He may well go down as Nigeria’s modern-day serial killer. At the last count, about seven people, some say more, have allegedly fallen to his deathly blows, as he practically rampaged the sleepy Akinyele town and environs on the outskirt of Ibadan, Oyo State. Even when arrested, he still managed to escape and maul down yet another. But what could be responsible for such a youth turning out so terribly?
GBOYEGA ALAKA, who visited the town, reports.
How does a 19 year-old somewhat innocent-looking boy become a serial killer? How does he even summon the courage and mindset to kill in cold blood in broad daylight? These are the question natives and inhabitants of Akinyele, the Ibadan suburb from which the vast Akinyele Local Government Area derived its name, are still struggling to unravel.
Even though the boy killer, Sunday Shodipe, is back in police custody, following his ‘mysterious’ escape from custody that saw him killing another victim, Funmilayo (also known as Iya Ibeji) in Onikeke area of Akinyele, Shodipe’s whole exploits still appear a mystery. Nobody seems to know how he got into his victims apartments or cornered them to strike them dead; and he was usually gone before anyone became aware of his atrocities. Worst is the fact that the people, as our reporter, who visited the quiet Akinyele town found out, know little or nothing about him.
At the last count, seven people (unconfirmed sources say over eight) are said to have fallen to Shodipe’s fatal blows. Some say he used a shovel, others say a machete, but what is clear about the now rearrested Shodipe, who may easily go down as Nigeria’s modern day serial killer, is that his cuts were usually too deadly for his victims. For those who survived, according to Abiodun Adeniyi, who offered to take this reporter round the town, when the Community Leader, whom the king of the town, Oba Alakinyele of Akinyele, referred this reporter could not be found, “It is difficult to actually say they survived because they are neither alive nor dead. About two of such victims are still in the hospital as we speak. In fact, I know one that he attacked not too far away from here, who has been lying critically ill in the hospital for weeks.”
However, a young girl, according to one of the youths in the community, proved too fast for him. He was about to hit her with a block, when she bolted. That was shortly before he went to hack down Funmilayo, on Thursday August 20. Father of the lucky child, it was said, narrated the story at the Oba’s palace, after news of Shodipe’s last act broke that Thursday.
While Shodipe’s exploits resonated all through Akinyele, the entire Ibadan and indeed the Nigerian media space, two deaths stand out for the indigenes of Akinyele town itself. First was that of a certain Barakat Bello, a couple of months back, when the killings first started and the identity of the killer had not been unraveled, while the second would be the killing of Funmilayo, said to be a hawker, who plied her wares in the community and in the now popular Elewure market, where Shodipe was said to have been sighted before his last act and arrest.
Murder at noon
According to Temitayo Wahab, the Olori Odo (youth leader) of the Akinyele community, the killing of Funmilayo shook the whole town to its roots, igniting a momentous rowdy demonstration and a near violent clash with the police.
“When that woman, Funmilayo, was killed, all fingers pointed at Sunday Shodipe, the acclaimed serial killer, mainly because news had been going around that some people had spotted him in the Elewure/Kara market vicinity. At first, nobody believed it was him, because we had all seen him in cuffs and chains in police custody confessing to his numerous murders. It was on one of those viral Facebook videos that we first learnt that it was he who killed Barakat Bello, a young lady who was butchered to death not too long ago in nearby Oloro here. Until then, her death had remained a mystery.
“Funmilayo, also known as Iya Ibeji, was said to have excused herself from her friend, Medinat Amusat, next door to go take her bath, when, not long after, some children came running back shouting that a snake had bitten her. Lo and behold, when Amusat and other neighbours got to her apartment, they met Funmilayo in a pull of her own blood. She had been brutally butchered and left for dead. The whole area scattered. As we speak, life is just returning to the area, because everybody immediately deserted the area.
“At Oba Alakinyele’s palace, there was confusion. Kabiyesi could not understand how somebody who was in custody could still come around to kill. But Mr. Kazeem Bello, father of Barakat Bello, testified to the Oba that his brother said he spotted Shodipe a day or two earlier.”
Interestingly, not many knew Shodipe at close quarters, if the feelers got by this reporter during his visit to that community were correct. A good number of people spoken to denied knowing him, even in the Elewure market, where he was said to have worked casually, helping to load and offload livestock. Leaders of the market, two men of Yoruba extraction, swore that they neither knew him nor that he ever worked in the market or returned there after his escape. Not even the mention of the fact that the Oba had given consent to this journalist’s inquest caused them to admit anything. Possibly, they feared a repercussion.
However, Jamiu (not real name), one of three friends lounging in a kiosk opposite the Elewure Market volunteered some information after much persuasion. “Before the police arrested and paraded him, we never knew he was the one committing the killings we had been hearing all over. I didn’t know him, but a few people who had had dealings with him or seen him in the community recognised him. They said he used to work in the market here, helping dealers and buyers to pull rams and goats. All we know is that news suddenly started flying around that they had caught glimpse of him again. That was after he had been arrested and paraded. Perhaps if those who saw him knew he was about to commit another killing, they would have acted. Some said they saw him that Thursday morning; and not long after, news spread that another woman had been killed in Onikeke area. The killing bore the same pattern as Shodipe’s other killings.”
Jamiu’s friend, who would also not give his name said, “We are meat sellers, we don’t live here, but you could literally feel the fear that gripped the whole community after the death of that woman (his last victim). Those who knew her said she was a hawker and that she even hawked her wares to this market. After she was killed, the whole market scattered, as everyone became scared and scampered for safety. When the king, Oba Alakinyele called the police at Iyaganku to clarify the whereabouts of the arrested boy, they told him the boy had escaped and that those who were supposed to guide him had been arrested and locked up. People got mad and that sparked a riotous demonstration. You need to see this whole road. It was full of angry demonstrators. They could not understand how such a confirmed serial killer could escape police custody and find himself in the same community to commit the same atrocity. Most painful was the fact that the police didn’t alert the community. Perhaps if people knew he had escaped, they would have apprehended him immediately they saw him. That demonstration soon turned into a violent clash with the police. In the end, some of the demonstrators were arrested and taken away. I don’t know if all of them have been released as we speak.
“That last killing was more painful because people claimed they saw him that morning. The woman was well known in the community. It took some time before he was eventually caught in Bodija.”
Adeniyi said he was one of those who chased and tried to arrest Shodipe when he was spotted near a bridge tunnel not far from the town center. “They said they saw him around that gate, so we went after him, but he was too fast. You could tell that he knows this community very well. This was after he killed Funmilayo. From what I gathered, he couldn’t have moved into this area farther than three years ago, because even the Elewure Market is just about five years old.”
Making of a serial killer
Two youths, who volunteered to take this reporter to the home of the late Barakat Bello, said, “He’s an Ijebu boy; he didn’t grow up here; so we’re surprised that he chose this vicinity to perpetrate his killings. Some say his parents live around Bodija, where he was arrested, while some say he spent his childhood in Moniya area. If he really worked in this Elewure market, it couldn’t have been for long. Don’t forget this child is just 19; how much of his background do you expected to get? He’s just starting out.”
However, Temitayo Wahab, Olori odo (Youth leader) of the community gave what could be considered the biggest insight into Shodipe’s background when he said, “The story of that boy still baffles me. We had once arrested him for petty stealing and handed him over to the police. He went to remove aluminum roofing sheets of a house. His specialty then was to remove roofing sheets and iron burglary proof of houses to resell. Even then, we didn’t know him but we took him to Kara Police Station and handed him over. After about six days, the police released him on the pretext that nobody showed up to ask after him or request his bail. Even when we started hearing that people were being killed here and there, we never thought it could be him.
“When the killing continued and an atmosphere of unsafe pervaded the air, Kabiyesi, Oba Alakinyele of Akinyele, put in all efforts to apprehend him; the community even offered sacrifices to the gods to help bring the killer to book. Eventually he was caught in Shasha on the way to Ojoo. In fact when Kabiyesi called Iyaganku and they confirmed that the boy had escaped from custody, even he was shocked. He told them bluntly that, ‘Well, your man has killed another person o.’ The officer on the phone said, ‘Impossible,’ to which Kabiyesi said they should come and see for themselves.
“We are pained more because he was spotted in Elewure Market before he killed that Iya Ibeji. From what we heard, those who could confront him did. They asked: ‘Is it you?’ He said ‘yes.’ They asked: ‘How did you get out?’ He said it was ‘God’s mercy.’ Even that baba (pointing at an elderly Hausa trader in the market), confirmed that he saw and confronted him in the market. But as a Hausa, he said he restrained himself from making an issue of it because he didn’t want it to look like Hausa settlers were the ones exposing a Yoruba fugitive. He said he was trying to avoid tribal clash. After that, he left the scene and we didn’t hear of him again until he committed that last act. If the police had announced his escape, there wouldn’t have been any doubt about the need to apprehend him. Some even said they thought he had been released on bail.”
Asked why he picked on Akinyele, Wahab said, “We don’t know. He however told the police that it was the herbalist that told him to go back to Akinyele to kill another person. Only the Babalawo can explain why he picked on our town.”
Wahab also told The Nation how the whole community was shocked when the culprit confessed to being the killer of Barakat Bello. “Before his confession, Barakat’s death had been shrouded in mystery, with people speculating different theories on why she could have been so brutally butchered. The late Barakat’s dad was one of those who rushed to Kabiyesi’s palace that Thursday afternoon. He confirmed that his brother had spotted Shodipe a day or two before.”
Another youth, who claimed he knew Shodipe in Moniya told The Nation that he worked as a porter, helping people to carry loads like sacks of rice, garri and so on for stipends in the market there, adding that “he was a truant, who ran away from home, smoked marijuana and gave his mother lots of trouble.”
Shodipe confirmed this when he told reporters during his second parade that he worked as a porter to survive during the brief time he escaped from custody.
However, the herbalist, Yinusa Ajani, for whom Shodipe claimed he was perpetrating the killings and with whom he was arrested, gave a further insight into his background, when he told the police that, his mother brought him to his house some time ago to train as a spiritualist after he started showing signs of waywardness. He, however, said Shodipe had only spent six days with him, when he told him to leave because he was not satisfied with his behaviour.
Hunger could also be said to be a critical factor in how the young man has turned out. According to Shodipe, the herbalists usually bought him food and gave him N500 every time he returned from a successful assignment. He, however, denied knowing the reason for the killings.
“I’m not really clear about that area – whether Baba used them for himself or for his clients. Usually, he told me to say some incantations and perform some rituals every time I carried out the killings. I also remember him telling Officer Funsho that he needed regal (gin) with cola nuts and bitter cola to use for certain rituals; else the spirits would suck his blood dry. He kept telling me that I needed to find a way of getting out, when our August 7 date for hearing was shifted because it fell on a public holiday. He accused me of being the cause of his imprisonment and tasked me on getting him out. He it was who told me to go to Akinyele again to perform the same ritual.
Fear of death
Wahab recalled the kind of fear that gripped the whole of Akinyele town the night Funmilayo was killed.
“I returned home late that night to meet all the families in my ‘face-me-I-face-you’ house sleeping outside in the open with their children. When I asked why, they said they were afraid of the killer; that they could not afford to let him corner them in their rooms. If he could kill in broad daylight, they would not take any risk at night. The fear was so palpable, especially as no one knew who would be next. Clearly, it seemed the killer has a mysterious way of operating; someone who was able to get away from police custody,” he said.
On how he escaped, Shodipe said it was Ajani who came up with the idea of convincing Officer Funsho to let all eight of them in the cell have their bath. Even then, he said some inmates warned the officer ‘not to let Sunday out because he would escape’. He told the media how he stepped on the borehole under construction in the compound to jump over the fence and make away.
Shodipe, however, said he only killed five persons, as against the numbers being bandied. He said he only killed one person after his escape and that he was arrested around Moniya. He said he managed to get by without being arrested because he had a way of using face-cap to cover his face and shield his identity.
“I was arrested at Bodija; the person who arrested me asked me to help him push his car. I suspected he was going to arrest me but somehow, I just didn’t feel like running away.”
The image of my mother so badly butchered still hurts
Kemi Oladeji, daughter of slain Funmilayo is still sad. Although she was at her hairdressing salon shop in Akinyele on the occasion of this reporter’s visit, she said the sadness may never go away, although she has to carry on with life.
“The image of my mother so badly butchered hurt and still hurts. In fact, I don’t think I can ever forget it. Why he picked on her also baffles me. I was in the shop here that afternoon. From what I heard, she left her friend to go and have her bath, when the killer sneaked in to kill her. Unfortunately, there was nobody to help her, if you’re familiar with our house.”
The Nation would later visit Funmilayo’s house that afternoon. It is a two-room stand alone apartment. Even from this reporter’s observation, the killer must have lurked around for a while, to be able to sneak in on her unnoticed. Aside that, it is a sparsely populated neighbourhood, especially on week days.
If the manner in which her mother was killed was painful, Oladeji said the nonchalance of the police and the way they dismissed their frantic petition for help was devastating. She said their attitude prevented them from accessing medical care, as most hospitals practically rejected her mom who was in the throes of death.
“We went to the police station in Kara but they did not respond. They said they had no fuel in their car. We also went to Moniya Police Station, the same thing. In fact, those ones didn’t even respond to us at all.”
Asked if she knew the said killer, Oladeji answered in the negative. She however said, “From what I’ve heard, my mother was her second victim in this community, although I heard he has killed eight people overall in the whole Akinyele. That only means he knows this area very well.”
Oladeji is the second of the deceased seven children.
An attempt to speak with the late Barakat Bello’s father or relative at Oloro area was not successful as all occupants of her family house were out. The house was securely padlocked.