Wednesday, 29th November 2023

Sagamu killings: Steady search of remedy against the menace

By Dare Odufowokan
23 September 2023   |   4:23 am
On Wednesday night, security operatives in Ogun State announced that six suspected cultists, allegedly involved in the deadly cult clashes that erupted in Sagamu at the weekend, have been tracked to and arrested at the official residence of a member of the state House of Assembly.

Governor Abiodun

On Wednesday night, security operatives in Ogun State announced that six suspected cultists, allegedly involved in the deadly cult clashes that erupted in Sagamu at the weekend, have been tracked to and arrested at the official residence of a member of the state House of Assembly. Hon. Damilare Bello Mohammed, the member, representing Sagamu State Constituency 1, arrested along with the suspects, was alleged to have provided shelter to the fleeing cultists.

Those arrested with him include Debo Animashaun, Bamidele Saheed, Ismaila Onitire, Adewale Otesanya and Tobi Owoade. Sagamu, a major town in the East senatorial district of the state had been thrown into violence for days as cult groups engaged themselves in attacks and counter attacks, leasing to the death of some persons.

The Ogun State Police Command confirmed the killing of about eight persons in Sagamu during the senseless clashes by the rival cult groups. Nine suspects were earlier arrested in relationship with the killings, according to the Police.

“About nine suspects have been arrested as we speak with evidences of their involvement in the killings. Two guns and some rounds of cartridges with evidences that they were recently fired, were recovered from the suspects,” Police said.

Not a few people were taken aback when the State’s Commissioner of Police, Abiodun Alamutu, said preliminary investigations revealed the remote cause of the clashes to be a land transaction that took place in the town.

“A land was sold and some form of commission or settlement was paid to a cult group by the owner of the land. A rival cult group got to know about the payment and went after members of the other group in a bid to get a share of the commission,” the Police boss said.

One of those who felt pained to the marrow and reiterated their belief that the killings were avoidable, is Governor Dapo Abiodun. Governor Abiodun, who has been at the forefront of the battle against cultism in Ogun since he assumed office in 2019, was greatly saddened by the development.

Determined to see an end to the senseless killings and wanton destructions that characterise activities of cult groups, Governor Abiodun went all out to reiterate his earlier position that he will not condone criminalities of any type within the state.

In line with his resolve to change the face of the war against cultism in the state, the governor promptly ordered a crack down on cultists in Sagamu. He left no one in doubt that he wants security agencies in the state to rid Sagamu and other parts of the state of the menace of cultists and cult-related activities.

The police and sister security agencies were promptly given matching orders to deal ruthlessly and decisively with those directly or indirectly involved in the violence that played out in Sagamu, as the governor vowed that those responsible for this current crisis will find themselves to blame.

“As a responsible and responsive government, we are very sad with the resurgence of activities of criminal elements under different outlawed groups, raising unnecessary tension in the sleepy town of Sagamu and it’s environs.

“Let me categorically state that we are more than determined to put an end quickly to these nefarious activities of these hoodlums and enemies of our people; who are hellbent to truncate the peace of our land.

“Let these urchins be rest assured that the State will be too hot for them to operate as we are reevaluating the security architecture for greater surveillance and tactical operation,” Governor Abiodun said in the wake of the crisis.

While it is not possible to isolate what happened in Sagamu from previous cult clashes within the town and other parts of the state, the response of the current administration has assured many residents of the state that the time may have finally come for a collective war against killer sect groups in Ogun State.

To many observers of the actions of Governor Abiodun since the clashes broke out, he is showing readiness to lead the war and rid Ogun of the menace that cultism has become across the state. The hard stance of Governor Abiodun is fast encouraging other stakeholders to see the need for them to join in the renewed fight against the needless banditry that cultism has become.

To the good people of Ogun State, it was heartwarming when the governor mooted the idea of a new security approach to be implemented in collaboration with the traditional institution, community and religious leaders, youth groups as well as other critical stakeholders, in the war against cultism and related criminalities in the state.

It was an obviously saddened Dapo Abiodun who appealed to the people of Sagamu to provide adequate and useful information to security agents for prompt response to prevent future occurrences. According to the Governor, the success of the new security initiative largely rely on the readiness and participation of the people themselves.

Unrelenting in his determined move against the menace of cultism, Governor Abiodun elicited widespread applause within and outside the state during the week when he said his administration would soon enact a law that will pronounce the death penalty on anyone caught engaging in cult activities in the state. He revealed this last Tuesday at a meeting with the Paramount Ruler of Remoland, Oba Babatunde Ajayi, and his chiefs at the Akarigbo Palace in Sagamu.

“I have discussed with the Attorney General perhaps it is our disposition that allows for these occurrences of heinous crimes. It is well within my powers as the governor of this State to pronounce the death penalty on people and we are going to ensure that we enact that because when people appreciate and understand the consequences of their behaviours, perhaps they will begin to have a rethink.

We will no longer refer to these people as cultists or any other name. We are pronouncing them as murderers and we will mete out punishments that are deserving to murderers,” the governor said.

Declaring cultism and related criminal activities as economic sabotages against the state, the governor added that “nobody should call me or my SSG nor the Commissioner of Police. I am warning parents, we are going to deal decisively with anybody caught in the act, and we will not spare anyone.”

In furtherance of his commitment to the war against cultism, Governor Abiodun announced that a special Court will be established by his administration to try cult-related cases. A Joint Anti-Cultism Security Task Force that will be peopled by operatives of major security outfits, with the mandate to rid the state of the menace of cultism, is also to be established.

Governor Abiodun also said the state is considering an amnesty programme for repentant cultists who may wish to surrender their weapons and denounce their membership of cult groups.

The governor is not embarking on a one-man-show in his renewed war against cultism. He is collaborating with several stakeholders as he promised. Many joint security meetings have been held with numerous stakeholders in pursuit of a lasting solution to the menace of cultism in the state. The meetings focused on providing adequate measures to eradicate cultism in the Gateway State.

“As an administration deeply committed to fostering a peaceful and violence-free society, we are dedicated to providing the Special Court and Joint Anti-Cultism Security Task Force with the necessary logistics and tools to support their operations effectively.

“The overall objective of our conversation is to address the issue of cultism through a multifaceted approach. This will include legal and enforcement measures, rehabilitation efforts, and community engagement through our respected traditional leaders,” the governor said.

While security officials say Hon. Bello and others arrested with him are presently undergoing interrogation at the Department of State Service (DSS), reports say many dangerous weapons, including guns, were recovered from the suspects. Ogun publics are now patiently waiting for the outcome of the investigation.

But one song now on the lips of many is that the proactive response of the current administration under the leadership of Governor Abiodun led to the many arrests we are not witnessing. While urging the governor not to relent, stakeholders from within and outside the state are insisting that justice must be done in the matter to serve as deterent to others.

The Special Adviser to the Governor on Security, Assistant Inspector General of Police Olusola Subair (rtd), while speaking on the developments, said with the commitment of the current administration to the fight against cultism, the time is ripe for a concerted effort by all and sundry to rid the state of the menace.

Similarly, Consultant on Security, retired Commissioner of Police Awolowo Ajogun, said Governor Abiodun’s determination and the readiness of the people of the state to collaborate with security operatives are the two vital tools needed to run cultists out of the state and secure lives and properties henceforth.

“The governor knows what to do and he is ready to do it. What is left is for the people to collaborate with security operatives,” he said.
• Odufowokan is the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on Public Communications to Governor Abiodun