Seventy-five years old Mrs. Funmilayo Adebola looked tired and mournful. The countenance on her face was that of anguish which reflected an inner feeling of sorrow that may take time to heal. On Thursday morning when our correspondent visited Wasinmi in Ewekoro local government, Ogun State, she sat all alone at the corridor of the four-room ‘face me I face you’ house built by her late daughter.
She is the mother of late Raliat Sanni, who was allegedly murdered in a church at Elebute, Papalanto, last month.
She stared intermittently at the direction of the door, as if expecting the miraculous arrival of her late daughter. But an already dug grave just by the entrance of the house, where Raliat may eventually be buried, portends the impossibility of her return.
The arrival of our correspondent jolted her back to life, as she sat just directly opposite the room which used to be the room of her late daughter.
Raliat was reportedly murdered by one Pastor Oluwatobiloba Ipense and an accomplice, Prophet Daniel Sopeju, last month in a church at Elebute, Papalanto, Ewekoro Local Government Area of Ogun State. They had severed her head and hands, and buried the decapitated body in a room close to the altar.
After exchange of pleasantries and introduction, the old grandma began her story of anguish and sorrow.
“Raliat was my fourth child; I have six children,” she began. “She was my pillar of support, each time I came to Wasinmi from our farm house at Ajibode, she usually bought foodstuffs and other things for me.
“When Raliat was alive, I never lacked.
“I never knew that Pastor (Ipense) could be involved in the murder of my daughter, because I had met him about two occasions.
“It was Mama Rita, a close relation of the pastor’s wife, that made my daughter to begin to attend that church. I had forgotten her real name but everyone called her Mama Rita, I used to supply her ‘fufu’ at Alagbado area in Lagos.
“My daughter had one problem then and she later overcame it. It was Mama Rita who said I should tell Raliat to go to that church and meet the pastor and do thanksgiving.
“I never knew it would end this way. With the murder of Raliat, they had put a bitter pill in my mouth at old age. This act of wickedness is like a pill of sorrow they want me to take to my grave.”
Due to sudden disappearance from home on Thursday 22nd March, Madam Adebola and Raliat’s children and other relations became worried.
And the search for her began.
Madam Adebola said her first port of call was Ipense’s house, which she said was very close to the church.
When she confronted him on the whereabouts of Raliat, the pastor denied seeing her in the church in a long while.
She continued her story, “When Raliat did not return home, I went to Pastor Ipense, I did not see him in his house. But when I went again later, I met him in the church. It took some time before he came out to see. Then I asked him the whereabouts of my daughter. He first told me, he had not seen her in the church in a long while.
“Later he told me he had held a vigil and he saw a revelation that she would be found, but not in the same manner she used to be.
“After saying this, I noticed that he breathed deeply and looked uneasy.
“Then I asked him, why the uneasiness, he then probably looked for a cover up, and asked whether I knew that my daughter was owing him N200,000.
” I did not see any correlation between asking for the money and the whereabouts of my daughter and the N200,000 debt claim.
“I believe my daughter was killed for ritual purposes, because, how could they cut the head and the hands? All I want the government to do is to ensure justice is served in this matter.
“Those involved in the murder of my daughter should also face the kind of gruesome death they meted out to her.”
The 35-year-old Raliat Sanni,was a hairdresser in Wasinmi village, where her parents hailed from.
It is not only her mother that had remained distraught since then, Raliat’s five children too are already feeling the vacuum created in their lives by the death of their mother.
Madam Adebola said apart from Raliat’s five children, she (Raliat) had with her, two children of her younger sister, Shekinat who died a year ago. Raliat was taking care of about eight children, before her death.
Her first child, 17-year-old, Sola, had also yet to shake off the trauma of her mother’s gruesome murder.
The slim-built boy said he had an inkling of what happened a day before her mother’s sudden disappearance.
He said she saw her mother light 12 sticks of candles around her and put one coconut between her legs, while she lay on the floor of her room.
He said she then went out at dawn on Thursday around 3am.
According to him, his mother later returned home around 6am briefly, and told him that she was going on a journey which might take her some time, and that he should take care of his other brothers and sisters.
The other children are Quadri, 14; Zainab, nine; Ibrahim, five; and three-year-old Farida.
With his eyes becoming misty, Sola, an SS 1 pupil at the United Comprehensive High School, Wasinmi, said that was the last time she saw her mother alive.
He confirmed that he had seen Pastor Ipense visiting his mother both at home and in her shop at Wasinmi a couple of times and on those occasions, they sought privacy. He said he never knew what transpired between them.
But he added that at times, Pastor Ipense would call her mother to come over to church with bottles of alcoholic drinks, which she had in stock in her shop.
He said, “That Pastor(Ipense) used to visit my mother at the shop and at home. I had seen him a couple of times, but I don’t know whether they had any amorous relationship, because I was not privy to their discussions.
“Sometime in February, I accompanied my mother to that church when they were celebrating their anniversary. A few days before my mother’s death, exactly on Wednesday 21st March, 2018, I saw my mother lying down inside her room, with 12 sticks of candles lit surrounding her, and one coconut between her legs.
“Around 3am on Thursday March 22nd, 2018, she left home. Then suddenly around 6am same day, she later returned home briefly and told me that she was going on a journey which might take her some time and that I should take care of my siblings.
“I later heard that my mother had been killed and buried in a church, after they had cut off her head and hands. This is a wicked world. I believe they had used my mother for ritual purposes, either they want to draw more people to the church or whatever.
“All I want from government is that the killers also should face the wrath of law, and they should be given the same treatment they had given my mother. “
Another child, Quadri also echoed her older brother, “Our mother was kind and bought us everything we needed. She must not be allowed to die in vain. Her killers must be brought to book.”
Raliat’s husband, Ganiyu Sanni, also spoke glowingly of her late wife, as he described her as loving and quite accommodating.
He said they were not separated as being claimed. He explained that his late wife moved to her own house while he decided to stay in his own family house, which is a trekking distance from each other.
He said, “It was quite sad the way they killed her. We want government to ensure the culprits are all made to answer for their actions in her murder.”
Raliat’s elder brother, Hassan Adebola, who spoke with our correspondent, said the grief would not wear away from the family except justice was done.
He said it was their mother who alerted them of the sudden disappearance of their sister and a search party started looking for her in earnest.
He said since her children told them she left for the church, they followed that clue and that led to the discovery of her sister’s grave inside the church of Pastor Ipense, who was also a teacher of Methodist High School(Private) at Arigbajo, in Ifo Local Government.
He said, “My elder brother, Saheed and I went to the church and we discovered a mound of sand which looked like a place someone had just been buried. We got a digger and we dug it up.
” Then we discovered the decapitated body of our sister. They had buried her along with the cloth and the shoes she wore when she was leaving home.
“To show that she was killed for ritual purposes, they stuffed millet into the points around the neck and hands that were severed.
“And later in the evening of Tuesday April 3rd, 2018, after the commissioner of police had led journalists to the scene, and they had left, the angry youths of the town (Elebute, Papalanto) stormed the residence of the pastor and they later discovered the severed head and hands of my murdered sister wrapped in a white cloth and kept inside a earthen pot.
“The government should ensure that everyone connected with my younger sister’s murder is brought to justice. None of them should escape justice.”
Sola and his brothers and sisters appealed to government and well meaning Nigerians to come to their aid, as their ‘pillar of support’ had been murdered.
Sola put it more succinctly, “I am currently in Senior Secondary 1, my ambition is to become a lawyer. I don’t want that ambition to be truncated due to my mother’s untimely death.
“I am appealing to the government and well meaning Nigerians to come to our aid and ensure we complete our education and do not drop out of school.”
Quadri is in JSS 1, Zainab is in Primary Four, Ibrahim in Primary 2 while Farida is just in Nursery 2.