Beyond #BringBackOurGirls: 5 Fun Stories From Nigeria


While American social media burns with earnest concern (from 5,000 miles away) about the girls kidnapped by Islamic performance-art troupe Boko Haram, we often forget that Africa’s most populous country is a perennial gold mine of psychedelically odd news stories.

1. Killer Phone Calls

For at least a decade now, Nigeria has been subject to outbreaks of mass hysteria hinging around the idea that answering a phone call can kill you if it originates from a “killer number.” The Nigerian Communications Commission has attempted to assure the public that such fears are unfounded and that “only very gullible people” would swallow such rumors.

2. Penis Panics

A phenomenon referred to in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatry called “Koro” has been documented across the globe and throughout history. Koro is the irrational and possibly psychotic fear that someone’s penis will suddenly shrink and disappear. Nigerians add the intriguing plot twist that penises can actually be stolen by witches and sorcerers. Koro panics emerged in Nigeria from 1975 to 1977 and again in the 1990s. In the month of April 2001 alone, “mobs in Nigeria lynched at least twelve suspected penis thieves.”

3. Child Witches

Tens of thousands of Nigerian children, especially those with perceptible disabilities, are routinely branded as witches and tortured as a result. Such torture can involve having acid thrown in their faces, being thrown into fires, poisoned, hacked with machetes, drowned, buried alive, and having nails driven into their skulls. Sometimes religious leaders attempt to exorcise them, often for a specified fee; in other cases, they are murdered.

4. The Car Thief Who Transformed Into A Goat

In a 2009 case that allegedly occurred in Nigeria’s capital city of Lagos, a mob chased two suspected car thieves, when suddenly before their very eyes, one of them metamorphosed into a goat. Police allegedly apprehended the goat, showed it to journalists, and published a picture of it.

5. The Man Who Carried More Than 70 Dead Babies In Bags

A 2010 story from Lagos claims that a hospital worker en route to a local cemetery was nabbed carrying bags containing the corpses of over 70 dead babies. Although hospital officials conceded that this was an embarrassment, the public was reassured that at least the man did not intend to sell the baby corpses nor use them in any magical rituals.