The scourge of cultism
While the figure may be disputable, there is no doubt that many Nigerians have suffered terribly in the hands of cult gangs.
People have been brutally murdered while property worth millions have been destroyed in cult clashes.
Innocent people residing in cult-infested areas live in perpetual fear, not knowing when the hoodlums would strike.
There is need, therefore, to pay closer attention to the issue of cultism in order to weigh its ramifications and find a lasting solution.
It is commendable that the Lagos State police chief has realised the notoriety of cultists and the havoc they are causing, especially if only that would lead to more decisive action against the miscreants.
Edgal spoke the other day, at a town hall meeting with residents of Surulere in Lagos, where he disclosed that a research conducted by his officers, at his instance, on why young people join cult groups revealed that it largely gave members advantage over their peers and prevented them from being intimidated.
He blamed parents for not caring enough for their children, saying that this was responsible for the problem. He praised Surulere residents for supporting crime fighting, adding that there had been reduction in crime activities in the area.
Harping on the need for information from members of the public to the police as a way of achieving success in crime fighting in the state, Edgal urged parents and guardians to monitor their wards to prevent them from being used as thugs by politicians in the light of the forthcoming general elections.
Unusual behaviour in young people, he said, should not be ignored by parents.
The issue of secret cults, confraternities and societies has been with Nigerians for quite some time.
Since the 80s, the scourge enveloped Nigerian universities, where rival cult groups often clashed in brutal show of force.
When Professor Grace Alele-Williams was appointed the Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin, she had a full job dealing with the menace.
Despite being the first female vice chancellor of a Nigerian university, the no-nonsense professor combined courage, ingenuity and strategy to stem the growing tide of cultism, thereby sending ripples of change across tertiary institutions all over Nigeria.
But the problem did not end there. Rather than being curtailed, the malaise soon became fluid, flowing to off-campus residences.
Today, cults now have street cells and offshoots in residential communities where kids are routinely recruited from very young age.
In June 2016, there were several cases of reported clashes of cult groups in which more than 15 people were killed in Calabar, Cross River State.
That same year in Otukpo in Benue State, there were cult attacks and clashes in which scores were murdered when a cult known as Ayes (or Black Axe), Baggas, the Judges (also known as Whitees) and the Juries clashed.
Right now, Lagos appears to be the headquarters of cultism in Nigeria.
Residents of Alagbado, Olorunfunmi Street, Owronshoki, Muri Ojora Street, Ilasamaja, Mushin, Ikorodu and Amukoko, among others, live in constant fear.
Incidents of cult clashes are frequent in many parts of Lagos in which innocent people are either killed or injured.
Five notorious cult groups terrorised Nigerians in different parts of the country.
Baddoo became a plague to the people of Ikorodu and the ritual group is probably the most infamous on the list of cult groups for a long time.
Their extremely fetish practices are most alarming.
Its members break into homes and places of worship and savagely murder anyone in sight by splitting their heads with pestles.
Next is the Icelanders holed in Nigeria’s south-south with the reputation for deep-rooted occultic rituals.
Hardened criminals or older persons with potential for desperation to lead a life of crime are recruited into this group.
The Outlaws is another group in the South-South, particularly in Rivers State.
The group split from the Icelanders in 2000 after a power tussle between their leaders.
They affirm their presence in waves of extreme violence involving kidnappings, oil bunkering, assassinations and political brigandage.
The One Million Boys represents a new dimension in cultism involving mostly young boys.
This group is known for its notorious robbery activities around Lagos and surrounding towns.
Formed in Ajegunle in Lagos by a group of about 20 boys who sought to “represent” their communities, soon, the group’ objectives moved to robbery activities, rape and maiming.
Finally, the Philistines, a group of young boys aged between 14 and 19 years terrorise Somolu and Bariga suburbs in Lagos.
Residents believe that the group was formed in some secondary schools in the area on the basis of street loyalty.
Nothing else could explain the worsening wave of cultism than broken family and societal values involving both the high and low.
The worship of power, money, and other material things has eroded age-long values.
Added to this is technology in the form of Internet, mobile phones, etc, that has made inroad into people’s daily activities.
Hence, cherished Nigerian values have been lost to foreign influence.
Over and above all this is the absence of skills among the youths. The country has lost the real education and misplaced its priorities.
There is need for the authorities to rise to the challenge posed by idleness and foreign influence to see what could be salvaged from a bad situation. Governments, parents, schools and religious institutions should join forces in this endeavour.
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