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12.04.2019 Feature Article

A Critical Look at Pant Ritual Claims in Nigeria

Last year, rumours started circulating regarding a strange form of thievery in Nigeria. In this case, people were not stealing cars or computers, cell phones or wallets, but pants, female pants. When I first heard about this pant theft and ritual, I thought it was a joke, or some made up stories by local comedians. I was of the view that the pant ritual story would trend and quickly fade away. But I was mistaken. The story didn’t go away. Instead it kept appearing and reappearing in the media. In fact, the mainstream newspapers started publishing photos usually of young men arrested for stealing female pants in Imo, Lagos, Delta, Ogun, Anambra, Ondo Edo etc. In fact at some point, the pant ritual scheme was given a fashionable name, yahoo plus.

Let me provide a bit of a background to this pant ritual practice. Pant ritual is actually a subcategory of the money ritual practice, which is the use human body parts for some sacrifice linked to acquisition of wealth, or to success in business and politics. Local medicine experts use these body parts to preform magical processes that could make people rich. However, in this case, the ritual raw material is not a human head. It is not some private organs and other body parts but female panties including leggings and boxers. Suspected ritualists have been caught stealing braziers and pads. One report states that ritualists hunt for female underwear in order to secure the discharge from the female private organs. This discharge, mensural or any other vaginal fluid is extracted and used for ritual sacrifice.

For a better understanding of the pant ritual practice, two key aspects of this phenomenon will be discussed. They are the business and superstition aspects. These two features are intertwined in ways that confuse too many Nigerians, making it difficult for them to distinguish fact from fantasy, reality from illusion. As a business, pant ritual actually yield money and profit to those who market these female properties. Female underwear and other accessories associated with this ritual have turned into gold, an occult gold in many parts of the country. Pants that are used for rituals cost much more than the market price. So stealing female pants has reportedly become a very lucrative business. In the stores, pants cost between 500 to 1000 naira depending on the quality and brand. But a newspaper report says that some of the female pants cost between 250,000 to 300,000 naira each.

So imagine stealing an item that costs 500 naira and selling it for hundreds of thousands of naira. Even if one sells it for thousands or tens of thousands of naira. That is still good business. Isn’t it?

In a country plagued by acute poverty and unemployment, stealing and selling female pants for rituals present snappy business opportunities. They constitute easy ways of generating income for many Nigerian youths, hence the name yahoo-plus. As a yahoo scheme, pant ritual is a way of making sense of the wealth of persons who become stupendously rich without having any real or conventional job. It is a byword for explaining wealth that is acquired through dubious or shady means.

Unlike yahoo-yahoo, which refers to the internet email fraud, yahoo-plus alludes to money that is made through ritual processes using human parts, women’s pants or performing some nocturnal blood sacrifices that supposedly yield enormous riches, locally designated as blood money, ritual money or medicine money as the case may be. However, the nagging question remains: Is there anything like ritual money? Put specifically, do these pants turn into money, piles of naira and dollar notes, as seen in the movies, in the course of some ritual sacrifice?

And that leads to the other aspect of the pant ritual phenomenon, that is superstition. Beliefs that are based on fear, ignorance and blind faith drive the manifestation of pant ritual. These beliefs are spiritual, occultic, supernatural and transcendental; they are embedded in the society’s mainstream religious outlooks. The superstition in the pant ritual phenomenon is not whether people actually steal or procure female pants, and legging and bras, or whether ritualists take these items to a local medicine man or woman, to a spiritualist, a prophet or a diviner. Of course they do. The superstitious aspects are often some of the made up stories that trend a lot in Nigeria. Stories of some human heads that vomit tons of cash in the apartments of the ritualists; small huts - dark rooms, where ritual money is invoked that exist in the houses of the big men. There are also stories of alleged secret societies members who enter their apartments with their back, attend meetings in the night where they drink blood or donate a family member, or the pants in exchange for occult money or wealth.

Incidentally, there is no evidence at all that a sacrifice performed with female pants or bra or pads with mensural or vaginal discharge magically turn into money or make anyone rich or wealthy beside the above-mentioned business transactions. Nigerians must be told this in very clear and categorical terms.

How could any one believe that people could get rich through a ritual sacrifice? People keep advancing explanations and justifications no matter how absurd for the reality of ritual money. Most surprisingly, it is the educated persons who often try defend or justify the baseless notions. Out of intellectual laziness, cowardice or bias, the educated often discourage thorough and rigorous inquiry, probe and analysis of these paranormal and superstitious claims that impact the society. Are you saying that there is nothing like ritual money? Are you implying that occult forces do not exist? Are you stating that magic is not real? They often ask. Nigerian intellectuals are more contented with sitting on the fence, and not taking a definitive stand in light of evidence. They have failed to provide the intellectual leadership that the society urgently needs to combat irrational beliefs. This is the main reason why superstitions persist in the society.

Look if by any stretch of imagination, female pants could yield the supposed wealth, young girls in this country would be stupendously rich. Our female colleagues would become millionaires and billionaires overnight. They would not wait for anyone to come and steal their pants, they would actually go and do the rituals themselves in order to maximize profit and avoid being shortchanged. In fact, if pant ritual money is real as believed, then our females do not need to embark on any other job because they could just stay at home be selling pants or leggings for ritual sacrifice.

Many people would readily resign from their jobs in Nigeria where the monthly pay is usually not up to the cost of a magic pant. Well, this is not the case. This is not yet the case.

It is important that those who believe strongly that female pant ritual can yield magical wealth come forward with their proof, demonstration and evidence for such extraordinary claims. This is because many innocent people suspected of being pant thieves have fallen victims and many people motivated by this ritualistic belief have also ended up being mobbed or arrested by the police.

The Nigeria media have published reports of inhuman and degrading treatment that has been meted out to alleged ritualists or pant thieves. In Ogun state, pant thieves reportedly disguise as ice cream sellers. And in one case, a seller found with a bag filled with pants was arrested at a tertiary institution in Ogun State. In Onitsha, a 19 year old guy was arrested for stealing pants which he was “intending” to sell for 80, 000 naira. While in Awka a middle aged man was almost lynched for steal pants at a female hostel. He confessed to have stolen 58 pants which he sold at 500 naira each. Other suspected pant thieves have been apprehended in Benin, and Okigwe. In reaction to the reported cases of pant theft, the police in Lagos have warned that those caught in the act will be charged of attempted murder. It would be interesting to know how such a case would be prosecuted. If Nigerians knew that ritual money were an illusion, some hocus pocus, many would not indulge in stealing pants or in mobbing suspects.

In conclusion, the belief in ritual money is widespread in the country. Motivated by the absurd belief in occult money and wealth, ritualists have indeed harmed other human beings. Fears and panic linked pant ritual have resulted to mob action, lynching and victimization of innocent persons. Ice cream sellers, mentally challenged individuals, or those who sell female clothing items, persons in possession female underwear are potential targets and suspects. In fact a popular actress has reportedly said that she would stop wearing pants due to fears and anxieties that are associated with pant rituals.

So pant ritual is a serious issue, and has grave consequences on the everyday life of people in this country. Those who peddle ritual money claims should be taken seriously. They should be held responsible and made accountable for these extra ordinary claims. Humanists in Nigeria should champion this public education and enlightenment campaign.

Leo Igwe
Leo Igwe, © 2019

This author has authored 221 publications on Modern Ghana.
Author column: LeoIgwe

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