*Monarchs worried over menace in their domain
*We’ll rid states of cultism — Police
By Dayo Johnso, Bose Adelaja & Shina Abubakar
SOME states in the South-West geo-political zone, especially Lagos, Osun and Ondo states, are grappling with the activities of cultists.
The menace is gradually spreading like wildfire across these states.
Also, the supremacy battle among rival cult groups has left trails of sorrow, tears and blood in these states.
Several people, especially youths, have lost their lives in recent times.
Lagos, the nation’s economic power house is currently experiencing a major challenge in the area of cultism.
The Nigerian Police Force, Lagos Command is, however, making frantic efforts to nip this menace in the bud.
Areas such as Agege, Ajah/Ibeju-Lekki, Mushin, Fadeyi, Oshodi, Ketu/Mile 12, Ikorodu Ilaje, Badore, Abraham Adesanya, Ado Road, Alasia, Lamgbasa and several other places have had their own fair share of cult activities at one time or the other.
Most confraternities involved in these nefarious activities include Aiye, Eiye, Black Axe, Awawa Boys, Jezebel, Osanle and 10 million Boys to mention but a few.
Such activities have assumed worrisome dimensions, owing to constant cult clashes during which they brandish dangerous weapons such as guns, axes, cudgels, cutlasses and broken bottles.
Gradually, cultism, armed robberies and land grabbing activities are almost interwoven such that one hardly differentiates who perpetrates what.
Timelines of cult clashes
Recently, on Monday, November 30, residents and commuters in Agege Local Government Area of Lagos State were thrown into panic, during an early cultist clash at Orile/Agege, Mulero, and Agbotikuyo.
What started as a cult clash later assumed a different dimension as residents and commuters were robbed at gunpoint after fights broke out among some cultists identified as Awawa Boys.
Also, on October 13, 2020, when over 5,000 members of Ekutu community in Ibeju-Lekki area of Lagos State were thrown into chaos following attacks and counter-attacks by members of various cult groups in the area, which left a young man, Gbenga Saka, dead.
Before this, the community members said there had been a series of cult clashes that had left the once peaceful and serene town of Ekutu a shadow of itself.
The aftermath of the cult clashes, however, rendered many residents homeless, maimed, or incapacitated.
Asides from Ekutu Community, residents claimed the rate at which gang and cult wars are ravaging most settlements in Ibeju-Lekki and its environs require the prompt intervention of security agencies.
Another recent clash occurred on September 12, 2020, when a 35-year-old pregnant woman, Risikat Saliman, was shot dead during a bloody clash between suspected cult groups in Aleke area of Ikorodu.
Dozens of suspected cultists were said to have invaded Aleke community market at about 8 pm shooting sporadically thereby killing the woman.
The Baale of Aleke, Chief Adeniyi Okemati, said the hoodlums had gunned down the mother of two before the arrival of Policemen from Imota Division.
Similarly, Ijede area of Ikorodu had its own share of cultism activities on January 1, 2020, when about seven people were reportedly killed during a violent clash between two rival cultist groups.
The Police stated that the KK and Eiye Confraternities were involved in the incident.
Also, two persons were allegedly killed while scores were injured on December 20, 2020, during a clash involving some members of Aiye and Eiye confraternities at Alhaji Qudus Giwa Street, near a gas station, in Ikorodu Central.
Similarly, one of the most dreaded cultism activities in the Alimosho area of Lagos State occurred between Wednesday, December 2 and Thursday, December 3, 2020, on Governor’s Road in the Ikotun area of Lagos State which claimed five lives and left many injured.
The aftermath of the violence also claimed the lives of a popular baker in the area simply identified as Seyi, and four others.
It was gathered that while the four victims were killed on Governor’s Road, another victim’s head was smashed at Lawal Bus Stop in the same area.
According to residents, the fight started at about 10 am when members of two rival cult groups clashed in the community.
Just as Nigerians were preparing to usher in the New Year, three persons, suspected to be cultists, were killed and many others injured in the Abesan area of Lagos State during a clash between Eiye and Aiye members.
The fracas reportedly started the day after Christmas Day when some members of a cult group were attacked after which a reprisal attack, which occurred 48 hours after, led to the death of three people.
On Thursday, September 24, 2020, Fagba and its environs witnessed a supremacy fight between the Eiye and Aye cult groups which left one person dead at Soulmate Hotel, Fagba.
The fight, which occurred at about 8 pm, was said to have extended to Osho Street, Fagba-Iju area when one of the cultists, identified as Segun Ogumodede, popularly called ‘Badoo’ was shot dead in front of the hotel.
Mile 12 area of Kosofe also witnessed a series of cultism clashes which have left the area deserted on many occasions.
One such clash occurred on February 21, 2020, when two suspected cultists were butchered to death, during a clash between two rival cultists groups.
Again, on November 3, 2020, Ketu in Kosofe area of Lagos witnessed pandemonium as rival cult groups were engaged in a brutal clash, with dangerous weapons freely used.
Traders and road users scampered for safety as armed robbers seized the occasion to loot, rob and vandalised shops and vehicles.
We’ll rid Lagos of cultism—CP
Despite the rising cases of cultism in Lagos State, the Nigeria Police Force has vowed to rid the state of cultists and hoodlums who foment troubles and threaten the peace and security of the State.
Already, 15 suspected cultists were arrested during raids on different black spots in the Ikorodu and Ajah areas of the state.
Similarly, in October 2020, the Command arrested nine teenagers and four others over alleged cultism.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Muyiwa Adejobi, said the arrests complied with the directives of the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Command, CP Hakeem Odumosu.
According to the spokesperson, the arrests highlighted the increasing cases of attacks, killings and rape by cult groups with a focus on rival-cult gang clashes being the order of the day, the helplessness of the Police and lamentations of victims and community leaders.
Supremacy battle in Ondo
The supremacy battle between rival cult groups in some towns in Ondo State has not only ruptured the existing peace in the state but sadly also resulted in several deaths in recent time.
Besides, traditional rulers in Ondo State have expressed concern over the growing menace in their domain.
People of the state heave a sigh of relief recently when over 200 youths, between the age of 16 and 25 renounced their membership of cult groups in Ondo township alone.
Most of the youths were either students or apprentices.
Findings showed that the youths belonged to cult groups which include the Eiye confraternity, Black Axe, Aye, Vikings and Scorpion.
The Osemawe of Ondo, Oba Victor Kiladejo expressed concern over the incessant attack and clash of cult groups noting that “the killings and disruption of the existing peace in the land is being threatened by the activities of the cultists.”
However, after the renouncement, the activities of the cult groups seemed to have shifted to other towns across the state.Between June 18 and July 2, 2020, no fewer than six persons were gruesomely murdered in Igbokoda and Arogbo, the riverine areas of the state in cult clashes.
But on June 18, three cult leaders were arrested over the killings in Igbokoda.
In one of the killings, some cult members were reportedly hacked to death in a bush and were hurriedly buried by his killers to cover up the crime.
Police in Ondo State, which confirmed the clash and the death of the cult leader, said that his corpse that was buried by the suspected killers had to be exhumed
Police sources said: “The cult members killed the member of another rival cult group in Igbokoda and everywhere became tensed.
“The leader and his friend were abducted by the cult group around Larada Street in Igbokoda, Police source hinted.
“His friend escaped with serious injuries but the deceased was not lucky as they shot and hacked him to death in the bush.”
Again, on July 27, 2020, two persons were killed following a bloody clash between rival cult groups in the riverine Arogbo in the Ese-Odo council area of the state. Worried by the incessant clashes, the traditional ruler, the Agadagba of Arogbo Ijaw kingdom, Zaccheaus Egbunnu consequently outlawed cultism in the community.
The monarch said: “Cultism is unreservedly banned in the kingdom to forestall clash between rival groups which often leads to untimely deaths.
“Similarly, all joints where criminals converge in the name of drinking and smoking to perpetrate heinous acts in the community are banned.
“Extrajudicial killings in reprisal for brutal deaths are totally prohibited in the kingdom: Our culture forbids it; the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria outlaws it and above all the holy books preach against it.”
On December 20, last year, a 26-year-old suspected cultist, Tolu Omojuwa confessed that his group, “Eiye fraternity killed three members of a rival cult group known as Black Axe over supremacy tussle in Igbokoda, headquarters of Ilaje council area of the state when he was paraded by the police.”
Omojuwa told newsmen at the state police headquarters in Akure that he was arrested when invited for peace talks by leaders in the community
Paraded alongside 33 other criminals, Omojuwa said the two rival groups had been having a running supremacy battle in the oil-rich riverine area of the state for over three years.
He said: “My group, Eiye group, had for long been having clashes with Aye fraternity, otherwise known as Black Axe group in the community and this had led to the killing of three Aye members by my group.
According to him, the clash between the two cult groups had been on since 2017 within the community.
Similarly, on December 28, 2020, three suspected cult members trailed a leader of a rival group, Babatunde Olubasa from Akungba, Akoko to a popular hotel in Akure where he was murdered.
Olubasa was an Alumnus of Adekunle Ajasin University in Akungba Akoko.
It was gathered that when the bullet failed to kill him, his assailants hacked him to death at the bar of the hotel where he was having a drink.
Three days later, members of the deceased cult group in a reprisal attack, murdered two members of the killer group in Akungba in Akoko South-West council area of the state. The reprisal attack followed the murder of their leader in an Akure hotel.
One of the deceased cult members was simply known as ‘AY Killer.’ The deceased were equally trailed to a function in Akungba where they were murdered in cold blood.
We’ll curb cultists’ rampage in Ondo—Police
Speaking with Vanguard on activities of cult groups across the state, the police spokesperson, Mr. Tee Ikoro stated that the Police Commissioner, Mr. Bolaji Salami has ordered his men in the various Area Commands to investigate and unravel the killings.
Ikoro said: “We would soon get to the root of the killings and bring the perpetrators to book. The command would curb cultists’ rampage in the state.”
Osun’s fair share of cult clashes
In Osun State, three persons were reported to have died from various cult clashes and related issues across the state.
The towns, where cult clashes are most prominent, include the state capital, Osogbo, Ilesa, Ede, Iree and Ile-Ife.
One Tajudeen Azeez was killed on January 2, 2021, as a result of a clash between two cult groups at a youth carnival in Osogbo.
Similarly, one Abeeb Abifarin was confirmed dead after a superiority clash between two gangs in the Ejigbo Local Government Area of the state on December 30, 2020, where many people were allegedly injured during the crisis.
Also, on December 25, 2020, hoodlums attacked Sabo community after Basiru Saheed, the cult member had been killed and the gang embarked on candle light procession which resulted in a clash between hoodlums in the area.
In the same vein, five cultists belonging to ‘Apete Isagba’ cult were arraigned before a Magistrates’ Court for allegedly killing two persons during a clash in Ede sometime on May 12 and 14, 2020.
Also, nine people were allegedly injured after a clash between Ikoyi and Apomu in Isokan Local Government Area.
In Ilesa, four persons were feared dead during a clash between Aye and Axe cult group in the ancient town sometime last year.
During the clash, residents shut their shops and houses while banks closed their doors in areas like Olomilagbala, Ereguru, Itakogun, Okesa and Imo areas of the town.