By Simon Ebegbulem, Benin-City
Residents of New Benin area ran helter-skelter penultimate Friday when two persons were shot dead in broad day light inside Edo State government owned commercial luxury bus, popularly known as the Comrade Bus. As the victims were being trailed from where they entered the bus to their destination, unknown gun men rained bullets on them around New Benin area, jumped out of the vehicle and vanished through the neighbouring streets in a commando manner.
Fear gripped residents and passers-by as they ran for their lives. That movie like scene was said to have resulted from a renewed cult war between members of the Manfight, Black Axe and Eiye confraternities. Sunday Vanguard gathered that the renewed war started somewhere in Second East Circular Road where, fight broke out between the Manfight and Eiye groups. A member of one of the gangs was allegedly hacked to death during the fight while the combatants dispersed before security agents arrived the scene.
The war spread across Benin City. Last Sunday in a bar in New Benin, it was learnt that a Black Axe member was killed after some gunmen, allegedly belonging to the Eiye confraternity, stormed the place in search of a member of the Manfight confraternity but, without identifying their target properly, shot a Black Axe member. The crisis snowballed into a full blown war as the Black Axe members, who have never trusted the Eiye group, went on reprisal attack. Two persons were said to have been killed in a wedding ceremony in Benin City last Tuesday. At the time of filing this report, seven people were alleged to have been killed in the cult war.
When contacted, Edo State Police Command Public Relations Officer, Stephen Onwochei, said he could not confirm the number of deaths. “We are still collating reports from the various DPOs; so I cannot tell you the actual number of persons that have been killed. But I can tell you that the Command is working round the clock to stop this madness”, he stated. Sunday Vanguard learned however that a crack team of detectives was posted to strategic locations in the state capital to bring the situation under control.
When contacted, the state Police Commissioner, Mr Samuel Adegbuyi, said: “We are working round the clock to stop this. Before I arrived Edo, I knew that one of the problems we were going to encounter is this issue of cultism. I don’t understand how people will want to engage in killing one another. But we are seriously looking into it and arrests will be made. What they are doing is senseless and we cannot condone it. Parents should also talk to their children because anyone caught will be dealt with according to the law. We are investigating the matter and we will ensure that those behind the killings are arrested”.
Meanwhile, Sunday Vanguard was reliably informed that the leaders of the concerned confraternities met Thursday night and agreed to lay down their arms. It was gathered that the resolution was reached after top members of the groups waded into the matter and stressed the need to stop what they described as “senseless killings of youths” in the name of cultism.
A source said that all agreed and the war is expected to be over. It would be recalled that similar cult war occurred when the immediate past Police Commissioner in Edo, Foluso Adebanjo, was in charge and the ex-CP threatened to arrest all the leaders of the groups if they didn’t produce those perpetrating the killings then. His threat forced them to toe the path of peace and the situation was calm until the latest killings.