•Student cultists on the rampage in A/Ibom
•Inside the street robberies, gang fights
By Vincent Ujumadu, Chioma Onuegbu, Shina Abubakar, Peter Duru, James Ogunnaike, Deola Badru, Rotimi Ojomoyela, Aliyu Ozioruva & Egufe Yafugborhi
Residents of some parts of Benue, Ekiti, Anambra, Ogun, Osun, Edo, Rivers, A’Ibom, Lagos, Rivers and Delta states are at the mercy of cultists as scores have been murdered in the last 12 months.
Apart from the dead, many have been maimed, raped and robbed in the incidents in identified states.
The trend, known as street cultism, plays out in the form of gang fights and street robberies.
Checks revealed that perpetrators, mostly youths, constitute themselves into terror gangs, traumatizing residents and passersby in affected areas.
They were found to often operate unchallenged.
In the last year, many states, especially those highlighted, have witnessed a spike in cult-related clashes, which left sorrow, tears and blood on their trail.
Cultism isn’t new in Nigeria, but street cultism has emerged as the latest form of gang violence threatening many neighbourhoods, especially in southern part of the country.
According to a report by a Non-Governmental Organisation, Exams Ethics Marshall International, EEMI, no fewer than 10,000 people were killed in cult-related violence within and outside school campuses between 1996 and 2019.
There are no official statistics on the number of those killed on a yearly basis.
Last year, the Police buttressed this absence of official data amid increasing deaths when Anambra State Police Commissioner, Mr Chris Owolabi, said 90 per cent of cult-related deaths in Nigeria are not documented.
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However, findings by Sunday Vanguard in 11 states that appear as flashpoints in the country indicated that no fewer than 100 cult-related deaths have been recorded in the last year.
AKWA IBOM: SS3 and SS2 students
The involvement of youths in cult-related killings and violent behaviours remains one of the challenges faced by security agents in Akwa Ibom State.
The situation, which led to the loss of lives and destruction of properties in almost every community across the state, forced the government to proscribe 65 cult groups in March 2020.
This included those of secondary schools and tertiary institutions.
Recall that the Akwa Ibom State government had shut down indefinitely Government Technical College, Ewet in Uyo Local Government Area due to cult-related violence.
Government intervention, which included granting amnesty to youths in affected communities, however, calmed the violent attacks and activities in the rural communities.
Recently, on March 10, 2022, a similar incident occurred in Community Comprehensive Secondary School Aka Offot in Uyo Local Government Area, which led to the indefinite closure of the school by the government.
One Samuel Effiong, Archibong, aka Benzema, an SS3 student, had, during a fight, stabbed an SS2 student of Community Comprehensive Secondary Schoo, Aka Offot, in Uyo, identified as James Elijah Adoke, 18, to death with a knife.
Findings revealed that there had been a cult-related rivalry between SS3 and SS2 students of the public secondary school.
Investigation showed that some popular public secondary schools in the state capital are notorious for violence.
They include West Itam Secondary School, in Itu LGA, Community Comprehensive Secondary School, Uyo, Government Technical College, Ewet, Uyo, Uyo High School, Uyo, Four Towns Secondary School, Uyo, and Government Secondary School, Etoi, Uyo.
BENUE: 11 deaths in one year
Makurdi, Benue State capital, is the epicentre of the cult-related crisis in the state.
Otukpo, Ogbadibo, Okpokwu, Apa and Gboko Local Government Areas, LGAs, also witness such occurrences.
In Makurdi, North Bank and Wadata top the list of areas with a high volume of cult clashes.
Residents witness one form of attack or the other among rival cult groups.
They suffer losses due to the activities of these cult gangs. Some areas have become no-go areas in the state.
One of such places is SRS Junction in North Bank. That particular axis has become synonymous with cult clashes. Other dreaded places include Yogbo, Wadata and Asase. Cult-related activities have almost become a daily occurrence in Benue.
In the last year, the state has recorded more than 11 deaths resulting from the activities of cultists.
In March 2021, three young men were murdered at Adoba community, Otukpa, in Ogbadibo LGA.
In that particular instance, the crisis started during a birthday party attended by some young men from Obu and Odobo communities.
It later spread to Adoba community, leading to the razing of several houses and the murder of the victims.
According to a witness, trouble started when rival cult boys got into an argument at the party.
And the ensuing fight led to the death of a young man from Obu community who was stabbed during the fight.
In July 2021, a 17-year-old-boy was killed in another rival gang fight.
7/7 Confraternity Day
It was gathered that the crisis broke out when youths were celebrating 7/7 Confraternity Day at Ugbokpo, Apa Local Government headquarters but it became bloody after they engaged each other during which the victim was shot.
The death of the teenager triggered the reaction which led to the burning down of a monarch’s house.
Last September, four persons were also hacked to death in a supremacy fight between members of two rival gangs at the Mkar area of Gboko and Gboko Central Area, in Gboko LGA.
Among those murdered was one Vershima Benda alias Ter Kwande, who was killed at his uncle’s residence.
Again, in January 2022, three young men were shot dead in a rival cult clash in the Gyado Villa area of Makurdi town populated by varsity students.
It was gathered that the clash, which occurred at a drinking spot, left two persons dead on the spot while the third, who sustained a serious gunshot injury, died at the hospital where he was taken for medical attention.
Bothered by the escalating cult-related clashes in parts of the state, the Ortom administration, in May 2017, enacted a law titled, Law Prohibiting Abduction, Hostage-Taking/Kidnapping, Cultism and Similar Activities, in the state.
The law was intended to stem the tide of cultism and related vices in the state by prescribing 10 years’ jail term for offenders.
The legislation was expected to deter members of the gangs from their activities, but it appears the reverse is the case.
OGUN: 27 killed in 12 months
The high rate of cultism in different parts of Ogun State has assumed an alarming rate. Cultism is prevalent in primary and secondary schools.
In the first term of the 2021/2022 session, some pupils were caught engaging in bloody fights which led to the abrupt closure of some schools by the government.
In the last year, no fewer than 27 persons have been killed in different cult clashes across Ogun.
On January 12, 2021, the state police command paraded suspected members of Eiye Confraternity for killing one Michael Jayeola, a member of a rival cult group, Aiye Confraternity.
The police said both confraternities had been terrorizing Ijebu-Ode and the environs.
It said Eiye members trailed Jaiyeola to the Ijebu-Mushin market and shot him. They also cut off his right hand.
Afterwards, the police arrested five members of the Eiye Confraternity. The arrested suspects are Debo Ademola, Adebisi Idowu, Kehinde Adebisi, Abimbola Idowu and Quadri Femi.
On January 27, 2021, 25 suspected members of the Buccaneer cult and three herbalists were arrested during an alleged initiation ceremony in Abeokuta.
The police, while parading the suspects, revealed that the herbalists were conducting the initiation for the cult members when they were arrested.
On February 12, 2021, 10 suspected cultists were arrested in Ogijo in Sagamu LGA.
On July 10, 2021, another three suspected cultists were arrested in Igbesa, in the Ado-Odo/Ota Local Government Area of the state.
In early November 2021, a Divisional Police Officer, DPO, in Abeokuta, Mr Ignatius Alimeke, and three students were reportedly injured during clashes involving rival cult groups operating in two public secondary schools in Abeokuta.
Also, on November 21, 2021, two persons were arrested in Ago-Iwoye in Ijebu North LGA for allegedly initiating an unwilling student of Olabisi Onabanjo University into the Eiye Confraternity.
On December 15, 2021, three suspected cultists were arrested at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library in Abeokuta.
The suspects were nabbed while trying to force their way into the venue of an event organised by the graduating students of Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta.
Similarly, on February 22, 2022, five suspected cultists, who had been on the wanted list of the state police command, were arrested along Molipa Road, Ijebu Ode.
Reacting to the ugly trend, a parent, Adebisi Adekola, attributed the spike in cultism to the failure of parental responsibilities and the breakdown of moral values in the society.
He called on the state government to come out with stringent measures to combat the menace.
A school proprietor, Mrs Adedoja Ogundele, called for moral education to be included in the education curriculum, adding that religious leaders should intensify efforts in making sure the right messages are preached at places of worship.
Sunday Vanguard recalls that Governor Dapo Abiodun had, while launching OP MESA, warned cultists to desist from the evil acts or face the wrath of the law.
EKITI: Monarch lays curses on cultists Cultism is also an issue of concern in Ekiti State.
On January 13, at about 8:30 pm, in Iworoko-Ekiti, a community located at the outskirts of Ado-Ekiti, two people lost their lives in a free-for-all that lasted for about two hours.
Similarly, on April 18, 2021, in Ikere-Ekiti, six persons were said to have died in a bloody clash between suspected members of Aiye and Eiye confraternities.
The bloody clash, which left residents mourning, occurred during a wedding ceremony in the Odo-Oja area of the town.
It was learnt that a prominent indigene of the town, who is also a notable member of Eiye Confraternity, aka “Oju Ale”, had come into the town from Port Harcourt to attend the wedding ceremony.
He was said to have arrived at the venue of the celebration in the company of his girlfriend, an alleged member of a female cult, Jezebel.
Oju Ale was said to have been killed at the event, making his fellow cult members go on the rampage in search of members of other cult groups in the town to avenge his death.
At the end of the face-off, which lasted about two hours, six persons were said to have been killed.
Reacting to the killings, the traditional ruler of the town, the Ogoga of Ikere-Ekiti, Oba Adejimi Adu, threatened to lay curses on cultists in the town.
A month later, another incident occurred in the town, which claimed the lives of two persons.
The incident prompted the monarch of the community to embark on traditional rites across the town.
OSUN:Ede, Ilesa, others threatened
Osun has constantly been referred to as one of the most peaceful states in the country, but emerging violent cult clashes now threaten lives and property.
Over 30 persons were reported dead in several cult clashes in the last 12 months.
13 persons were killed in Ilesa within the period under review, 12 were murdered in Osogbo, Ede, 3, Modakeke, 3, and Ejigbo, 2.
Most of those killed or arrested are either teenagers or in their early 20s.
Some of the major black spots for cult activities in Osogbo include Egbatedo, Oke-Abesu, Asoje, Kolawole, Sabo, Old-Garage, Owode, Isale-Agbara and Oke-Baale.
Recently, the Timi of Ede, Oba Munirudeen Lawal, urged Osun State government to declare war against cultism in the town. The monarch described the situation as pathetic, saying residents no longer sleep with their two eyes closed.
The monarch said, “The security situation in Ede is pathetic and unbearable. It has degenerated to a level where everybody is vulnerable to attack and injuries.
“Community members are being threatened physically, psychologically, emotionally and economically. Nobody can sleep with his or her two eyes closed. In Ede, the sun sets at dawn.
“It is, therefore, very imperative that government swings into action to avoid further loss of lives and property.”
Shop owners at Fagbewasa, Oluode and Kolawole in the town had, at various times, fallen victim to cult clashes.
Worried by the spate of killings, the state government has vowed to bring perpetrators to justice.
The Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation, Funke Egbemode, said the government would not fold its arms and watch miscreants torment the citizenry.
“The current spate of killings in Ilesa and Ede are cult-related, and the security architecture of the state has briefed the governor”, Egbemode said.
“But since security strategies are not issues to be discussed in the media, the government cannot disclose details of what its operatives are doing.
Similarly, Osun Amotekun Corps Commandant, Brigadier-General Bashir Adewimbi, retd, said: “We have been tackling cultists in some parts of the state capital. And we would not hesitate to repeat a similar feat in other towns.”
ANAMBRA: Cultists on the loose
AS unknown gunmen continue to terrorize parts of the South-East, cult groups have also been making life unbearable and causing havoc in Anambra State.
The menace of cultism in the state is such that even secondary school students, tricycle and commercial motorcycle operators and traders partake in it.
The resultant effect is that human lives are wasted almost daily as rival cult groups confront each other.
This year alone, over 50 people are said to have been killed by rival cult groups and it appears that the more people that are killed, the more daring the groups become.
Recently, in the sleepy community of Ebenebe in Awka North LGA, no fewer than 16 persons were killed, most of them cultists, when some people, armed to the teeth, invaded a burial ceremony in broad daylight in the rural community.
DELTA: Sapele, Udu, Agbarho are hot spots
Like in most states in the South, cultism is prevalent among both young and middle-aged people in Delta State.
While other parts of the state do not witness large-scale disturbances, residents of Delta Central and South are literally at the mercy of cultists, who kill and maim at will.
Sapele, Ughelli, Udu, Agbarho, Ekrovie, Ekrabe, Ekrejebe, Akoto and Adanibo are known as hot spots.
In Asaba, the hotbeds include Umuagu, Umu-Uda, Umuezei, Ogbeoswe, Ikpoto and across Koka by Ibusa Road.
The polytechnic town of Ogwashi-Uku is a theatre of cult clashes. In the last year, many have lost their lives owing to the activities of cultists in the state.
RIVERS: We are taming cult violence —CP Eboka
Unlike a few years ago, cult-related violence is decreasing in Rivers State.
Notwithstanding the significant drop, pockets of incidents still occur. Speaking to Sunday Vanguard on the matter, National Coordinator, Centre for Basic Rights Protection And Accountability Campaign, CEBARIAC, Prince Wiro, said the gradual decline in cultism started two years ago.
He said: “Between May and June last year, at the Railway Line, Diobu, the police confirmed four persons dead within 48 hours as two rival groups clashed.
“There are five major cult groups in Rivers under which a pocket of less influential sets are affiliated. You have the Icelanders, Greenlanders, the Deywell, aka JVC (Junior Vikings), Deybalm and, of late, Mend.
“So, in every local government area or suburbs, one of these cults dominates the others.
“Without dominating, you can’t benefit from financial leverages open to cult these gangs.
“So many times, fatal incidents result from supremacy battles among the various groups.”
Disclosing how security operatives have been able to curb cult violence, Rivers State Police Commissioner, Mr Friday Eboka, said: “It has been through a commitment to professionalism.
“We are firm in handling incidents. We don’t play with suspects we arrest. When we arrest you, we make sure you are charged to court after diligent investigation and we follow the case conscientiously.
“Any policeman found wanting in the line of duty is properly dealt with.
“If policemen see their leader as a serious person, they follow in his footsteps. While punishing those not doing well, we also reward excellence among our hardworking personnel.
“Vigilantes in Rivers are the unsung heroes in the fight against cultism.
“These are voluntary groups involving local youths.
“Some of them are repentant cultists, who know the terrain better and provide immense support to the police.
“Most kingpins of cults caught so far, including Boboski, were apprehended by vigilantes before the police took over.”
EDO: United by Yahoo-Yahoo
In Edo State, cultism is prevalent among students of secondary and tertiary institutions. But clashes no longer occur like in the past when residents were at the mercy of cultists.
An investigation by Sunday Vanguard indicated that three factors were responsible for the reduction in violent cult clashes in the state.
They include public enlightenment, the establishment of a vigilante network by the state government and curiously, indulgence in internet fraud, popularly called Yahoo-Yahoo.
Surprisingly, Yahoo Yahoo has united different cult groups as they share the same objective of defrauding people.
These groups are found in areas notorious for cult clashes. They include Upper Sakponba, Ekosodin and Igboba Hill.
LAGOS: Cultists operate unchallenged
Residents of satellite communities in Lagos are the worst affected by street cultism.
In Iyana Ipaja, Shomolu, Bariga, Abule-Egba, Egbeda, Lumak and Ijegun areas of Satellite Town, Igando, Ojo, Ketu, Mile 12, Ikorodu, Ibeju Lekki, and Iba, residents are often attacked by cultists.
In the Lumak and Ijegun areas of Satellite Town, cultists operate unchallenged at any time.
People are daily robbed of valuables while women are often raped by hoodlums, who reside in the community.