Besides Islamic extremist Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen, occult groups are also terrorizing Christians in Nigeria.
Pastor Victor Kanayo of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) was killed in a town in Lagos state on Nov. 26 by an occult group known as Badoo, a week after suspected Badoo members killed Iyabo Alaba and her two children, 4 and 8, at Celestial Church of Christ in Lagos city, according to local reports.
Originating last year with a sole killer who called himself Badoo before authorities apprehended him, the Badoo group carries out serial, ritual killings rooted in the founder's methods.
Pastor Kanayo was killed in Offin, Igbogbo, a suburb of Ikorodu town in Lagos state, and his wife, Gloria, and their 10-month-old child, Goodness, were seriously wounded, sources said; both were being treated at Ikorodu General Hospital.
Head of the RCCG Fingers of God Parish in the Igbogbo area of Ikorodu, Pastor Kanayo and his family were reportedly attacked early in the morning as they slept. Police confirmed the killing of the pastor and the hospitalization of his wife and child due to injuries sustained in the attack.
"Around 7 a.m., at Offin, Igbogbo, Lagos, a suburb of Ikorodu town, one Victor Kanayo, a male person and a pastor, was murdered," said Lagos State Police spokesman Chike Oti at a press conference on Nov. 29. "The command has made a couple of arrests, and suspects are being questioned with a view to discover the author of the heinous crime."
On Nov. 20 in Lagos city, Alaba and her two children, 4-year-old David Alaba and 8-year-old Rachael Alaba, were reportedly killed at their church premises in the city's Temu village at about 2 a.m.
Adesina Idowu, a member of the Celestial Church Christ, told Morning Star News by phone that the three family members lived at the church building.
"They were killed inside the church, Celestial Church of Christ - they stay in the church," Idowu said.
The Lagos State Police Command confirmed the murder of the three family members, saying Alaba's husband was away traveling at the time.
Commissioner of Police in Lagos Imohimi Edgal said at a Nov. 21 press conference that the attack took place at Temu village in Ikosi Ejirin Local Council Development Area.
"It is a clear case of murder," he said.
As a result of the assaults, police on Nov. 27 announced a ban on night worship services in the city of Lagos. Only churches that make their own security arrangement will be allowed to hold night vigils, which are common in Nigeria.
The commissioner warned that any pastor who organizes night vigils without adequate security will be charged with murder, should there be attacks resulting in killing of church members.
"Henceforth, no pastor should organize a vigil in Ikorodu without adequate security arrangement," Edgal said. "Do not organize any vigil if you cannot protect the lives of the people who attend."
He said most attacks by occult groups were targeted at churches at night during services.
"All churches should not have vigil in isolated locations, and if you must have night vigils, you must put in place structures to protect your worshippers," Edgal reportedly said. "If I hear that anybody is murdered in any church, I will arrest the pastor and charge them to court for murder."
Three-quarters of the occult attacks in Ikorodu target a church member or pastor or their relatives, he said.
"They either occurred on the church premises or a building housing a church," he said. "We must protect the women and children."
Another Pastor Threatened
Also in Lagos city, a pastor reported receiving death threats from another occult group upset that some of its members had converted to Christianity.
Chukwudi Okoh, 52, general overseer of Kingdom Fire Ministry International, said in a press statement that he received the threats from the Ogboni Fraternity, a group whose rituals and ceremonies are secret and whose members believe they are intermediaries between the living and their ancestors. He said he has reported the threats on his life to the authorities of the Lagos State Police command, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria leaders and the Christian Association of Nigeria, Lagos State Chapter.
Okoh said the occult members dropped a letter at his church on Nov. 7 warning he would be killed for converting their members. He said the letter was signed by the grand master and secretary of the organization.
"I went to church that day for a meeting when I saw the letter on the altar," Pastor Okoh said. "I was in the church with three of my associate pastors. I thought the letter was a prayer request, and when I opened it, I saw it was a threat letter."
Okoh said the letter, dated Nov. 3, reads: "Dear Chukwudi Okoh; We the Aborigine Fraternity of Nigeria hereby warn you against character assassination. You are warned to desist from destroying our religion in the name of your confession; turning our members away from our ancestral traditional way of worship. We have sent out men to warn you on several occasions, but you [refused to] adhere to our warning.
"We have many reports against you [on] how you destroyed our temple and burnt our materials of worship (malicious damage) in Ogun, Kwara, Cross River states. All these reports will be used against you unless [you] leave us and our members alone. This is the last warning to you, or else you will run out of Nigeria. We know your house and your church; there will be no hiding place for you."
The pastor said this was not the first time his life has been threatened, as a hit squad from the same group attacked him in September.
"A motorist waylaid me on the road with his car," he said. "He said I was disturbing his group, and I should stop or else they would come for me. He then quickly drove off."
The Pentecostal pastor said that in 24 years of ministry he has received various death threats from occult groups. His ministry has included evangelism campaigns and medical outreaches.
"There are times people confess to belonging to the Ogboni Fraternity, and they bring their materials and books for burning," he said. "I have done this many times in different parts of the country."
Another RCCG pastor was killed in Ondo state, in southwest Nigeria, on Nov. 24 when armed men ambushed him and his son at Ore town, Odigbo Local Government Area, according to area police.
Pastor Oluwafemi Komolafe was traveling with his son, Timileyin Komolafe, when assailants stopped them on the road, shot the pastor and kidnapped his son, Ondo State Police Command Commissioner Gbenga Adeyanju said at a press conference.
He said police rescued the pastor's son and two others persons after it invaded the kidnappers' den in a forest in the area. The pastor and his son were travelling with two others, also kidnapped, to Lagos from Port Harcourt, he said.
"Our men engaged the hoodlums in a shootout, but they escaped," Adeyanju said. "We even lost one of our men who went for the operation. After the incident, our men with the assistance of the local hunters combed the whole area. We attacked the hoodlums, and we were able to rescue the three victims in their den."