Saturday, February 7

How My Children Were Killed During Spiritual Bath Says Grieving Mother

On November 20, 2014, every parent's nightmare became a reality for 42-year-old Ayedun Shitta-Bello. It was a normal Saturday. There was nothing out of the ordinary that morning that could foretell the tragic news she was about to hear.
"I did not even have a nightmare or a bad dream that could make me think that such a terrible thing had happened," she told our correspondent.
Barely out of bed that Saturday morning, Shitta-Bello got a call from her brother, Prince Musaliu Buhari.
"Come quick, please, don't ask why, just come," she was told on the phone.
Shitta-Bello said apprehension set in as she tried to understand what could have warranted such an early summon.

Our correspondent met Shitta-Bello at Badore area of Ajah, Lagos, on Wednesday where she spoke of the agony of the last two months since she learnt that her sons, Abiodun and Ayinde Oniru (23 and 20 respectively), had died.
The fair complexioned woman, could not hide her agony during the interview as she kept asking, "Why? Why? Why would anybody kill my sons? To punish me or what?"
Shitta-Bello and her sons' father had parted ways since Abiodun and Ayinde were little but they lived with their father who had converted from Islam to Christianity.

Punch learnt that the deceased attended a white garment church pastored by one Samuel Olusoji. with their father and step mother.
Two days before the incident (November 18), Abiodun and Ayinde along with their father and step mother were said to have gone to church for a programme. The church is located at 739, Ori-Oke Ibukun, Ilasan Street, Jakande, Ajah.
Shitta-Bello's ex-husband and father of the deceased told the police that he left the church earlier having performed his own bath but left behind his children and wife in the church.

According to the statement he gave to the police, early morning on Saturday, he got a call from his wife who told him that his two children had drowned during a spiritual bath in a stream frequently used by the church along Ogombo area of Ajah.
The father of the deceased called his ex-wife's brother (Buhari), who raced to the scene in shock and saw his nephews' dead bodies lying on the ground.

Screaming inside but trying not to sound alarming, Buhari dialled his sister's phone line and told her to come to her ex-husband's house right away without giving reasons.

She said,
"I just woke up when I received the call. I quickly put on clothes and went there. I got there and realised that relations were there as well. I became suspicious.
"I asked what had happened but no one told me anything initially. I then asked for my children. That was when they told me they drowned during a spiritual bath. From then on, everything they told me made no sense. The more I thought about it, the more it did not add up."
The church pastor initially fled while the police arrested the assistant pastor of the church.

According to Shitta-Bello, she was told during investigation by the police that almost 100 other people were present during the 'spiritual bath'.
"How can two people drown during a spiritual bath and they turn out to be siblings? How can anybody expect me to believe that was a coincidence?" she said.
The grieving mother said sleep had eluded her since the incident as she always stayed up in the middle of the night to think about her precious children.

Shitta-Bello has another child from the man she remarried but lamented that the hope that her two late children would meet their young sibling would not be fulfilled.

She said,
 "I called my children around 7pm on Friday, the day before the incident and they told me they were in church for a programme.
"Few days before then when I visited them at their father's house, they did not even want me to leave. But I promised to come back soon and bring their sister along because they had not met her before.
"My children had become a source of joy to me. But they died mysteriously just at the moment they were of age to fulfil their responsibility to me as a parent.
"I am not saying this because I am grieving but no one can tell me anything that will make me believe that they died just by drowning. How could they both drown when people were there and nobody went in to help? I was told Ayinde went into the water first and his brother went in to rescue him and they both drowned."
Saturday PUNCH learnt that the deceased were scheduled to travel out of the country in a few days that same November and had even packed their bags.

The bodies of the deceased are still lying in the mortuary at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital as investigation into the case continues.

Buhari, the deceased's uncle, told our correspondent that he believed that there was more to the story of the drowning as well.
"The police are still conducting investigations. That is why the bodies are still in the mortuary. We will know what happened when the result of the autopsy conducted on the bodies comes out," he said.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr. Kenneth Nwosu, said investigation into the case is still ongoing at the Department of Criminal Investigations.
"The pastor of the church was tracked down and arrested shortly after the incident last year," he said.

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