Cultists to Spend 20 Years Behind Bars in Bayelsa

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Security agents to conduct raids without court warrants

Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa

Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State on Monday assented to the Secret Cult Societies and Similar Activities Prohibition Amendment Law 2018, granting the judiciary and law enforcement agencies wide-ranging powers in the fight against cultism in the state.
The new law makes it mandatory for offenders to be jailed upon conviction, for not less than 20 years, without any option of fine.

While appending his signature to the amended law at the Government House, Governor Dickson said he was seriously concerned over the rise in cult and other related activities in the state, especially in Yenagoa and its environs.
According to him, with the amendment, the law enforcement agencies have been empowered to deal decisively with suspected cultists and their sponsors.

He explained that the amendment to the law, which had existed since May, 2012, was necessitated by the urgent need to check the rise in cult activities among youths, noting that it would grant agencies more powers to proactively protect lives and property as well as safeguard the future of the state.

Part of the law also empowers the police and other law enforcement agencies to conduct search on the homes of suspected cultists and sponsors, even without warrant, while buildings and premises used for cult activities as well as the storage of arms and dangerous weapons will be forfeited to the government.
The law equally empowers the state government to destroy such buildings and premises, without any compensation to its owners.

While calling on landlords and property owners not to allow criminals and cultists to turn their property into centres of crime and criminality, the governor urged the people of the state to report all suspicious and cult-related activities to the appropriate authorities.

The law also enables law enforcement agents to conduct stop and search on motor vehicles, tricycles, boats or any place suspected to be used for cults and its related activities.
Furthermore, it also allows for the arrest of the occupier of the house or where cult activities are suspected to have taken place or about to be held.

“As a government, we cannot allow this ugly trend of events to continue unabated. A situation where children below 15, 16, 17 and majority of our youth population are members of one dangerous cult group or society, where they carry guns and other dangerous weapons and shoot, maim, kill and create insecurity in parts of the State is totally unacceptable. As a responsible government, we must put an end to this and it has to be now,’’ Dickson said.
In his comments, the Bayelsa State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Don Awunah, said the new law puts the state on the front line in the fight against cultism and cult-related activities in the country.

He noted that with the amendments, the police now have the comprehensive powers to confront crime and criminality head-on, stressing that most crimes in the state are cult-related.
Attacks perpetrated by young teenage cult members had recently increased in the state, culminating in the expulsion and public announcement of the names of some secondary school students by the state government penultimate week.