Within the space of a week, suspected cultists belonging to rival groups went on killing spree with record of about 16 deaths. In this report, Daily Trust chronicles said cult war in the state in nearly three years of the present administration.
The name ‘Tommy’ in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, evokes fear and trembling, bringing to mind the image of an audacious ‘area boy’ who ruled streets of Oluwo, Onikolobo, Adigbe and Panseke areas of the metropolis. The areas are largely occupied by students.
He was regarded as a ‘cult’ kingpin, promoted to a transport union leader and later became a law unto himself.
And when he was hacked down on Thursday night, at Panseke, in a renewed cult war, the action sent jitters down the spines of residents and traders in the areas. Murder of such a street lord usually brews reprisal attacks.
Sources said the assailants, who have reportedly been on his trail, tracked him to the chaotic Pankese at night, stabbed him in the head and other parts of the body, and left him to die, in the pool of his blood.
Expectedly, his murder on Friday morning threw Oluwo, Adigbe, Onikoko and Panseke areas of Abeokuta metropolis into tension over fear of reprisal attacks. Shops and residential buildings were under lock and key, momentarily. The students’ populated environment seems deserted as many began planning to travel to their various homes.
Within a few days, 16 people were shot, following the renewed cult war which spread from Abeokuta to other parts of the state.
Worrying security situation
Ogun, the once peaceful state, has turned into the epicenter of insecurity with cultism, kidnapping and ritual killings topping the chart. Hardly a day would pass without a report of crime from the Gateway State.
Crimes ranging from ritual killing, kidnapping, rape, highway robbery, internet crimes, murder and cultism, have put the state on the edge.
On April 1, 2021, Governor Dapo Abiodun inaugurated the state security outfit, the Amotekun Corps, as part of efforts to stem the tide of insecurity in the state.
And in January this year, he re-launched the state joint security outfit, code-named OP-MESA, where he threatened to make Ogun “inhabitable for all criminals.” Also in February, 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 “I am making life unbearable for them”.
The governor had also donated 55 patrol vehicles and equipment to the police.
The governor presented the vehicles and other equipment to the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, in Abeokuta, last year.
The equipment are: 200 bullet proof vests, 20 helmets and communication gadgets.
However, criminals appeared to have defied the governor’s rhetoric and security measures put in place, by consistently disrupting the peace in the state.
Cult clashes in daylight
Abeokuta, Ijebu-Ode, Sagamu and other metropolises are gradually becoming ‘battlefields’ where cultists carry out their nefarious activities with no holds barred. This is contrary to days when cultists carried out their deadly clashes at night.
On a Tuesday in November last year, a group of cultists chased a victim on a motorcycle until he was hacked to death at the popular Kuto in Abeokuta around 2:30pm.
Eyewitnesses told Daily Trust the hoodlums wearing masks and in a convoy of about three bikes had chased the young man from the NNPC – under a bridge along Oke Mosan road, to the densely populated Kuto area.
Some of the hoodlums got hold of the victim at the Kuto junction while navigating the garage route and matcheted him on the head, leading to pandemonium in the area.
Some traders, okada riders and cab drivers reportedly scampered for safety, just as the suspected cultists were said to have hopped on their bikes and disappeared into thin air.
That same day, another young man, simply identified as Alagbole, was killed by the same gang at Elite road, Abeokuta, in the full glare of traders and passers-by.
The cultists threw a section of Abeokuta into confusion by parading the metropolis on about three motorcycles with weapons without any regard for security agents.
Investigations revealed that no fewer than 64 persons were killed in various clashes between cult groups in different parts of the state between 2019 and 2022.
In December 2020, about 20 people were killed in bloody clashes between two rival cultists groups in some parts of Ijebu – Ode in Ogun State.
Sources told our correspondent that clashes claimed lives of innocent residents of the area.
The cultists reportedly engaged in daylight shooting of their rival cult group members, and in the process stray bullets killed some innocent residents in the area.
Local sources told our correspondent that the areas affected included Epe garage, Ejinrin road, Adefisan, Ibadan garage, Onirugba and Tatina, old Benin-Ondo road among others.
According to the Police, of 2,735 suspects arrested between July and December 2020 in the state, 227 are “cultists.”
In the latest onslaught, 16 people have been killed. The cult war claimed the lives of Tommy, the popular ‘area boy’ and about seven others in Abeokuta.
The clashes in less than 48 hours spread from Abeokuta to Sagamu, where no fewer than eight persons were reportedly killed on Monday.
As of Sunday night, locals in Panseke, Onikolobo, Oluwo, Adigbe fled for dear lives as gunshots rent the air.
Though the police said 18 persons have been arrested, calm seems not to have been restored as the crisis has now escalated to Sagamu, Remo axis of Ogun.
A source told our correspondent that one Akeem, an electrician, was killed at Ajegunle area of Sagamu around 7am.
It was also gathered that some of the victims were murdered in places like Soyindo, Ijagba, Ajegunle and Sabo; all in Sagamu.
Also on Wednesday afternoon, one Dare Ojugbele, suspected to be a member of the Eiye cult group, was also killed in Ilaro, Yewa south local government area of the state.
Ojugbele was shot dead by two gun-carrying men.
Police threaten landlords
The Police spokesman in the state, Abimbola Oyeyemi, confirmed the cult clashes, but was silent on the number of casualties.
Oyeyemi, however, threatened that the police would deal with all cultists in the state.
He said the command would also arrest and prosecute landlords harbouring cultists, even as he charged parents to warn their children.
Oyeyemi said the Commissioner of Police, Lanre Bankole, has ordered that any landlord whose house was used as either meeting points or residential areas by cultists in the state would be charged to court alongside the criminals.
He said: “Any house that is harbouring any of these criminals, the landlord of such a house will be seriously dealt with. They cannot continue harbouring them and now coming out intermittently to wreak havoc. Are they pretending they don’t know them?
“They are meeting somewhere within the community. Once we fold our arms and keep quiet, they will continue to unleash terror.
“The Commissioner has directed that any landlord who is harbouring any of these hoodlums is going to be charged alongside them whenever we get them arrested”.
While the supremacy battle was on, Police Command said it had uncovered “a clandestine move by some disgruntled elements to infiltrate the motorcycle union and cause breach of public peace.”
Oyeyemi said the group is claiming to be a faction of one of the legally recognised motorcycle unions in the state without any legal backing.
He reiterated the command’s commitment to maintain peace and order as well as protection of life and properties of the good and law-abiding citizens of the State.
Governor orders security heads to relocate to hotspots
Meanwhile, Governor Abiodun had ordered the State Commissioner of Police, Commander, 35 Artillery Brigade and the Director, State Security Service (DSS) to relocate their operations to Sagamu and fish out those involved in the recent cult activities in the town.
Abiodun, in a statement, said: “Our youths must resist the temptation to go into cultism and similar vices. This administration has invested heavily in programmes and activities designed to equip our youths with the necessary skills and education that could make their future better, as part of our Building Our Future Together agenda. They should not endanger that future by getting involved in crime.
“Parents and guardians must also ensure that their children and wards stay away from criminality,” the governor said.