By Evelyn Usman
Four hundred and fifty-six suspected cult members of different cult groups that had been terrorising Lagos were arrested last year.
While some of the arrests were made during supremacy clashes among rival groups, others were arrested for offences ranging from robbery, rape and murder.
Statistics at Vanguard Metro’s disposal showed that 397 of them were arrested between January and August 2021, while 59 were arrested in the last quarter of the year.
Suspected members of Aiye and Eiye confraternities recorded the highest number of arrest, closely followed by the Awawa Boys and One Million Boys gangs which hitherto unleashed mayhem on members of the public with an uncanny bravado.
Law on cultism
With these arrests, the reign of terror and atrocious acts of cult groups and gangsters in Lagos State may soon become a thing of the past, as a bill with stringent punishment for cultists and those aiding and abetting them, was passed into law last year by the Lagos State House of Assembly.
This move became expedient due to the arrant disregard for constituted authority and the orgy of killings associated with activities of cultists.Before the bill was passed into law, arrested cult members who were charged to court, returned to the society after spending between three to six months in prison, to continue from where they stopped. But that will no longer be, as the law stipulates between seven and 21 years jail term for culprits .
Punishment also extends to members of the public who keep mum over activities of cultists in their communities without reporting same to security agencies for prompt action. Recall that in July 2020, a video clip went viral on social media where a 20-year-old man identified simply as Ahmed, had his hands tied to the back while some members of a rival group released volleys of bullets on him until they were certain he was dead. Findings revealed that some farmers around the scene that day, declined to avail the Police information that would have helped in their investigation.
15-year jail term for landlords
With this new law, such indivudals may share from the punishment. While 21 years imprisonment is for the cultists in section 2(1)(3)(a)(e), section 4 of the same law prescribes 15 years for formation of unlawful society.
Findings by Vanguard Metro revealed that hotels are mainly used for cult activities, especially for initiation of new members. In this case, gullible and unsuspecting persons are invited to a birthday party or any other social gathering, only to end up being forcefully initiated.Targets cut across both sexes.
In some cases, females are subjected to gang rape, as part of initiation rites into the group. But with the new law in place, owners of such facilities are liable to seven years imprisonement and likely forefiture of thier facilities.
Investigation also revealed that in areas like Ajagbadi, Okokomaiko, Jakande Estate, Oke-Afa, Ejigbo, Ikotun, Satellite Town, Amukoko, Badagry, among others, the practice of forceful initiation into cult groups prevail. While some members use subtle means to cajole new members, others resort to harassment and intimidation.
In section 6 of the law, attempt to compel a person attracts 15 years imprisonement,while parents and guadians who have knowledge of thier wards’ activities with unlawful society but fail to report to the Police is punishable with two years imprisonment, under section 16.
7yrs jail term for those who join, administer oath
Section 6 subsection (1) (2) which is on administration of oath of membership of unlawful society or cult, states that anyone who administers oath on new members during initiation risks seven years jail term, as well as those who gave consent to be members.
Penalty for students on campuses
Although cultism has been proscribed in tertiary institutions nationwide with a penalty of rustication for any student found culpable, however, cult activities are still ongoing in the citadels of learning.In Lagos State, the law stipulates punishment of seven years, 15 and 21 years jail term respectively , for any student who joins cult in any of the campuses.Section 7(1) (2) and section 10(1) to (5) which is on prohibition and prescription of unregistered society on campuses, warned students not to belong to any group or society that is not registered with the Student Affairs Department of the educational institutions.
Checks by Vanguard Metro confirmed that communities where cult groups like Awawa and One Million Boys gangs hitherto held sway, had not received any letter of threat of invasion by these groups in the last five months.
A community leader in Shibiri, Ato-Awori Local Government Development Council, Pa Tajudeen Olowojoba, said: “I believe the new law is working because the One Million Boys gang which usually operated in 100s have not written any letter to anyone in this community. Before, they would write to inform us that they were coning. Indeed, they would come and raid the community successfully before leaving.”
AIG Odumosu speaks
When asked what the Command had on ground to tackle cultism in Lagos, Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Police Command, AIG Hakeem Odumosu, responded: “I can beat my chest to say that the hydra-headed menace of cultism in the state has nosedived with the full implementation of the provisions of the newly enacted Prohibition of Membership of Unlawful Societies and Cults Law of Lagos State 2021When we came in, there was this issue of One million Boys, No Salary Boys and Awawa Boys, terrorising Lagos. They sent messages to communities in Lagos announcing that they were coming.We did what we had to do under the law and today, you cannot hear of Awawa Boys, One Million Boys or No Salary Boys in Lagos because we went fully after them and we tackled them according to the law of the land.
“When I came in, the punishment for cultism in Lagos was only about three months and six months imprisonment or an option of fine. I had to cry out to Mr Governor and the state Assembly. Today, many bills signed into law by the state governor have assisted us greatly in keeping Lagos State safe. One of the major ones is the one against unlawful/illegal society otherwise called cultism. The law has made so many people to be responsible and to be cautious.For example, if there is any cult activity in a place and the Police gets there, if you allow fleeing cultists to run into your apartment but prevent the Police from entering, that is aiding and abetting. We have been enforcing this and that is why activities of cultists have gone down in Lagos.
“Twenty-two (22) cases of cultism were recorded and arrest of 397 suspects was made in the first and second quarters of last year while 59 were arrested in the last quarter. 349 of the cultists have been arraigned before the court while investigation into the cases involving others is yet to be concluded.Among those arrested were Lukemon Saludeen and Salami Sadiq, who confessed to be memebrs of Aiye confraternity. They were arrested at Ibeju-Lekki for the alleged killing of one Nurudeen Adeosun.
“Also arrested was the number 1 of the Aiye confraternity in Emure, Ikorodu area of Lagos, a locally made double barrel pistol, six expended cartridges, two cut-to-size gun, one barrel long gun and one dane gun with two expended cartridges were recovered from him and other arrested members of his cult group.”