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Cultists having a field day in Kwara

The rising cases of cult wars and clashes between rival cult groups in Kwara State have put residents and other stakeholders, including the security agencies,…

The rising cases of cult wars and clashes between rival cult groups in Kwara State have put residents and other stakeholders, including the security agencies, on edge.

At a one-day stakeholders’ dialogue penultimate Tuesday with the theme: “Stemming the Tide of Social Vices Among Students: A Panacea for Positive Growth”, organised by the Kwara State Government, a female secondary school student, during the question time session, stunned the audience.

Directing her question to the Kwara State Commissioner of Police (CP), Victor Olaiya, the teenager asked, “What can a person who is forced to join cultism against his will do in the university, because I have a friend who is a victim?” 

While the participants who included officials of the EFCC, National Orientation Agency (NOA), youth corps members and students from various public and private secondary and tertiary institutions in the state expressed shock over her question, the reaction of the CP brought the gravity of the situation home. 

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He said, “Don’t try to handle such a situation alone even if they threaten to kill you. We recently lost a student who was killed over a similar circumstance.” 

Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, who was represented by the Commissioner for Tertiary Education, Dr Mary Arinde, appealed to students to shun cultism and other social vices.  

She said, “Cultism, cybercrime, drug and sexual abuse, among others, set you up for uncertain future of regrets, stigmatisation, premature death and inability to attain your dreams. I am pleading that you do not engage in any of them as your parents have made huge investments to make you successful.” 

Against the backdrop of the event, Daily Trust reports that there had been some disturbing developments about the upsurge of cult activities in the state, which peaked around April/May, 2024.  

In April, the state’s police command paraded a suspected secret cult member, Ahmed Umar, alias Hollybea, for allegedly buying guns, axes and other weapons as palliatives to placate his gang members over his romance with rival cult members. 

The command said, “The suspect was tasked by his leaders to buy two guns, two axes and two cutlasses as his contribution to the group as a palliative for forgiveness for fraternising with another rival cult group.” 

A few weeks later, operatives arrested a student of the Federal Polytechnic, Bida, Niger State, with recruitment forms for a cult group in a hotel in Kwara State. 

The arrest came on the heels of a clampdown on hoodlums following cult killings in Ilọrin in which the police said over 28 suspects were arrested. 

Mr Olaiya explained that the suspect was arrested with five other suspects based on intelligence very early in the morning before confessing to the crime.

He said, “He was here with quite a large number of application and enrollment forms for would-be cultists. We suspect he came for both recruitment and operation.”

A week earlier, the police arrested three suspects over a deadly clash between two rival cult groups at Budo-Oke in the Eiyenkorin area of the state. One person was killed while two buildings were burnt down during the incident.

The spokesman of the state’s fire service, Hassan Adekunle, described the incident as “shocking”.

He said, “Investigation revealed a sinister plot as the inferno was deliberately set by rival (cult) groups engaged in a deadly confrontation. One life was lost, and the bereaved group exacted revenge by targeting the home of the opposing group’s leader, leaving two houses in ruins. In a cruel twist, the attackers prevented occupants and sympathisers from putting out the fire, ensuring maximum destruction.”

An attack in March that left one person dead and others injured resulted in the destruction of several cars in the Pakata area of Ilọrin West LGA.

According to findings, a suspected cultist, simply identified as Abiodun, had gunned down a member of a rival group named Yusuf over a disagreement.

The victim, who recently married, left a heavily pregnant wife behind. The suspect (Abiodun) fled the area after the incident and was still on the run.

The situation degenerated when the deceased’s group stormed the residences of the suspect at Gana compound, Pakata, with guns and cutlasses amid to avenge his death. Over six cars were destroyed and many people injured.

A witness said, “When the gang came, they started shooting sporadically and people were running in opposite directions. They later invaded the compound and macheted family members sighted, leaving many injured.”

Daily Trust Saturday further reports that the cult wars between rival groups in Ilọrin metropolis continued during the period of the last Eid el-Fitr in April, with several killings, maiming and destruction of property.

Although the police confirmed the killings during the clashes, they said many of the cases were not reported.

However, the command later announced the arrest of 46 suspects in connection with the clash around the Oja Oba area that further left one person dead after he was shot and another macheted.

The violent confrontation subsequently spread to other areas of the city.

The spokeswoman of the Kwara State Police Command, Toun Ejire-Adeyemi, said, “The miscreants engaged in a violent confrontation; a free-for-all, using weapons such as broken bottles and stones and guns, leading to the blockage of Baboko Road.

“Six patrol teams, supported by men of the community policing, were mobilised to quell the disturbance. 

“Fourteen out of the 46 suspects arrested have been linked to the recent cult activities in Ilorin metropolis.”

Although the combined effort of the state government and security agencies have seen the menace reduced, there are concerns ahead of the popular, usually bloody 7/7 cultists’ anniversary, in the state next month.

Previous celebrations in notable areas of the state capital were trailed by violence, death and criminal activities by members of the cult groups.

Some of the notable areas in the state capital where the cult activities have been recorded are Centre Igboro, Ibrahim Taiwo Road, Kulende, Sabo Oke, Agaka, Adabata, Eruda, Agbo Oba, Stadium Road, Irewolede I and II, Ile Onimago and Oyun.

The annual celebration is allegedly used to initiate new members or launch vengeance against perceived opponents and is usually by students of primary, secondary and higher institutions; artisans like vulcanisers, bricklayers, Okada riders and tricycle operators, among others.

In 2019, ahead of the anniversary, while the present Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kayode Ebgetokun, was the CP in the state, the police said, “Credible intelligence available to the command indicates that some criminal elements with different identities/nomenclatures have concluded plans to disrupt the peace and tranquillity currently existing in Kwara State, on 7/7, in the guise of marking the anniversary of cultism in the state.”

The then CP called on parents/guardians to monitor the activities of their children/wards, advising students to shun any suspicious gathering of young men and women in their environments and report every suspicious movement and activity of criminal elements.

Last year, a victim, identified as Abdullahi, was killed in Oke-Apomu Quarters of Ilorin metropolis in a clash preparatory to the anniversary of the 7/7 carnival. The cultists had targeted the elder brother of the victim, Ibrahim, but met Abdullahi and shot him dead. The development led to an orgy of killings, leading to the police rounding up several suspects.

Speaking with Daily Trust Saturday, Mr Olaiya said, “Over 100 suspected cultists have been arrested in the last few months in a renewed onslaught against the menace.

“Our efforts have led to some reduction in their activities, which was a very big challenge. But we are very ready for any festival, and my advice for them is to desist from it and shun cultism altogether because it will not be palatable. We have a very good anti-cultism team in place now. We tried to put their ugly heads behind bars and then it rose again around March/April/May with over 100 of them arrested and remanded. But we are not folding our arms.”

He particularly sought the synergy of the judiciary to curb the problem.

He further said, “Our observation is that these killings rise shortly after the (suspects) are granted bail and released by the courts following our harvest of arrests.”

Putting the situation into perspective, Olaiya explained to our correspondent that, “Between September ending and October, when I came last year, cultism was very high and the killings were daily. 

“By the middle of October, we were able to arrest about 14 of them and keep them at Oke-Kura until February, 2024. Suddenly the court granted all of them bail in the third week in February, and since then we were back to square one and recording these cases again and again.

“But we are not folding our arms. We didn’t expect that (their release) because most of them were held for very severe offences which are not ordinarily bailable. But there is an understanding now between the police and judiciary that we have a common problem, and some of these cases are complicated and long. And the least we both can do is to ensure we are not in a hurry to let them be on the streets again.” 

 

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