revoke all the C of Os of the owners of the land; government is taking it over immediately. Then we will set up a panel of forensic experts; we will get to the root of the matter and then we will find out those involved in the act. Even though we were told that the inhuman transactions here had been in existence for over 10 years, we will dig it up,’’ the governor said.
Ajimobi said it was unimaginable that an event as horrendous as this had been going on in the neighbourhood for over 10 years and the people living in the area had not alerted security agencies about it.
He told the crowd who thronged the scene of the incident, including the head of the community, Chief Isiaka Bello Olupoju, that the unemployed youths in the area would get automatic employment in the State Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES-O).
He urged those interested in the job to register with the village head.
The governor also promised to meet with the community next month on their needs, with a view to addressing them.
He advised the people to avoid brigandage, thuggery, violence and all anti-social activities and to give security agencies information on strange movements within the neighbourhood.
Olapeju and two other members of the community urged the government to come to their rescue.
In the abandoned buildings, with many room apartments were evidence of rape, torture and killings of the victims. Also, seen are chains, charms, and a slab which appeared like where victims are killed and cut into parts.
Among the items found in some of the containers are travelling bags, foot-wears, clothes , national drivers licence,wallets and passport photographs .
A national driver’s licence bears the name Akinola James Idowu (Ogun State) whose address is NYSC Secretariat, Agodi, Ibadan with an expiry date of April 4, 2014.
Another national driver’s licence found in one of the places where the victims were dispossessed of their personal effects, has the name Saidi R. Adetoro of 52,Yaya Abatan Street, Ogba Lagos State with issuance date 29 March, 2003 and expiring date 3 November, 2006.
No one could say precisely what might have happened to these persons, but it is assumed that they may be some of the victims.
Youths in the area acting on a tip-off that another victim (a cyclist) allegedly sent distress calls for help, attempted to storm the main building in the forest. They were rebuffed by the police who allegedly fired shots.
A youth said: “A commercial motorcyclist is still trapped in the building and we learnt he sent a text message that kidnappers were about to kill him.
“We were only attempting to storm the place and find out the true situation of things when policemen who have been keeping vigil here repelled us.”
One of the youths was allegedly shot. In a reprisal, two vehicles – one a shuttle bus (Ajumose shuttle) and another belonging to the Ibadan zonal station of the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) – were vandalised.
Some of the youths stripped themselves naked in protest over the shooting of their colleague.
The police on Sunday confirmed the arrest of seven suspects in connection with the gory discovery.
Police Commissioner Mohammed Indabawa said forensic experts would be engaged in investigating the killings of no fewer than 20, whose decomposed bodies were recovered in the forest. Some emaciated captives were found.
Indabawa said: “I am personally involved in the investigation of this case and whoever is involved shall be apprehended.
“We will leave no stone unturned and I can assure you that investigation has commenced which would involve the services of forensic experts.’’
He denied an allegation that the police failed to take action after being informed of the suspicious activities going on in the forest.
“It would be wrong to say that the police knew about it before now and did nothing.
“You will recall that we responded to the situation immediately we heard of the place from the people.
“I will, therefore, request that if anyone has a vital information, he should come to my office or call me on my personal telephone number 08032002676.
“I will, however, say that people should allow the police to conduct their investigations without interference. Let us all be law abiding in this situation,” he said.
Indabawa also advised residents not to act on rumours, saying: “Rumours break and destroy the nation and the peace of the state and should, therefore, be avoided.’’