Yesterday’, the report highlighted the increasing cases of attacks, killings and rape by cult groups’. It continues today with focus on rival-cult gangs clashes being the order of the day, helplessness of the Police and lamentations of victims and community leaders
Signs of hardened killer-cultists
Significantly, police sources said they have unmasked the most closely-guarded signs of dreaded killers in different cult groups in the country. It was revealed that some of the suspected kingpins arrested recently intimated detectives that the signs they have, either under their armpits, back of their neck or on their chest, depict the number of people they killed in the past. According to a source: “One of the suspects we arrested along Epe expressway in Lagos shocked us when he boasted that the black marks he has on his chest depict the number of people he had killed so far.
“When we questioned him on the significance of the thin, long but bold black lines on his chest, he hesitated before telling us that it represent the number of people he has killed so far in the course of his cult activities. He said that their members easily identify such marks and accord them the deserved respect as hardened killers. It has helped police so far because whenever we encounter such people, we do not hesitate in arresting them. That is why they accuse us ignorantly of arresting people with tattoos without knowing why we do so.”
Former Governor Ambode’s account
Giving credence to the unfortunate reality of this ugly security situation in the state, former Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, said he constructed the Bariga Waterfront Jetty with a view to checkmating persistent cult clashes in Bariga.
He said: “The beginning of our security challenges in Bariga actually started from this particular spot. There were series of cult clashes in this particular community and people were actually going from house to house to kill one another. I tried to find out what was actually responsible and discovered that a lot of cult members were always having access to free money from selling of sand which they used to harm others in the community.”
The most alarming of this prevailing situation in Lagos is the fact that more youths and teens are increasingly being initiated into different confraternities. After this they are trained to acquire skills in the use of guns, cutlasses and other dangerous weapons. Following their initiation and training, they are let loose to invade streets, unleashing mayhem on innocent members of the public under the influence of whatever illicit drug they are addicted to.
The alarming increase in the number of these cultists in Lagos is already giving the state police command sleepless nights, especially in the light of the enormous security challenge they pose in the state and the difficulty in curtailing their destructive activities. To make matters worse, there has recently been a terrifying upsurge inter-cultists clashes, with rival gangs attacking themselves and unleashing mayhem on members of the public in different communities across the state.
In fact, hardly any week goes by without these blood-thirty ruffians unleashing violence and leaving a trail of blood and death in their wake. Vanguard gathered that there are hundreds of cult gangs operating in different communities in Lagos, with the most popular being Aiye, Eiye, One million boys, Owonikoko, Alora, etc.
Residents live in fear
Areas like Mushin, Bariga, Shomolu, Ajegunle, Akpasa, Ezeagu, Oshodi, with a burgeoning population of jobless youths, have become festering grounds for violent cult activities. On account of this, residents in the affected areas now live in apprehension, especially when it seems obvious that thugs and cult members now hold sway, unchallenged by security agents. In many cases, people are threatened and forced to flee their homes, while the social miscreants build their own kingdoms there.
Endless cult wars
Call it a vicious battle for supremacy you may not be wrong. But whatever it is called, lives and property are needlessly lost. For instance, on April 14, 2019, at about 8.45am, four members of the Eiye cult gang were reportedly killed by Aiye members during a battle for supremacy along Abraham Adesanya, Lekki-Epe Expressway. According to a source, members of Eiye confraternity had earlier killed a member of a rival cult. In retaliation, members of Aiye confraternity declared war, leading to the death of four Eiye members.
Similarly, in May, a motorcyclist known as Shiro was killed at Fadeyi area of Lagos, when two cult groups clashed, causing commotion that prompted closure of shops and other businesses in the area. According to a source, the fight had been planned for quite a while, as the two cult groups, Eiye and Aiye confraternities have been struggling for control of the area. When the police intervened, two suspects, namely Saheed Lateef, 21, and Julius Augulere, 20, both of 13, Obodo Street, Okeira nla, Langbasa, Ajah area of Lagos and members of Aiye Confraternity were arrested in connection with the case.
According to reports, the cult clashes caused fear among residents of the area, and many people sustained severe injuries while escaping for dear lives. Earlier in February, two men were stabbed to death by members of an unknown cult at Itire and Alao streets off Ojo Road, Ajegunle, during a cult clash. Residents fled their homes while shops were shut.
On April 30, one Awwal of 16, Adekoya Street in Ojo Local Government Area of Lagos State, murdered one Idowu Oladele who was a tenant. The late Oladele’s widow, Bose, who narrated in tears how her husband was allegedly killed, stated that trouble started after she and her late husband returned from a party at about 9.00 pm that Saturday
She stated that they left the coolers used to take food to the party, at their door step, with the intention to wash them the next day. According to her: ‘’We had barely settled down when we heard bangs on the door. When my husband opened the door, he found our landlady and her son, Awwal.
“The landlady asked why we put our property at the doorstep, saying that every part of the compound belongs to her. As my husband tried to reply, her son, Awwal, hit him on his head. Before my husband could react, the landlady hit him on the chest with a charm. He (husband) started jerking and after some minutes, he fell and died.”
Cultist reign, Police shame
A recent touching case involved a 57-year-old woman, Shade Raji, who was chased out of her home located at No 7, Adelere Street, Shomolu. Her house was later demolished by a notorious member of Eiye confraternity popularly called Jplum. Femi Akinboyeku, a.k.a. Jplum, who is the leader of the Eiye Confraternity is said to be a long time terror in Shomolu, and reports revealed that even the police have confessed that he is too hot for them to handle.
Former Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Imohimi Edgar, has been credited and widely applauded for giving cultists a fight for their lives, while making the state too hot for them, with many of them going into hiding. At town hall meetings, Edgal engaged community leaders, religious leaders and tradition rulers within the state. However, immediately Edgar was redeployed, the cultists crawled out of their holes and have since continued to unleash mayhem on residents.
Battle for supremacy
The battle of supremacy between these cult gangs has always been fingered as accounting for 98% of the reason for cult clashes. For instance, on Sunday 12, April, 2019, there was confusion and mayhem at Ikorodu Local Government Area of Lagos State as members of Eiye and Aiye confraternity clashed killing two persons in the process. The attack continued for over a week and at the end of it several persons were confirmed dead.
It has since emerged that Ikorodu is not the only area that has become a hotbed of cult activities. On April 14, 2019 four suspected cultists were beheaded during a clash between two rival cult groups of Aiye and Eiye in Ogonbo community and Abraham Adesanya Estate in Ajah area of Lagos. The cult groups which had been at loggerheads over supremacy in the Sangotedo area of Ajah used machetes and other dangerous weapons in the fight and inflicted fatal wounds on themselves.
Few days after the onslaught at Ajah, operatives of the Lagos State Police Command arrested six suspected cultists in connection with the incident. The suspects were identified as Babatunde Wasiu (30), Bolaji Elijah (25), Joseph Timothy, (32), Bolaji Olayiwola (22), Saheed Lateef (22) and Julius Augele (20).
Later the Police at the Langbasa Division, Langbasa, Ajah, Lagos arrested nine suspected members of a secret cult confraternity and dragged them before a Lagos Magistrate Court over alleged unlawful assembly with intent to cause breach of peace. Regrettably, since their arrest nothing has being heard about the issue.
Apart from Ajah, the Lagos State Police Command arrested several suspected cultists over their involvement in the death of two persons at Fadeyi, Onipanu, along Ikorodu road on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. The two persons met their death when members of rival cult groups from Alakara, Mushin and Onipanu, Shomolu, armed with dangerous weapons, engaged themselves in a fierce battle for supremacy.
From Ijanikin to Iyana-Isashi, Ajegunle to Somolu, Bariga to Fadeyi, Ikorodu to Mushin, Isale Eko to Ijesha-Tedo, Ojuelegba, Epe, cult and cult-related clashes have been occurring with frightening frequency. Unfortunately, the police are often late in reacting to the threats posed by these cultists; they always arrive to effect arrests after cultists have unleashed terror and left the scene. Even when the succeed in making arrests, the suspects after they are charged to court always find their way back to the society as they are often released for lack of evidence. Though, a special anti-cultism unit has been established by the Lagos State Police Command to combat the situation, cult- related killings and clashes have remained unabated within major parts of the state. More worrisome is the finding that most of these cult groups enjoy the support of top politicians in the state as they are employed as thugs to do the biding of these politicians during electioneering.
Patronage from NURTW, RTEAN
Aside politicians, most of these cult groups are also said to often enjoy the patronage of members of transport associations within the state, such as the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, and members of Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria, RTEAN.
The unions are said to regularly employ the services of these cultists-cum-thugs to protect their motor parks and other interests within the state. Some market associations across the state have also been fingered as also employing the services of the said cult groups in order to enforce their authority on their members.
Investigations by Vanguard revealed that the patronage enjoyed by cult groups in this regard is the major factor fuelling cult-related clashes across the state as every group want to be seen as the most dreaded and powerful within the community they operate. In areas such as Shomolu, Bariga, Fadeyi and Yaba, cult-related clashes are fueled mainly by the continued patronage of NURTW and similar unions. Every cult group operating in that area wants to be seen as the most powerful so as to control toll collections and levies from motorcycles, tricycle riders and commercial operators within the area. Holding sway as the leader of the Eiye confraternity in the area is a top member of the NURTW known as Femi Jplump.
Femi Jplump as a metaphor
Several persons have been killed over Jplump’s attempts to exercise and maintain control of the Eiye Confraternity within those areas, including tolls and levies collection. Curiously, while this is going on, the police authorities continue to look the other way. Many wondered how a notorious thug could have grown so powerful that he could not be called to order or arrested for questioning.
The control of motor parks and support for politicians have also been fingered as the major cause of rival cult clashes within communities in Amukoko, Ajegunle and Lagos Island. In the case of Amukoko and Ajegunle, Vanguard gathered that members of the Eiye confraternity have been engaged in a protracted battle over their factional support for two top politicians vying for separate political positions. It is a battle that has claimed several lives with many others seriously injured. Indeed, politicians have been accused of providing funds, arms and ammunition to these warring groups.
Vanguard learned that communities within Ojo area of the state have also suffered terribly from cult-related clashes due to the presence of major international markets situated around the area as well as some higher institutions located within the area. Vanguard gathered that the Alaba International Market in Ojo have continued to play host to an alarming number of cult groups who had over time engaged themselves in supremacy clashes that left several traders killed.
At the root of these bloody clashes was the attempt to attract the patronage of the market associations who often provide funds to strengthen their control of the market. Some traders within the market are also said to employ the services of cult groups operating within the market to settle scores over perceived wrongs done to them by their rivals or colleagues.
Another frequent bone of contention among rival cult gangs are the funds generated in the market. This has often been mentioned as a major factor fuelling cult clashes within the Ojo area of the state as every group strives to be recognised as the most deadly within the area.
Commentators are always hard put to identify the root cause or causes of the increasing menace of cultism in Lagos and other states. But a common observation is that their nefarious activities have of recent taken destructive forms such as torture, advanced free fraud, voodoo ritual practice, murder, indulgence in hard drugs, indecent dressing, armed robbery, sexual assault, kidnapping, among others.
Police Public Relations Officer in Enugu State, Ebere Amarizu, in a recent paper he presented in the coal city stated unequivocally thus: “It is painful and worrisome to note that most of the entrants to cult groups don’t know why they should be there as they join out of peer group influence, threat and intimidation; hence the urgent need for a holistic call and approach of resolving the issue of the deadly monster through the involvement of relevant measures that will discourage the existence of this deadly monster which is ravaging the socio-economic fabrics of our society”.
He continued: “Cultism is a time bomb and an ill-wind that blows nobody any good. Many of our youths have had their lives cut short through the activities of cult groups; while some are languishing in our various prisons, many have embraced cultism as a way of living and settling scores and this has adversely affected the entire fabric of the society.”
Lagos Police react
In his reaction, Lagos State Police spokesman, Bala Elkana stated: “In the past three months, we arrested 110 suspects, reducing drastically cult activities in Lagos. Also, we have re-jigged our anti-cultism unit and launched special operations on cultism. This means we are going beyond law enforcement. We discovered that just arresting cultists will not solve the problem of cultism. We considered it that, after arresting and prosecute them, and maybe send them to jail, they come out unchanged, and remain cultists; sometimes, even worse, causing mayhem to the society.
“Now, our Anti-cultism units are working with various stake-holders, churches, schools, mosques and families to fish them out, because, this has become a societal problem; these cultists live among them, and they know them. Also, we have introduced collective talking and sensitisation, where we will organise special talks in different institutions, including schools, because even school children are now initiated into these deadly cult groups.”