By Evelyn Usman
T here is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria is presently on the grip of alarming social vices, notable among which is cultism, following screaming headlines on activities of cultists which have led to loss of lives and wanton destruction of property, almost on daily basis.
There is rarely no academic session without reported incidents of cult related violent clashes in most schools in country, which usually result in the loss of lives of promising youths.
Cultism in Nigeria could be traced to pre-colonization when a group of people with the main aim of seeking protection from their ancestors conducted rituals. Secret cults have always existed in many parts of the country, with the Ogboni secret cult notable among the Yorubas, the Ekpe secret cult among the Efiks, Ekine cult in the Delta region and Owegbe cult among the Edos.
Cultism in higher institutions
But cultism in Nigerian tertiary institutions was introduced in 1952 by a group of seven students from the University College, Ibadan, who addressed themselves as the Magnificent Seven. They formed the Pirates Confraternity, following their observation that the university was populated by wealthy students who were associated with colonial powers which left the poor students who were in minority to struggle to be accepted by the rich students.
Between 1952 and 1972, the Pirates, who later registered themselves as the National Association of Sea Dogs were virtually the only confraternity on Nigerian campuses. However, another brotherhood known as Buccaneers Confraternity was registered as National Association of Sea Lords, with its membership extended off campus and spread beyond the shores of the country.
Today, almost all tertiary institutions across the country has confraternities otherwise known as secret cults, some of which include Supreme Eiye Confraternity, also referred to as Air Lords. Records have it that this confraternity which broke out from Black Axe emerged from the University of Benin and its symbol of identification is the skull and cross bones.
Another known confraternity is Black Axe otherwise known as Neo Black Movement of Nigeria. Report also has it that it emerged from the University of Benin and has an upright axe with a wide blade fixed to a short handle as its symbol.
There is also the Supreme Vikings Confraternity said to have been founded by a former member of the Buccaneer Confraternity and it has the inscription SVC as its symbol.
Again, there is the Klansmen Confraternity also known as Eternal Fraternal Order of the Region Consortium. It was founded by students of University of Calabar and has “KKK” as its symbol, and the Two-Two or Black Beret, which was founded at the Enugu State University of Science and Technology.
Other confraternities include Second Son of Satan, Red Sea Horse, Fraternity of Friends, Mgba Mgba Brothers, Night Cadet Sonmen,Theme of Eden, Executioners, Dreaded Friend of Friends, Eagle Club, Black Scorpion among others. Aside these were also female cult groups which came to limelight in the 1990s in Nigerian campuses. Notable among them are the Damsels, Viqueens, Daughters of Jezebel, Black Braziers among several others.
Artisans as cultists
The major reason for forming cult group at the earlier stage was to break the barrier created by the advantaged students. But sadly, there is now a yawning shift from its original purpose as it tends to strive more on intimidation, oppression and brutalization of rival cult groups leading violence many of which proved fatal.
Not only has cultism witnessed a shift from its original purpose membership now cuts across artisans, farmers, traders and so many illiterates across the country! From the North to the South and East to the West, cultism strives everywhere!
In Edo State for instance, being a member of a confraternity group accords some people respect. Investigation showed that some homes with no member as a cultist are subjected to intimidation, exploitation and oppression. These cultists are majorly behind several kidnapping, armed robbery and murder cases in the state: Recently, a young man was ambushed around Emuhi Road and hacked to death. The Edo State Police Command succeeded in arresting the alleged assailant who turned out to be a musician in the same community. However, during investigation, it was discovered that the deceased was mistaken for a member of a rival cult group.
Another instance around that axis was the burial ceremony of late Agatha Amuze of Ewuhimi Community in Emuhi, Ekpoma, Edo State which was almost marred, no thanks to activities of cultists. Surprisingly, it was learned that members of this act were no other than children and grandson of the deceased.
But for the prompt intervention of policemen from Ekpoma Division, the occasion would have witnessed blood bath, as these cultists who were bent on distorting the ceremony had converged in a bush waiting for the right time to strike.
Checks by Saturday Vanguard showed that even commercial motorbikes, commercial bus drivers, bus conductors are also members of various cult groups spread across the state.
The situation is not different from Obosi Town in Anambra State, where these cultists are used to foment trouble by some self-acclaimed ‘big men’. They terrorize, invade and shoot at their victims without batting an eye lid. The home of a senior police officer was not spared in one of the invasions by these cultists last year. Also in one of the attacks, the life of a young man was cut short.
Until recently, nobody dared to challenge sponsors of these cultists in Obosi Town as any attempt would cost them their lives.
Lagos State is another example with activities of cultists, majority of whom are artisans too numerous to count. Areas such as Mushin, Yaba, Amukoko, Ajegunle, Ikorodu, Odogunyan, Okokomaiko, LASU Road, Ajangbadi, Ojo, Festac, Lagos Island and Ijora Badia, Ilasamaja, Idia-Araba, are prone to violent and reprisal attacks which leave in their trail colossal loss of lives. In some cases, innocent residents were killed and houses burnt.
Why artisans join cult groups
Investigation on why artisans take to this unwholesome and dreadful secret cults showed that while some of them are used as errands boys by some politicians, particularly during elections, others joined confraternity groups for protection against other rival cult members, and to gain financial assistance from politicians and some members of the elite who want to attack their opponents.
Another crazy reason some artisans join cult groups is to have easy access to rape prominent girls or women within their locality. While some of them see rape as a means to have their pound of flesh particularly on ladies who have turn down their love advances, others just derive pleasure from it.
For those who rape for pleasure, they record such acts and threaten to upload it on the internet if their victims revealed the act to the police or their parents.
An example was the case of six boys who confessed to be members of one of the new confraternities – Blue Angel. They allegedly raped a 16-year-old secondary school girl in Akure, Ondo State capital recently. But in their case, they recorded the act in their phone while taking turns to have the helpless girl. Thereafter, they threatened to shoot their victim if she screamed, unknown to her that it was a toy gun. At the end, they further threatened to upload the recordings if she reported to anyone.
Unfortunately, she confided in a’ friend who blew the whole thing open, consequent upon which two of the boys were rounded up by officials of the Ondo State Command of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, while four others managed to escape.
Rape as part of initiation into cult groups
Another startling discovery is that some cult groups rape any new member as part of initiation into the confraternity. One incident occurred in Anambra State, in July last year. In this scenario, one Ifechukwu was among. 75 suspected cult members who were nabbed by policemen attached to Anambra State Police Command on July 3, 2015. They were alleged to be members of the Supreme Vikings Confraternity and were all arrested in a bush in Awka during initiation of new members. Part of their ritual, as gathered, included sleeping with intending female members. This they do in order to seal their oath of secrecy.
16-year-old Ifechukwu, a secondary school drop out, who claimed to have travelled from Abuja just to witness the initiation of new members, revealed that she joined the confraternity three months earlier. She explained that she was lured into the secret cult by her friend who assured her that she could get all the needed connections, adding however, that she was never informed that sleeping with all male members was part of the initiation process.
Hear her:”During my initiation, I was forced to have sex with every registered member of the cult present that night. I was given sedative so as not to feel what they were doing. It was not easy but I bore the pain”, she said.
Also, some cultists are paid to rape women and girls as a way of vengeance. Information at the disposal of Saturday Vanguard showed cultists are paid between NI0,000 and more to rape victims.
Last November, a 20-year-old lady confessed to have hired some cultists to gang rape one of her friends after a minor misunderstanding.
The victim (name withheld) was ambushed by six suspected cultists at about 8pm, around Olaosebikan Street in Somolu area of Lagos, from where she was taken to one Elewure’s house where they took turns to rape her for four hours.
Recently, it was discovered that cultists have a particular day when they avenge killings of their members by rival cultists. The months of July (7/7) and August (8/8) were allegedly slated for this purpose this year, particularly in Lagos.
But the intelligence-led police command frustrated their efforts following the arrest of some of them in Ilasamaja, Ikorodu and Odogunyan areas of the state.
Forceful initiation of children
Another worrisome dimension to this social vices is the forceful initiation of children into different confraternities. These children are made to swear oaths of secrecy with a threat to their lives if they dared reveal name of the cult group.
These children, as gathered, are used to fight rival cult groups, as their frail frame would never give them away as cultists.
In January this year, a 16-year-old boy who was arrested by the Lagos State Police Command, confirmed that their ages or calm looks could be deceptive, following his admittance to belonging to a dreaded cult group that has been terrorising Satellite Town, in Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos. He further exposed activities of members of various cult groups in the area of the state. Most startling was the revelation that children as young as ten years old are initiated into the various cult groups in Satellite Town.
In an interaction with Akiola, a Secondary School Certificate holder, he revealed to Saturday Vanguard that primary school pupils and secondary school students and artisans in the area were forced into cultism. Attempt by anyone approached to put up resistance, according to him, meant the out right relocation of the child’s parent from the area. He further disclosed that children between 10 and 13 years who were initiated into major confraternity groups such as Arrow Baga popularly known as Arrow, were sent as spies on their rivals. The children as gathered were also sent to survey places like the massive Navy Barracks before their ‘masters’ would strike.
How I was forced into Eiye Confraternity
Giving an instance with his case, he revealed that he was approached right from the age of 10 to join the Eiye Confraternity group. According to him,”When the pressure was too much, I had no choice than to give in. My father was an okada rider (motorcyclist). He was never at home. There“was no one I could approach when the pressure to join Eiye was much on me. Even if I had approached my father, he would not have done anything because everyone is afraid of the cult guys. He would be forced to pack out of the area if he tried to stop me. And he didn’t have the financial strength to do so. In one of the occasions, one of them, Samuel seized my phone and my shoe. I went home barefooted. As if that was not enough, I was beaten to a pulp by members of the cult group, for committing no offence. I eventually joined Eiye Confraternity in 2013, shortly after I finished my secondary school education.”
His account showed that most robbery operations in Lagos and some other states were perpetrated by cultists. For him, he usually got between N1,500 and N3,000 at the end of any operation.
This teenager further disclosed that killings earned members promotion, revealing that hit-men were referred to as flyers and Adaba. A ten-year-old boy according to him, can head any unit in a cult depending on his ability to kill.
At the moment in Lagos State, the trending cult group is known as Awawa, with its members spread across densely populated areas like Ikorodu, Ajegunle, Old Ojo Road, Agege, Ikorodu among other places. Symbol of this cult group is a rain-like incision by the side of their left eye.
But Police are not resting on their oars to ensure that activities of cultists are curtailed. Information at Saturday Vanguard disposal showed that over 200 suspected cultists have been arrested in Rivers State . In July 2, 2015, about 127 suspected cultists were arrested by the anti-cultism section of the Rivers State Police command, while about 100 others were arrested in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, with the recovery of arms and ammunition.
In Edo State, the Police Command has made arrests too numerous to count. In fact, activities of cultists in the state have witnessed a down turn with the introduction of anti-cultism squad by the Commissioner of Police, Mr Chris Ezike.
Lagos State Police Command is another state that has witnessed several arrests of suspected cultists, during raids on flash points. The Command has succeeded in dousing the tension created by cultists in Mushin area of the state which used to be always on weekly basis. The Command under the leadership of Fatai Owoseni, has also succeeded in nipping activities of the rising Awawa cult groups in the bud. Only recently, operatives of the Lagos State Task Force arrested 15 notorious cultists popularly known as ‘Awawa Boys’ who have been dispossessing members of the public of their valuables, as well as raping young girls around Aluminium Village, Valley Estate and the entire Dopemu community in Agege area of Lagos.