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Lack of cooperation from traditional rulers hindering fight against cultism -Police

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The Rivers State Police Command says while security agencies are making conscientious efforts to stem cult-related violence in the state, their efforts were being hindered by lack of cooperation from traditional rulers in the state. The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), Nnamdi Omoni, told ANN GODWIN this in an interview.
What is responsible for the recent spate of beheadings by cultists in Rivers State?
Our major challenge is the uncooperative attitude of the communities. They have not been helping us by volunteering information that can lead to the arrest of these boys because the boys live with them; they know them and we also have authoritative information that some of these traditional rulers are even members of the cult groups. So, these are our major challenges and we are tackling it. As we speak, we are engaging the communities and carrying out advocacy visits to schools, engaging hunters and other helpful organisations.

Some have been linking the resurgence of cult-related violence to politics, can this be true?
Well, investigations have been ordered by the State Commissioner of Police, Usman Belel. So, the investigations will reveal or unravel the identities of the cult boys and their sponsors as the case maybe. It would be premature to state whether these cultists are being sponsored by politicians, but we do know that they have lost patronage of their sponsors. Their sponsors are having second thoughts, buying arms for them and giving them stipends, and that is one of the reasons why they are on the loose and because they are on the loose, they are going about harassing people, killing themselves to acquire territories and domains.

Part of the reasons why cultists are killing themselves in Rivers State is because they have lost patronage of their big paymasters. That will enable us to get them cheaply because they have also lost their strongholds. We are now catching them like snails.

How are traditional rulers hampering police’s efforts at combating cultism?
This is a major challenge. The traditional institution’s uncooperative attitude is really hampering our activities, measures and efforts to get these boys. If they cooperate with us, then the battle would have been half won. We know the communities by their names and geographical locations, but we do not know their inhabitants, some of whom are these boys who perpetuate violence. We may know some people, but we do not know the activities behind the scene. So, it is left for the community people to share information that will lead to the arrest of these boys. But since they are not doing that, we are finding it difficult to penetrate these communities.

For instance, we were able to destroy some camps in Ubima and Omarelu in Ikwere Local Council because the people in these communities assisted us. So, if communities don’t cooperate with us, we have a major challenge.

Why did the police direct communities to avail them personal data of persons in their domain?
That is one of the crime control measures. As a result of the sensitisation that is going on, we are talking to them that they should be able to know their neighbours; know who is living in their neighbourhoods so that they can give account of them. There is need for more consciousness on the part of people to know who their neigbours are and what their neighbours do especially, those areas that are prone to criminal activities.

How many cultists are now in police custody?
We have quite number of persons arrested, but I can’t specifically tell you the total number now because we are arresting them daily, and charging them to court.

We hear when cultists are arrested, arraigned in court, we hardly hear of their convictions?
You see, every institution has its own responsibilities. The police arrest offenders and prosecute them, and when the victim is charged to court, the bulk of the responsibility has been passed to another institution. So, it behooves on the judiciary to discharge its own duties accordingly by doing the needful.


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Nnamdi Omoni
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