While some states in North West and North Central Nigeria contend with banditry and kidnapping, more than a dozen states in the southern part of the country suffer from cult killings. Between April 2021 and April 2022, 281 people were killed in fierce cult attacks across 20 states. The states include Anambra which tops the chart with 41 cult killings, Benue 34, Lagos 29, Rivers 26, Delta 26, Cross River 23, Ogun 17, Akwa Ibom 17, Osun 14, Bayelsa, 9 and Imo 9. Anambra and Ogun states, in recent months, became notorious for cult killings.
In February this year, at least 20 people were killed when suspected cultists invaded a burial in Ebenebe, Awka North Local Government Area of Anambra State. They also desecrated the corpse of a suspected member, identified as Ozo, which had been prepared for burial. In recent weeks, Ogun became the epicentre of cultism and ritual killings. Between 2019 and 2022, no fewer than 64 people were killed in various violent clashes among cult groups in Ogun State.
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In the latest onslaught, 16 persons were killed in Abeokuta including a kingpin identified as Tommy, who was hacked down at Panseke in a renewed cult war. Tommy ruled streets of Oluwo, Onikolobo, Adigbe and Panseke areas of Abeokuta. Tommy’s assailants tracked him to the chaotic Pankese area at night, stabbed him in the head and left him to die in the pool of his blood.
Responding to the clashes between the Eiye and Aiye cult groups in Ogun State that lasted for over a week, President Muhammadu Buhari, in a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, directed the police and other law enforcement agencies to confront groups seeking to destroy peace.
Governor of Ogun State Adedapo Abiodun had, in January this year, re-launched the state joint security outfit, code-named OP-MESA, where he threatened to make Ogun inhabitable for all criminals. In February 2022, Abiodun signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with his Oyo State counterpart, Seyi Makinde, in Abeokuta, where he declared that criminals were after his life because he was “making life unbearable for them”.
Cultism suggests nothing but evil. It involves the coming together of a group with deviant beliefs and practices that are not only exclusively kept away from the knowledge of others but such activities are carried out at odd hours of the day. Some plausible causes of cultism include peer group influence, parental background, drug and substance addiction, societal decadence, poor education standards, loneliness and the lack of recreational facilities.
In Nigerian tertiary institutions, for instance, Black Axe, Buccaneers, Vikings, Aro Mates, Supreme Eiye, Black Eye, Black Beret, Black Bra, Daughters of Jezebel are common names of cult groups. Their common features of identity include initiation through the use of blood or inscription of marks on the bodies of new members; oath-taking; and the use of specific colour as group symbol. It is in the character of cult members to engage in armed robbery, sexual assault, drug abuse, examination malpractice, harassment and bullying of students, and intimidating lecturers for grades.
Cultism has continued to survive partly because of the patronage from the society including politicians who use cultists either as hit men during elections or for assassinating political opponents. While some become cultists in their search for protection, others join cult groups to avenge an assault or a painful past. Some students become cultists out of the desire to become “Big Boys” and superior to their peers.
To halt the rising tide of cultism, parents must give more quality time and attention to their children’s moral development than they give to their businesses or office work. Good parenting requires bridging all communication gaps between parents and their children. To de-radicalise our youths, we call on the National Universities Commission (NUC) to make moral education a General Studies (GST) course for all students of tertiary institutions in the country.
As we recently reiterated on this page, only concrete security measures, not empty directives, would rescue the country from the security challenges confronting it. Government must demonstrate genuine political will to protect lives from cult attacks. The need to deploy modern technology in surveillance, intelligence and detective operations of security agencies cannot be more strategic than now when criminal elements have become more sophisticated.
If “an idle mind” as they say “is a devil’s workshop”, local governments in the country are advised to provide recreational and sports facilities that would keep the army of jobless young boys and girls in their localities busy. While we call on state governments to seasonally organise inter-schools or inter-LGAs sports competitions, we also urge them to support schools with basic sporting equipment. We encourage the NDLEA to sustain its ongoing offensive against drug peddling and abuse, just as we urge the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to, as part of its mandate; orientate the Nigerian public on the sacredness of human life.