•Police arrest 609 in one year
By Emma Nnadozie, Crime Editor
From the precincts of the highbrow Lekki, Ajah, VGC, Ikoyi and Victoria Island to the underbelly of the slums in Ajegunle, Agege, Mushin, Ojuelegba, Ikorodu, Okokomaiko, Anifowoshe- Ikeja and other areas of the city of excellence, they have continued to hold sway, unleashing terror on residents.
Always clad in bizarre but pronounced tags, they operate as if they are laws unto themselves. Their bravado is such that they display their conquests openly with tattoos signifying the number of lives they have taken during different operations.
Mastery of weapons
Armed with dangerous weapons they display uncanny mastery of these weapons of death to the envy of even security agencies. These are the tools they freely use in harassing, intimidating, burning, looting, killing and decimating not only members of their cult groups but also helpless and hapless Nigerians in not just Lagos State but major cities in the country. The situation is so bad that each time they strike, they leave in their trail, blood and anguish.
In areas like Ajegunle, Ajah, Mushin, Ojuelegba, Ikorodu, Lekki, Epe, Okokomaiko, cult groups battle for supremacy. In July this year, four persons were reportedly killed and another four fatally wounded when members of the Eiye confraternity numbering about 50, invaded Okoya, Ogungbe, Moshalashi, Aroworade streets as well as Baale Adeyemo street and environs, wielding dangerous weapons and destroyed property of members of the communities at about 3am.
In Ajegunle, three persons were killed and many injured in a clash between two cult groups late last week. Sources said members of the feuding cults went on rampage in the area, inflicting wounds on anybody they encountered.
The three- day long violence started over the killing of a nephew to the Baale of Aiyetoro. In Ajegunle, one Endurance Augustine, was killed while several others were injured in a crisis between Eiye confraternity and a rival cult operating at Izeagwu and Kehinde Streets. Likewise, One Adewale Fakunle, was attacked and murdered between Boundary Market and Ojora Street.
A source said he was returning from Tolu area where he had gone to visit a friend. Similarly, Nasiru Bashiru, Kenneth Dike and Power Michael who allegedly hacked a middle-aged man, identified as Walter to death at the entrance of a popular hotel at Iyano-Sashi area of the state, are at present in police net.
The situation has taken a turn for the worse as cults break into homes they believe rival cult members live. Recently, at Ligali street Ojo, Lagos, there was pandemonium after a cult invaded a compound and stabbed a young man suspected to be a member of a rival cult to death. Sources said the boy came back home earlier, panting heavily, but did not tell anyone what the problem was. Residents of the area told Vanguard that most areas cult feuds take place are around police stations alleging also that on many occasions calls to police operatives to the scenes of cult battles were rebuffed.
A source in the area said, “Sometimes, police pretend to be unaware of cult activities going on in the area. In some cases, they will not come to crime scenes until someone is killed, then, they will take the corpse and dispose it.” One instance, according to sources, was when Layeni police station in Ajegunle area was alerted over a cult battle that took the life of one person at Ligali Street and the police simply said they were not aware of any such battle. Meanwhile, members of the community said they had informed the police during the brawl.
Method of initiation
The latest method of conscription into different confraternities is by inviting unsuspecting targets to a party or picnic, without an inkling that it is an invitation to instant initiation. Before the invitation, an old member first acquaints himself with the target without revealing his sinister motive.
Such invites, as gathered, are extended majorly to minors in order to prevent them from disclosing the information to their parents. Another method of initiation is by drugging their drinks. A minor, Mujideen, a JSS1 student, disclosed that he was lured with eight bottles of beer to the initiation ground at Ajah by a man he referred to as Egbon in Orile.
Another victim, Idris, 15, who stated that he also operates a tricycle in Orile where he lives with his parents said “Egbon invited me to Savage bar at Orile where he bought a carton of Goldberg for me and some other youths, as I was drinking, he told me there could be a party later that night, that he would like me to attend. By the time I finished eight bottles of beer, I became tipsy and slept off. The next time I opened my eyes, I found myself on a beach with some boys. I was blindfolded and had my right thumb pierced with a broken bottle. Thereafter, I was asked to lick the blood. They also gave me a liquid concoction to drink. Later, somebody announced, ‘’welcome to Aiye Cult, you have now blended.’’
Another 28-year- old cultist said “I joined Aiye in 2011 while in the university. I was expelled from the school over cult-related activities. When I came back home, I regrouped with members of my confraternity in Ojo, Lagos and I have carried out five different killings. My first mission was at Oke-Afa area of Badagry. I do not know the name of the person, because I was invited to do the job. The second person was at Ijanikin and the victim was known as Badmos.
He was a member of a rival cult group and I was assigned to kill him. The third person was at Kasidi area of Okokomaiko. I was also invited to kill him. The fourth was one Asumo living in my area at Ketu. He was a prominent member of a rival cult group and had once attempted to kill me. The last person was one Yusuf who was also a friend to Asumo.
After they attacked me, Yusuf ran to Ibadan to hide. I trailed him to Ibadan and killed him. My cult also killed Walter, the head of Arobaga also known as Vikings operating in Alaba International market. He killed one Theophilus who was a member of our cult two months ago and that made us to declare war against them.”
Ignoble role of politicians
Ironically, investigations revealed that the menace of cultism and the attendant possession of dangerous weapons should be attributed to scheming by desperate politicians, not just for supremacy but, most importantly, to ride into victory especially during elections. Police sources intimated Vanguard that for every cult-related bloody clash investigations must trace the origin to one prominent politician or the other.
According to sources, they arm these poor, hapless urchins into engaging in cultism and before they know it, they become hardened criminals. ‘’They capitalize on the yawning poverty and lack of jobs to recruit these idle youths into different cult groups and they spend heavily in arming them. In fact, any politician that is seen not to have the backing of one cult group or the other will be regarded as a weakling.
They thrive more on boasting that they are well equipped and connected to unleash terror on any of their opponents who prove tough. Shockingly, efforts by police authorities to mop up their illegal arms seem to have failed because most of them are still equipping these cultists to unleash terror on not just their peers but innocent Nigerians. If you go to their respective homes and offices, you must see these dangerously clad cultists brandishing dangerous weapons to the admiration of their paymasters, the politicians. Worse still, police cannot claim not to see them moving around freely with armed youths’’.
On their part, security agencies have left no stone unturned in fighting back. However, the overwhelming rise and continuous vindictive activities of cult groups still pose a daunting task to the police. Lagos State, as the commercial headquarters of the country seems to harbour the worst cultists. Police authorities in the state have lived up to the billing to the extent that scores of hardened and notorious cultists have been arrested and thrown into prison while concerted efforts are being made to nip their nefarious activities in the bud.
From statistics of major incidents recorded from police area commands in Lagos State between January and September 2018, it was gathered that no fewer than 609 cultists were arrested in the state while a paltry 17 cases were reported.
A significant rise in the arrest of cultists was recorded between 31st December 2017 and 1st January, 2018 till date. In the same vein, a comparative chart within same period indicated that about 70% success was recorded. From records available, no fewer than 500 cultists renounced their membership in Ijede area of Ikorodu in Ocotober, 2017 while 120 did same at Imota area of Ikorodu in November, 2017. Subsequently, 652 and 139 followed suit at Igbogbo area of Ikorodu in February, 2018 and Badagry area in March, 2018 respectively.
CP Edgal to the rescue
Recognising that cultism is a menace to the society, Lagos State police boss, Imohimi Edgal took the bull by the horns and embarked on far-reaching measures aimed at curtailing their excesses if not wiping them off entirely from the state. He kicked -off on assumption of duties by tackling the most dreaded and blood thirsty cultist group, Badoo, which unleashed terror on Ikorodu and other suburbs of Lagos. To this end, he took the community policing crusade to all nooks and crannies of the state through numerous town hall meetings with the people in the area commands. In this way, CP Edgal was able to convince the people to join hands with the police to stamp out cultism and thus the people had been forthcoming with information which crystallized into intelligence reports on the activities of cults.
The success story is not only in getting information that has led to the arrest of numerous cult members but that the people comprising traditional rulers, opinion leaders, stakeholders and local government chairmen in places like Ikorodu, Ijede, Badagry etc went the extra length to convince their wards who are members of these nefarious groups to renounce cultism and surrender their weapons to the police. The Commissioner of police has so far received, documented and profiled over 1,800 youths who voluntarily renounced cultism.
Most times during his numerous press briefings and releases, the police boss had always admonished politicians to play the game by the rules and refrain from using these youths as political thugs. He went further to establish a vibrant anti-cultism squad which so far has been a thorn in the flesh of cult groups in the state.
Furthermore, it was learned that CP Edgal set up a secret tactical squad comprising of men from both the State Intelligence Bureau and other intelligence and investigative units of the command to operate underground in all divisions with a view to nipping cultism in the bud and giving authentic information on not just their activities but the role of politicians in nefarious activities. The resultant effects, according to sources, are the notable achievements recorded so far by the command in curtailing cultism in the state and nipping their operations in the bud.