Combating Cultism the Lagos Way

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Chiemelie Ezeobi writes that community policing strategy of the Lagos State Police Command has started yielding fruit as over 860 cultists have renounced cultism in a little over six months 

“Today, we are in Ikorodu at the instance of our royal father and his lieutenants to take over these arms and ammunition that belong to members of major cult groups who renounced such confraternity.

“We have identified leaders of Aiye, Eiye and Buccaneers, who have come out with their over 200 members to give up arms. What is happening here is that jointly, we are making history.

“All these weapons have been voluntarily handed over by cultists who have renounced membership and have pledged to build Ikorodu and allow peace, security to reign.”

Those were the words of the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Police Command, Imohimi Edgal, at the renunciation ceremony of over 200 cultists hitherto terrorising Ikorodu and its environs.

At the ceremony, the community policing strategy of the Lagos State Police Command paid off again as over 200 youths from different cult groups renounced cultism, just as they surrendered their arms and ammunition.

With this recent renunciation, the number of cultists that have called it quits with cultism in Lagos skyrocketed to 860 in the past six months under the present police leadership. The youths drawn from the Aiye, Eiye and Bucanneer confraternities renounced their membership at the palace of the Ikorodu monarch, Oba Kabiru Shotobi.

Also surrendered were 15 locally made long guns, 30 bullets, 11 cutlasses, four axes, four double-barrel guns, five short locally made pistols and a sword.

Receiving the youths and the surrendered weapons, Edgal, said the voluntary renunciation was as a result of community policing and community partnership. While assuring the repented cultists that the command would do all within its might to ensure Ikorodu was rid of criminality, said their reintegration into the society has been set in motion.

He said: “All these weapons have been voluntarily handed over by cultists who have renounced membership and have pledged to build Ikorodu and allow peace, security to reign. These arms are weapons of destruction and I am happy you volunteered to relinquish them. They would be sent to police armoury.

“I hear there are still few persons in your midst, who do not want to join this drive to shun cultism. Be vigilant. Do not allow them to carry out their activities in Ikorodu. I have told my men here to partner you in order to arrest such persons.”

Leader of Onyeabo Vigilante group, Lanre Olabinjo said the renunciation took several meetings with the various cult groups, appealing that the youths, most of whom were graduates, be gainfully engaged.

The prodigals return 

Speaking on behalf of the recently repented cultists, Aiye leader, Afeez Sholebo alias Chiny said they signed an undertaking to never return to cultism. He said, “Our demands to government are that we should be employed permanently. There should be vocational seminars, scholarship to study in any institution in the country, infrastructural development of Ikorodu.”

But prior to the recent renunciation, two other batches had late last year also called it quits with cultism under Edgal. Perhaps the first renunciation on November 7, 2017, was the trigger that others needed to follow suit as no fewer than 500 youths in Ijede Local Council Development Area of Ikorodu, Lagos, voluntarily renounced their membership of various cult groups in the area.

They included cultists from Aiye, Eiye, Buccaneer, and KK among others. The youths, whose ages ranged between 17 and 35, also submitted their weapons. The weapons, which were displayed at the Ijede LCDA hall included pump action rifles, AK-47 rifles, locally-made guns and single-barrel guns. Also displayed were cartridges of various types as well as axes and machetes.

Edgal, who was also at Ijede to receive the arms, pointed out that the act was a boost to his Police/public partnership policy, even as he applauded the efforts of the LCDA Chairman, Mr. Salisu Jimoh, for pioneering the move, adding that the voluntary renouncement by the former cultists, is the first step in the process of reintegrating them into the society.

In his speech, former head of KK confraternity, Abdulrazeez Densi, said the renunciation marked the beginning of a new day in his life, as he had been living in uncertainty.

Asked why he decided to opt out, he said: “I decided to renounce my membership because of the safety of my life and that of members of my community. I want peace to reign in my community.”

Another former cultist, Olarewaju Adesoye, who claimed to be the former head of Eiye confraternity, said: “I was the number one man of Eiye. Cultism started from power tussle over boundary issue. But the crisis that followed was not what we bargained for. My appreciation goes to the local government chairman, who pioneered this move.

“We made up our minds to renounce our membership for long, but the logical way to follow, so as not to be arrested, was not visible.”

Another former cultist, who simply gave his name as Temitayo, said most of them joined various cult groups because of lack of jobs. He said members of the various cult groups comprised graduates and artisans.

It was therefore not surprising that after the success of the first one with no reprisal attack, another batch followed suit on November 29, 2017. Thus on that occasion, no fewer than 120 youths renounced cultism and surrendered their arms and ammunition to the police at Oba Ajibade Agoro, the Ranodu of Imota Ikorodu, Lagos State. The ceremony was significant because those were the same group that had unleashed terror on the community.

The CP, who was still in acting capacity at that time, had also received them, adding that the success belongs to God Almighty, and also to the policing ideology of the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, on community policing and safety partnership.

He stated that he is not only a student of the Inspector General of Police school of thought, but an ardent practitioner of the philosophy of community policing which has yielded great dividend in Imota. The CP had before his departure, directed the Area Commander Area ‘N’ ACP Garba Ahmed, to profile, document and obtain the biometrics of the erstwhile cult members for record purposes.

He had also urged the community leaders to partner the police and other security agencies to sensitise other cultists to renounce their membership and surrender their arms.

The paramount ruler of Imota, Oba Ajibade Agoro, had also urged youths in the community to renounce cultism and embrace peace, adding that without peace there cannot be development.

Measures for rehabilitation

Acknowledging the fact that an idle man is indeed the devil’s workshop, Edgal said there was need for rehabilitation for all. He said, “When I assumed duty as Commissioner of Police in Lagos, I discovered that cultism and drug abuse are the most challenging crimes.

“But the important thing is that the process whereby youths are now willingly renouncing cultism to take up vocational skills have started. The vocational job is to be instituted by the council chairman, the lawmakers and other stakeholders in Imota. We want a 24-hours economic and nightlife in Lagos.”

Addressing the repented cultists, Edgal said their voluntary renouncement would be accompanied by vocational training to enable them acquire new skills. He said, “I know you have fears and uncertainties but I can assure that there is a process. Your renunciation is the first step.

“Thereafter, the Oba will approach the local government chairman to train you in vocational skills before your reintegration into the society. There would also be opportunities for soft loans to establish your vocational trade. Ikorodu is the fastest growing part of Lagos and the world is concerned about what is happening here.

“I hereby call on youths of other communities in Lagos to renounce cultism. I am also appealing to youths to shun hard drugs. If you take these drugs, you won’t have a bright future. Do not allow drug dealers to rob you of your future. Anywhere you find a drug dealer in Ikorodu, report to the police and the person would be arrested.”

Earlier, Shotobi had said criminality is alien to Ikorodu, thus why youths were being encouraged to renounce publicly. He went on to assure that their legitimate demands would be presented to the governor for action.

Also, Mr. Nurudeen Solaja, the lawmaker representing Ikorodu 2 Constituency in the Lagos State House of Assembly, said that the renouncement was a welcome development, adding that he would join hands with other stakeholders to ensure that the repented cultists were re-integrated back into the community.

He said, “We will train those cultists who willingly renounced their membership to become better individuals. Most of these cultists are artisans who don’t have an idea of how or what cultism is all about; we want to make sure that peace returns to Imota community which is my constituency.”

Also speaking, Prince Wasiu Agoro, Chairman, Imota Local Council Development Area (LCDA), said that the council would continue to sensitise the community on the need to maintain peace for development of the area.

Preaching community partnership

These giant strides won’t have been possible without Edgal’s passion for community partnership.

Ab initio, on community partnership and Edgal had said, “When I resumed as Commissioner of Police last September, I came with a strategy, which was backed up by intelligence and technology because there were problems of major crimes such as armed robbery, car snatching, mugging, drug abuse, youth restiveness and violence against women and children.

“Thus, I introduced community policing and safety partnerships. I attended over 12 town hall meetings across the state, where I met with the people and explained the need for their close involvement in security.

“Thus, it is the intention of the police to allow the people take the front burner on how their community is policed. We want the people to be more involved in how their community is policed.

“Community policing involves partnership with the people and relies heavily on intelligence gathering. We would use community policing to get information from the public and process same.”