Top 10 Scariest Traditional Practices in Nigeria

Nigeria is a country where strong traditional beliefs are evident from one tribe to another. So much so that traditional religion (traditionalism) is seen as one of the three major religions in Nigeria.

Before the invasion of the British and other European settlers into the country in the early 19th century, Nigeria was a country absolutely dominated by traditional beliefs and practices…Many Nigerians are largely aware of this history. They would also agree that most of the early traditional beliefs and practices have hitherto been eroded.

However, some of this practices still exist and are actively being practiced in Nigeria. Whilst some of these practices are normal and welcomed; such as traditional weddings, New Yam Festival and the likes; some dreadful and scary traditional practices have survived the wave of civilisation.

We would take a look at the top ten scariest traditional practices in Nigeria.

1. Female genital mutilation (female circumcision)

Female Genital Mutilation

A lot has been said about the importance of bringing up the girl child with as much care and equality as their male counterparts. However, there are still some traditional practices in Nigeria which are repugnant to this vision.

In some parts of the country, it has been discovered that the horrific practice of female genital mutilation is still being practiced. This traditional practice is a scourge that must be rooted out from every nook and cranny of the nation. Those who engage in this practice, give this laughable reason; they do it to prevent their female children from sexual promiscuity. The question then is; what do they do about the males then?

Female genital mutilation is a very painful and unnecessary process and in some cases, scar the children involved emotionally and physically.

2. Child marriage

Prevalent in Northern Nigeria is the age-old traditional practice of giving out underage girls for marriage. Its obvious the trauma these girls would have to go through after getting married to far older men. Many of those who get pregnant die at childbirth or contract vaginal diseases which ultimately leads to death.

It is shocking that even in this 21st century, we still get to hear cases of girl-child marriage in this country. No girl should ever be forced to, or allowed to marry at an age less than 18. Anything contrary is simply barbaric.

 3. Sharo

The ‘Sharo’ festival is one you might have heard about.‘Sharo’ means flogging.  It is an age old tradition practiced by the Fulani people in which a groom undergoes the most unimaginable form of endurance test. In this case, the groom is severely flogged in an open ceremony. The groom must endure the flogging, not wince, cry or show the pain he’s in. If he passes this test, he is then presented with the bride.

If it happens that the groom fails the test, he goes home empty handed. Isn’t that scary? How many everyday guys can go through this? I’d say none! No one should ever be made to go through this.

We cannot confirm if this tradition is still being practiced, but we certainly aren’t ruling out the possibility.

4. Widowhood Practice

Traditional practices related to widowhood in Nigeria are quite scary and sometimes demeaning to say the least. This practice is quite popular in Eastern Nigeria. Some widows are made to undergo all sorts of horrific forms of purification or tests to determine if they had a hand in their husband’s death.

Some poor widows are even made to drink the water used in washing their dead husband’s corpse, while some others are made to sleep in the same room with the corpse, etc. This horrific traditional practice has come under huge criticism, with many calling on the government to enact a law that bans this practice.

Others require that the woman shaves her hair and wear only clothes in the colour of white for a period of one year. She is also required to go through a special ceremony before she can return to life as usual.

Our investigation shows that widowhood rites are still being practiced in Eastern Nigeria but education and exposure has made it not as severe as usual.

5. Magun


The ‘Magun’ is a diabolical practice in mainly Western Nigeria and other surrounding communities, used to checkmate adultery. This traditional practice is quite a scary one, this is because of the consequences and implications it has on those who ‘Magun’ is placed on.

The Magun is usually placed on an unsuspecting bride. If she ever commits adultery, many terrible things are expected to happen. For one, her husband might fall sick and eventually die if he continues to eat her food, or her lover might get stuck in her during lovemaking or even drop dead and so on.

The Magun practice is still actively being carried out in states such as Edo, Benue, and few other Yoruba speaking states.

So, for men still going about sleeping with other men’s wives; you might expose yourself to a scary diabolical practice that could embarrass or kill you.

6. Witch killing

Witch killing or witch hunting is a horrific traditional practice carried out in many parts of Africa and sadly, this includes our very own Nigeria. This is the traditional practice that encourages the torture and murder of anyone suspected to be engaged in witchcraft.

This dehumanizing practice goes as far as killing, maiming, burning, and burying alive of anyone suspected to a witch, including little kids.

Due to the extreme barbaric nature of this practice, it is no longer being openly practiced, but we strongly doubt if suspected witches are no longer being tortured and maimed in Nigeria. However, news surfaces occasionally about children, tortured by their parents for being witches.

7. Casting of the dead into evil forest

This is another evil practice in which, after an individual dies from unnatural causes such as suicide or even a rare natural cause, such as being struck by lightning; the individual is not buried but cast into the forest to be eaten by termites and vultures.

In some communities, if an individual dies after swearing an oath or after confessing to an atrocity, such a person is also cast into the ‘evil’ forest.

We cannot ascertain if this despicable practice is still being carried out, but we can’t rule out the possibility.

8. Ritual killings

Ritual killing

Everyone in Nigeria knows about this horrifying traditional practice. Ritual killings have been a barbaric practice associated with Nigeria for hundreds of years.

Traditionalists in Nigeria, believes that blood sacrifice is the most genuine form of sacrifice. So in most cases, animals are killed and used as a sacrifice. However, in some rare cases, a human being is used for this purpose. These rituals are carried out for numerous stupendous purposes such as gaining favor, winning an election, becoming rich etc.

We simply cannot find enough words to condemn the killing of a fellow human being for ritual purposes. Sadly, investigative journalism by some major news houses reveal that ritual killings still take place in Nigeria, although the perpetrators do everything to cover their tracks.

9. The Ijaw water test

This is a traditional practice that is both ridiculous and scary at the same time. Prevalent in the Ijaw community is a traditional practice in which a newborn baby is thrown into a river to see if it can swim and avoid drowning. A newborn baby!

The Ijaw people who are generally a water people believe that if that child is a true born Ijaw child, it should be able to swim. Funny enough, it is said that there are hardly any case where the baby is reported to drown during this practice.

In some remote Ijaw communities, this practice is still actively practiced.

10. Burying the Abobaku


In Ile-Ife Osun State Nigeria, there exists a horrifying traditional practice in which after the death of the king i.e. Ooni of Ife, a man known as Abobaku is buried alongside the late king, either dead or alive. Abobaku by interpretation means; ‘the one who is buried with the king’.

The Abobaku is a member of the council of Chiefs, whose life is totally dedicated to the service of the king (Ooni). He eats what the king eats, goes where the king goes and ultimately should die when the king dies so as to continue his service in the afterlife.

However, an in-depth research carried out between January and July by an alumni of the Pan-Atlantic University Lagos, revealed that this tradition is no longer in practice and has since been abolished.

I bet you feel goose bumps over you. Thank God for civilisation! However, believe me when I say that there are worse barbaric histories and practices in the most civilised countries. So watch out for our post on the “Top 10 Scariest Traditions in the World”.

Any thoughts on the top 10 scariest traditional practices in Nigeria? Let’s dialogue in the comments section!

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