By Simon Ebegbulem
At the last count 10 persons had been hacked to death in the war between the Eiye Confraternity and the Black Axe in Benin.
Yet, the two sides were not alone. Determined to shed blood, one of the groups began mobilising its masses for a retaliatory attack on the other side. Firearms and other weapons were cheaply in place for distribution, when the Police, acting on a tip-off, pounced on them, arresting forty of them including one Kehinde Olotu described as a cult leader.
Parading the suspects before newsmen in Benin, the Edo State Police Commissioner, Mr. David Omojola said: “I have given my DPOs a marching order to arrest all persons suspected to be cultists. We cannot afford to fold our hands and watch our young ones kill them selves in the name of cultism”. Explaining how they were arrested, Commissioner Omojola said that “our men apprehended the first set at Okhoro while they were on retaliatory mission for the death of their member who was killed in Ewutubu area.
We arrested a boy that has injury on his legs, he confessed that Eiye people killed his brother and he must avenge the death of his brother. After we arrested him, we got information that they were gathering in Upper Sakpoba to launch another attack. It is a serious situation. The Black Axe said they woke up to see one of their members killed by Eiye people, but what ever the situation might be no body has a right to take ones life”.
The commissioner insisted that from the records of the police, Olotu was arrested twice last year for the same offence and he was the head of the Black Axe in the state. However, Olutu during an interview with journalists denied being the head of the Black Axe, saying he was innocent of the allegation leveled against him. “I went to site to supervise a project and it was when I was coming back in the night that the police arrested me. I don’t know any thing about the killings”, he said.
The Police Commissioner lamented that the Command lacked the wherewithal to tackle cultists in the state, saying “though the Federal Government is doing its best but there are areas that still need improvement. The Command will do far better with more logistics. At the moment, the command is faced with acute shortage of patrol vehicles and other vital logistics. There is no divisional operational department that has more than one serveable vehicle.
Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) for instance, which hitherto had instilled fear into criminals hardly can boast of two operational vehicles and this has hampered the activities of the department” he stated. Also commenting on the situation, the State Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Peter Ogboi, said the command had been able to infiltrate the ranks of the cults.
According to him, “you know that their activities are hidden so you find it difficult to know when they will strike and when they go out to kill they are very secretive. But you can see since we made the arrest no more killings because we picked their leaders who are causing this problem. We have used our intelligence to infiltrate their ranks”. On Oluto’s denial, Ogboi said he can decide to deny to journalists but not to the police. He has been on our wanted list as a dare devil cultist in this state and we know. We are not surprised that he is denying but we know that he is their head as confessed by the members we arrested. We have taken thirty of them to court for prosecution”.
The cause of the war remains unclear, but one account says it was caused by the sharing formula for the money given them by politicians during the recent primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). It was gathered the cultists were recruited as thugs by politicians during the primaries.
Vanguard learnt that fighting broke out when they were sharing the money and a member of one of the groups shot a member of the other group. The first sword was drawn at Evbotubu and within 48 hours fighting had spread to other parts of Benin before the Police stopped it.