Scamming and Ritual Killings in Nigeria


Scamming and Ritual Killings in Nigeria. What do scammers do? Who are the ritual killers? What are the psychological, social and economic driving forces behind these ills?

Scamming in the Nigerian context.

The meaning of scamming:

This is a fraudulent act perpetrated by a scammer to deceive his/her victim.


A scammer is anyone who is in the act of deceiving others. Most scammers in Nigeria are young people between the ages of 26 and 50 years. Many are in the tertiary institutions. Cyber crime has become a way of life for many undergraduates. One research paper posited that 80% of cyber crimes in Nigeria are perpetrated by undergraduates. There are older scammers but they are fewer in number.   

They are mainly males, with few females. And for the females, there is usually a male accomplice.

Types of scammers in Nigeria:

Anyone in the fraudulent act of deception be it at home, in the office, the village associations, etc. is a scammer. So there are different types of scammers. But in Nigeria, there are a set of people known as professional scammers. These are the Yahoo boys.

Yahoo Yahoo is a recognized cyber crime in Nigeria that is growingly being accepted. Yahoo boys are young men involved in using the internet to defraud and scam people.

Do scammers need special skills?

Yes, they must be intelligent and be an expert in the tools used. The scammer must be intelligent because fraud requires planning to formulate different strategies to get the victims to fall for the tricks.

For those who engage in internet fraud must have access to computers and the technology that operates them. So they must be vast on how to operate emails, SMS, network sites, and how to hack these.

Being charming and fluent in using convincing words are added advantages. And living a flamboyant life style is another added advantage. Thus they drive the latest cars, use the latest mobile phones and live in mansions.

Ritual killings in Nigeria.

Meaning of ritual killing:

This is the act of killing an animal or a human as a sacrifice to a deity or to a god. It is believed by some people, that ritual sacrifices can make one powerful and rich.

In Nigeria it is called money ritual. This is the intentional killing of someone for the purposes of acquiring wealth, power, protection and fame. 

Another form of ritual killing is called the Yahoo Plus. They use human parts for sacrifices and charms. These charms are to help them have success in internet fraud. They also harvest the human organs for sale. Some sell their own kidneys in foreign countries.

Ritual killing is a premeditated act and it is planned. The perpetrator knows before hand, the type of victim needed and how to access the victim. He also knows the body parts needed and other processes involved.


These ritual killers also use scamming to get their victims. They can deceive their victims by offering them fake jobs, fake friendships, fake visas, etc., in order to lure them. They have their agents who scout for people in need or in distress.

But some of their victims are kidnapped either from schools, travelering, on the way to an errand or church, etc. Some victims live in the same compound with the perpetrators.

Some of the traditional priests that do the sacrifices are also believed to be scammers. These priests charge lots of money from the perpetrators. This is because the priests believe that these perpetrators may not be able to meet up with human parts. And even when they do meet up, the priests make up a lot of reason for the failure of majority of the charms. No money is refunded for failures. On 26th of January 2022, some Yahoo plus boys were apprehended in a hotel in Owerri. They had bags of python snakes which they claimed were given to them by a native doctor. They were told that the bags were stuffed with American Dollars. 

Even mortuary officials scam people by selling to them clothes, etc. belonging to the dead. The officials also make those who want to get rich quick believe that with these, they can be rich.

The ritual killers:

They cut across all the social starters. But the majorities are in the low socioeconomic class. They can also be students, school drop outs, civil servants, farmers, people in the force, etc. Some are related to the victims, like parents, siblings and extended family members. Many are neighbors, domestic servants, and other acquaintances to the victims. But some of the killers are strangers.

They are mainly males, with few females, and their age can range from 20 years to 77 years. And majority of the time they operate in groups. This is required for coordinated efforts and expertise.


The victims can range from children, to adults and the aged. They can also include virgins, etc. The victim will depend on what the perpetrator requires from the ritual.

Methods used:

After getting their victims, the victims are taken to remote places like the bush, if it is in the rural areas. For those that happen in the towns and cities, their victims are taken to uncompleted or isolated buildings. They are tied up. While some are sedated and killed before harvesting the parts, others are kept alive to feel the pains of the harvesting. Some ritual killers believe that listening to the victims scream during the cutting will make the rituals more potent.  And some believe that having sex with the victims before the killings will also increase the potency.

The parts that are harvested include the eyes, tongue, breast, penis, scrotum, liver, kidneys, etc. Sometimes, the whole head is used. If the concoction needed is to treat infertility, the human parts needed, will be the penis, vagina and uterus. 

These human parts are used as sacrifices to a deity, to make charms, or produce native medicines for illnesses. Some are sold to be eaten by cannibals.

Why are cyber crime and ritual killings on the rise in Nigeria?

The reasons for the recent rise of cyber crime and ritual killings in Nigeria are hydra headed. They range from psychological to social, religious and even economic reasons.

Psychological reasons.

Attachment issues:

If a person grows up being insecurely attached to the mother, this person can become dysfunctional and have personality disorders. The person can also be at risk of abusing substances and indulging in crime.

Most mothers in the present time do not spend adequate time with their infants and children because they are too busy. So these children are cared by domestic servants, or sent out to day care and early nursery schools.

Parenting issues:

Nigerian parents are known to use the more of the authoritarian parenting methods than the other types of parenting. Authoritarian parenting can predispose children to vices. These vices include the abuse of substances, and crime.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs):

Most Nigerians make use of corporal punishment in disciplining their children. That is they use physical abuse. They also make use of psychological abuse in child training, believing that it will make the child wise. They can call the child idiot, coconut head, etc.

Child physical and psychological neglect is also rampant in the country due to economic hardships. And child sexual abuse is very rampant as well.

All these are factors to children being dysfunctional, suffer from mental illness, abuse substances and venture into crime.

Community violence:

There is rise in kidnapping, street fights, police brutality, herdsmen and farmers clashes, etc. These are all risk factors to predisposing adolescents to violence.

Personality disorders (PD):

In one research paper among Nnewi residents, 15.7% had personality disorders. The commonest personality disorders were dissocial (antisocial), schizoid, anankastic, and passive dependent PD. In Nigerian prisons, more of the inmates had antisocial PD. This was followed by borderline, paranoid, histrionic and narcissistic PD.

So the people with antisocial and those with narcissistic PD, do not feel guilt and they lack empathy. They feel entitlement to having the good things in life, so they will do anything to get them. They are also risk takers. Some ritual killers and scammers are psychopaths, who may engage in them just for pleasure.

Those with paranoid personality disorder bear grudges against others. They believe the people are against them. They can go into offending or crime if they have delusions.

Mental illness:

Some of those who indulge in ritual killings are mentally ill. They may believe that eating human flesh and drinking human blood will prolong their lives and make them immortal. Few persons suffering from Bipolar Disorders engage in scamming and ritual killings.

Substance abuse:

In 2016, it was documented in a research paper that 26% of secondary school students abused cannabis. Also in 2018, it was documented also that 10.8% of Nigerian adults abused cannabis.

 The United Nations Office on Drug and Crime, in 2018, reported that an estimated 89,000 Nigerians are taking methamphetamine. This methamphetamine is also known as ice, mkpuru miri or meth. In a study from a private university in the southwestern part of Nigeria, published in 2021, 33% of the respondent undergraduates abuse meth.

Substance abuse can affect one’s judgment and reasoning. Majority of those who engage in Yahoo crimes, abuse substances and so are those involved in ritual killings. Some engage in these vices for financial gain to sustain their addictions.

Social causes.

Easy wealth:

Most Nigerians do not believe that anyone can succeed via hard work, any more. To them, the source of one’s wealth or material possession does not matter. Those with ill gotten wealth are glorified in all aspects of life. Even parents taunt their children by comparing their children with them.

Quest for power and fame:

Some politicians engage in ritual killing to gain power over the citizens. They want to be in power for tenures unending. They make use of tugs to scout for their victims.

These crime perpetrators are honored in churches and in the media. The media, including television and social media give them undeserved publicity. And they are given village titles and their names are on the lips of everyone. People speak about them with awe. So children will idolize them and will want to imitate them.


This is the norm in Nigeria. Politicians, the police, civil servants, etc. are all involved. Not everyone has the access to get involved in these well established and accepted means of getting enriched. So they will join cyber and ritual crimes.

Peer pressure:

The peer groups are well recognized in Nigeria. People are placed into well celebrated age groups. In the Igbo cultural setting it is called age grade. The parents and the peers expect people to achieve accordingly as members of the groups. Pressures are abound, and this can lure the young people into cyber crimes and ritual killings in order to belong.

Religious reasons.

Some Africans, including Nigerians are still pagans that believe in the worship of deities that require human sacrifices. These are those who practice traditional African religion. And for many Christians, when overwhelmed by problems, they will engage in traditional African religion practices to solve issues.

Majority of Nigerians are still superstitious, believing in witchcraft, charms, juju, magical powers, etc. And they believe that these powers can help them solve their problems.

Some satanic cults exist in Nigeria. They use humans and their parts for sacrifices to their deity. And some members of these satanic cults are cannibals.

Economic issues.

About 87 Million Nigerians (86.9 million) live in extreme poverty, according to Quartz Africa in 2018.   According to the National Bureau of Statistics, 33.3% of Nigerians are unemployed, as at end of 2020. The Chairman of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC) expects unemployment to hit 40% by the end of 2021.

Thus, poverty and unemployment are driving forces in crime, including the crime of cyber and ritual killings. People engage in these for the purpose of money making.

Availability of victims and flourishing markets.

For those who engage in scamming, they have their easy preys among foreigners in different countries. Some Nigerians are also easy preys to scammers. And because they work with some bank officials, it is easy to get their victims.

Ritual killers are also having it easy with getting victims in Nigeria. They have many avenues available to them to get their victims.

The markets for human parts are flourishing in Nigeria. Other African countries and Asian countries also provide human parts markets. 

The way forward.

Solving these new areas in crime will require concerted efforts from all quarters. The parents, the peers, the teachers, traditional rulers and the religious leaders all have their parts to play. The governments have very crucial parts to play in the restoring of sanity among the country’s citizens. The media should also be involved in restoring sanity.

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