Miss Osasuwa, a 25-year-old shop attendant in Benin City, the Edo State capital now goes to work without wearing pants.
She said she no longer wore pants, especially while going out, following the activities of young men who engage in money ritual in the area.
Osasuwa is not the only female in Benin who has stopped wearing pants while going out, for fear of being forced to remove it at gunpoint.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that last month, a young man in his early 20s was caught with female and children’s pants. It took the intervention of the police to rescue him from crowd justice.
It was also gathered that the young men started the act by stealing babies’ pampers from dustbins, a development that forced many women to start burning pampers after use.
It was further learnt that these young men graduated from stealing babies’ pampers to female underwear for ritual purposes when pampers were not yielding much dividend.
These desperate young men, it was gathered, would go to the extent of visiting people’s houses to steal female pants. They also block the highways and lonely streets at night, forcing young women to part with their underwear at gunpoint.
It was gathered that while those who engage in money ritual steal pants directly, others steal to sell to prospective buyers at exorbitant prices.
Mr Isaac Ordia, who spoke to our correspondent on the development, said there were many incidents where young women were forced to remove their pants at gunpoint.
“In December last year, young men allegedly blocked Agbor road with guns. When they stopped a vehicle, the occupants thought they were there to rob, but surprisingly, they separated the men from women and asked them to pull their pants and hand over to them. After collecting the panties, they zoomed off,’’Ordia said. He added that the act of stealing pants for ritual purpose started in Delta State but rapidly spread to Edo.
Our correspondent also learnt that some brave young women manage to wear pants while going out, but they apply charcoal on it, believing that the substance neutralizes the potency of rituals.
It was further gathered that, having noticed that young women no longer wear pants, those who engage in the act resorted to using white handkerchiefs to clean the private parts female victims, also at gunpoint.
Speaking on the development, Agatha Osas, a student said, “I only wear pants at home. I remove it while going out and put on jeans trousers. Since I heard that they forced some girl to remove their pants on the road at gunpoint, I have stopped wearing pants. But I put on tight wears while going out since it is pants they are interested in.
Helen Juliet, a 25-year-old stylist said she still went out with pants but mindful of walking in lonely streets at night.
“I can’t do without wearing pants. However, many young women have stopped wearing pants because of what has been happening. They were stealing from people’s homes, but when people became conscious of where they hanged their underwear, they resorted to taking it at gunpoint.
“After washing, I only hang my pants on Sundays when I would be at home. And I have to sit down and watch till they dry and I take them inside. I have to be very careful so that they will not be stolen for ritual purpose,’’ she said.
Also, a 20-year-old tailor who gave her name as Edith said, “I always put on trousers so that I can walk around without people noticing that I am not wearing pants. Some of us now go with charcoal because it is said to neutralise the potency of the ritual and would not have any effect on the victim. I have to go with charcoal whenever I am going out.’’
She lamented that the development is making them uncomfortable and called on security agents to do something about it.
Another young woman who preferred anonymity also told Daily Trust on Sunday that, “They caught one at Agbor park with children and female pants, which he wanted to use for ritual. You will see them riding exotic cars and you won’t know that they are into money ritual.
“We also learnt that each pair of pants costs between N250,000 and N300, 000, depending on its efficacy. This is why young men are involving themselves in the theft of pants.
Pants sellers lament
Our correspondent who visited some of the markets in Benin observed that respective underwear sections, which hitherto witnessed crowds of female customers, were no longer the beehive of activities they used to be.
A pants seller at the Oba Market, who only gave her name as Omoh, said things were no longer the way they used to be since the issue of pants theft began.
“I have not witnessed it, I only heard about it. We are still selling little by little, but not the way it was. I can tell you that the patronage has reduced drastically since the incident started,” she said.
Omoh, who sat in one corner of her shop waiting for customers, lamented that they were facing hard times as a result of the development.
Also speaking, Sivalnus Favour, 25, who also sells underwear, said they were hoping that things would improve in the market.
“Ladies no longer patronise us. And when you give prices to the few that come around, they will simply tell you that they are no longer wearing pants, and walk away. It is affecting our business negatively,’’ she said.
At Ekiosa market, a trader, Onyebuchi Aleleiwu said, “I come to the market every day without selling anything. When there was patronage, I would sell above N100,000 a day, but these days I come here to keep vigil over my goods, The pants we sell at N200 here, we learnt that the young boys who steal them for ritual purpose will sell it at N300,000. I used to sell over 15 dozen a week, but now I can’t even boast of selling one dozen. Now, the issue has become bad market for us,’’
“Since they started stealing pants, young women only pass by our shops.”
“Late last year, I sold over 20 dozen in a week, but now, to sell a dozen has become a problem. This used to be our peak period as schools resumed. Parents and young women would buy many pants and keep till schools went on holidays, but now, schools have opened but no one is coming to buy from us. We usually get new stocks almost every week, but the one we bought over three weeks are still there,” she added.
Also speaking, Lucky Okhaafo, 40, who sells at the New Benin market, said the development was also affecting the sale of tight wears, not only pants.
“I deal on wholesale, but the business has crashed due to the development and we now struggle to make little sales,’’ he said.
Another trader, Ogbewu Isilode lamented, “If I tell you that the development doesn’t affect us, I would be telling lies. This is 10am and I am yet to sell anything. In the past, by this time I must have sold over four dozen. But now, any young woman you call for patronage will tell you that they don’t wear pants anymore. The development is affecting our business, We trade on wholesale basis, but now, we don’t even see anybody who would even ask for one.”