ACTIVITIES of cult groups in the country have assumed a more frightening dimension as there is hardly any day that passes by without reported cases of clashes being recorded. The last few months have been a harrowing experience as hoodlums, social miscreants and cultists have engaged themselves in bloody battles for supremacy in many states while the law enforcement agents appear helpless in abating the tide despite the increased number of people being injured, maimed, killed and enormous properties destroyed.
Due to the secret nature in their modus operandi, taming cult-related activities could really be herculean but this is not insurmountable. Cult activities are often associated with rituals that are characterised by set of practices, belief system or thinking usually disclosed only to their inner caucus. Many studies have been carried out on cult-related matters in the country, unfortunately many of the researchers have failed to come up with workable solutions that could curb this social problem.
Ritual killing, which is associated with cultism, have become the lot of many in our society today. Bodies of unlucky victims are usually dumped on roadsides, bush paths and in gutters with their vital organs removed. Cult and ritual killings have become pronounced as a result of the perceived inordinate ambition for power and show of affluence, get-rich-quick syndrome, a means of conflict resolution and for religious practices.
Students of secondary schools, tertiary institutions and hoodlums are mostly part of the criminally-minded individuals that have made our campuses, the streets unsafe while various groups have been known to attack each other when they cross the path of members of their groups. No doubt, living under environments where terror is the norm could have severe consequences for the human mind, security and the general well-being of the people, as children risk developing negative trait habits because of exposure to constant violence and bloodletting. Capital flight should be expected from such a nation as foreign investors could easily be discouraged from coming to such domains.
Recent media reports across the country on this issue should give us cause for serious concern. Just a few days ago, a Catholic priest and lecturer at the Imo State Polytechnic was allegedly killed by cult members. It was gathered that the assailants had waylaid him, slit his throat, cut through his stomach with a knife, dragged him into a nearby bush and tied him to a tree. Also, no fewer than six persons were allegedly killed in a renewed cult war in Benin City, Edo State. The clash, which was said to have started between suspected members of rival groups, claimed lives in the course of sharing booties from politicians.?
Some cult boys reportedly stabbed another 22-year-old boy to death in Ekpoma, Edo State as over 30 persons were reportedly killed resulting from clashes near the Ugbowo campus of the University of Benin. A number of students were said to have been hacked to death when two rival unidentified cult groups battled for supremacy on campus, affecting a 500-level student of the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma.
At least, nine persons were reportedly killed while many were severely injured in clashes between two cult groups in Ijebu Ode, Ogun State. The two cult groups were said to have been terrorising the city for some time. In Ishawo area of Agric in Ikorodu, Lagos State, rival cult groups and street gangs allegedly pervaded the area as a 57-year-old woman and her one-year-old grandson were said to have become victims of the bloody gang clashes. In the Iwaya area of Yaba still in Lagos State, rival cultists were said to have clashed over a woman alleged to be dating two men that belonged to separate rival groups. In the pandemonium that ensued, people scampered for safety while the hoodlums vandalised several vehicles. A few days later, youths from another area were said be on the rampage on a reprisal attack, hacking down their targets with machetes and damaging vehicles parked by the roadside before disappearing.
The death toll of the lingering bloody war between two rival cult groups in Idemili North council Area of Anambra State was said to have led to the murder of their victims in cold blood.
Similarly, members of cult groups suspected to be students of the University of Ibadan, reportedly clashed at the Agbowo area of Ibadan, Oyo State, killing a 35-year-old man. No fewer than nine persons were murdered in Port Harcourt, Rivers State while residents of Bomu community in Gokana local government council were also sacked from their homes as two people were reportedly killed at the Welfare areas, Kanshio near Markudi, Benue State by cultists. Despite the few examples highlighted above, many cases are officially never reported.
On the upsurge in the crime, it is widely believed that guns and other dangerous weapons being used by the perpetrators were at one time employed by politicians to fight their battles during elections and now that elections are over, the attackers have not returned the weapons said to have been given to them by the politicians; rather, they have turned on themselves and other residents with the illegal use of the weapons.
A number of factors should be considered in reducing this social problem to the barest minimum. To begin with, parents should show more interest in the welfare of their children and wards. Many youths have easily become targets of cult groups due to their innocence and vulnerability. When parents monitor their children more effectively, it becomes more difficult for them to be initiated into cultism. Again, our law enforcement agencies, most especially, the police and the neighbourhood vigilante groups should work together to bring incessant cult attacks to a halt. Security agencies should work more closely and harmoniously to achieve better results. They should muster the necessary will to confront this challenge head-long while proper intelligence gathering would go a long way in preventing pre-planned attacks before they are hatched.
People have complained that distress calls to the police on cult attacks are not responded to in good time because they do not arrive until after the havoc is done. This should stop. And when suspects are arrested, they are soon set free after their godfathers’ intervention. Sadly, very few of these cases ever get to court as police prosecutors are known to cite one reason or the other for not taking such cases before the law courts. Hardly do we see anyone being tried and jailed for cultism.
The government should urgently address the issue of acute unemployment without further delay. Many actors in cult-related attacks have been found to be jobless, which could account for why politicians have found them vulnerable as the Devil’s workshop. Traditional rulers and religious leaders too, being close to the people have a key role to play in ending this menace. Rather than settle personal scores using cult clashes, people should embrace legal means of resolving their differences. Stakeholders in the judicial system and alternate dispute resolution mechanism should restore sanity and confidence into the system. Certainly, the daunting task of curtailing cult clashes requires collective effort that can never be too much to give in wagging the war against violent cult clashes in the nation.
Adewale Kupoluyi writes from Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB),