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1.1 Introduction

Ritual killing is a common phenomenon in Nigerian daily life. It has become a regular event when hundreds of Nigerians lost their lives to ritual killers or what Nwakanma, & Abu, (2020) called, “Head Hunters.” The ritual killers go about in search of human parts – heads, breasts, tongues, and sex organs – as demanded by witch doctors, juju priests, traditional medicine men or women and/or occultists who require such for their dubious sacrifices or for the preparation of assorted magical portions (Igwe, 2010). In the contemporary Nigeria, ritual killing has taken new dimension. Tell magazines describe the scene as the “Reign of the Ritualists” (Elesho 2004). Many diverse means are used to kidnap people with evil intentions; especially for rituals. Many of those kidnapped for such purposes are long gone but there are a lucky few who actually live to tell the story of their encountered with the ritualists. Some of the kidnappers caught with their victims some time dead or half-dead also testified of their dubious acts (Aiyetan, 2003). There are all sorts of stories of various techniques of kidnapping; some people disappeared on picking or touching some items set as trap by ritualists or kidnappers. It seems obvious in Nigeria that ritual killers are more prevalent at certain seasons in the year – like the weeks leading to Christmas and during some yearly pilgrimages. It is generally believed that people engage in sacrifice of human beings to get money to spend at such festive periods.

Phenomenally, according to Shujaa (2009) ritualism is a set patterns or prescribed procedures and orders for carrying out religious actions or ceremonies through human sacrifice.  Stebbins (2010) opined that sacrifice is a vital aspect of every religious ritual. This involves giving up something of value for the sake of something that is of greater value.  While human sacrifice according to  Ayegboyin (2009)  is a blood sacrifice that involves killing of a living creature as a ritual offering to a god or spirit, usually in expectation of a return in the form of good fortune, whether generalized or as the granting of a particular prayer. This could be influenced by socio economic factors like poverty, unemployment, materialism, media or pressure from peers,  headded.

From time immemorial peer pressure has, constituted reasons and actions embarked upon by a group of people or individual. Is like the case my mates or group members are doing it, then I must do it. La Fontaine (2011) also opined that the peer pressure has a great influence on youths’ disposition to engage in criminal behaviours like ritual killing and internet fraud know as Yahoo. Thus youths are pressurized by the use of money and material thing to be conscripted into bad gangs or secret cults like Yahoo Plus where they are exposed to some dangerous techniques to inflict pains on other innocent people just to attain wealth. Bond (2003), Henslin (2008) and Adeyemi(2019) indicated that peer groups are so powerful that members are willing to deviate from the norms of the society in order to protect the interest, values, norms and expectations of their group thus members are under pressure to conform to peer subculture because the group consists of friends and people that they value highly and depend on for getting along in life. Thus it will not be out of context to affirm that the increase incidence of ritualism, kidnapping, internet fraud and other criminal behavior is influenced by pressure from peers and groups in the society.

1.2 Statement of the problem

Although rituals have been in existence since time immemorial, he practices were employed in an attempt to appease an unknown higher being for protection and provision. However, over time, ritualism has evolved into something more dangerous than how our ancestors practiced it.  The causes of such decay can be traced to the collapse of family institution, lack of gainful employment for parents and school dropouts, preferential treatment of the rich against the honest and the knowledgeable in the society, corruption, poverty; inflation and adoption of social practices, peer pressure hence prompting young people into get rich quick method viz prostitution, robbery, kidnapping and the chief of all ritual killing.  According to Igwe (2010), many young people  still  believe  that  charms and  ritual sacrifices can  fortify them  spiritually,  enhance  their  fortunes  in business and during elections,  or protect  them from harm, disease,  poverty,  accident, death or destruction.  According to () one great factor that leads young people to ritualism is is the peer pressure from their friends and associates, which tempts them into believing that there is something better they can acquire through these practices. This includes wealth, job promotion, entrance into good schools/colleges.

Importantly, with  the  recurrent  incidences  of  ritual  killings  in  the  country, one is forced to ask why such brutal and barbaric act persists. Various explanations have  been offered  by  scholars (Igwe 2010 and La Fontaine 2011) and  many other  social  scientists. Some scholars blame the problem on the socio-economic conditions in the country especially as ritual killings increase in  periods of economic hardship; some argues that home video story lines on ritually acquired wealth has contributed to ritual killing as youth and adolescent tend to practice what they watch. Others scholars has also  argue that traditional beliefs in fetish and ritual religious practices have permeated the  prevalence of ritual killing twenty-first century. Bizarrely, none has focused on the impact of peer pressure on youth involvement in ritual killing. Thus, it is against this background that this study seeks to examine the impact of peer pressure on youth involvement in ritual killing using Benin Metropolis as case study.

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