Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The battle against cultism in Bayelsa got a boost on Monday when over 500 suspected members of various cult groups from the eight local councils of the state converged on Yenagoa, the state capital, to renounce their membership of the secret groups.
The repentant criminals who also vowed to assist the government to fight the vice after they were initiated into the Bayelsa Volunteers, a special coordinating body for all local security outfits in the state, noted that their decision to reject cultism was borne out of the need to give peace a chance and key into â€˜opportunitiesâ€™ created by the Seriake Dickson-led administration.
The event was witnessed by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Security Matters, Boma Spero-Jack; Majority Leader, State House of Assembly, Dr. Peter Akpe and the Central Zone Chairman, Ijaw Youths Council (IYC), Tare Porri.
Others were the Special Adviser to the Bayelsa State Governor on Oil and Gas, Bonny Ayah; the Special Adviser on Scholarship, Jeremiah Owoupele and the Chairman of the State Peace and Conflict Resolution Committee, Igofo-Enieni Samson.
Lamenting the evil of cultism, the youths said they were deceived to join secret associations by some of their leaders, but vowed to assist security agencies and the state government fight crimes in the state henceforth.
At a brief ceremony organised by the Chairman of the Bayelsa State Volunteers (BSV), Mr Douye Koroye, at the outfitâ€™s office in Yenagoa, the youths took oaths never to return to their old ways.
In his speech, Koroye declared that the youths, who took anti-cultism oaths administered by Sparo-Jack and signed denunciation forms, would be enlisted into the special squad of the state volunteer service.
He said Dickson desired the youths to stay away from crimes to enable them achieve their potential and contribute positively to the development of the state.
Koroye said the amended anti-cultism law passed recently by the House of Assembly was a demonstration of Dicksonâ€™s commitment to end cultism as it strengthened punishments for convicted cultists.
According to him, persons who voluntarily renounce cultism with sincerity of purpose would not be penalised, adding that the state required peace for development.
He added that the state government was giving the suspects a second chance to live useful lives and avoid lengthy jail terms when arrested.
Koroye promised that none of those who renounced the vice would be victimised in any way.
In his comments, Akpe, who is the leader of the state House of Assembly explained that the decision by the state assembly and the Dickson administration to pass the nill amending the 2012 anti-cultism law was based on the need to strengthen the police to arrest and prosecute suspected cultists.
â€œCultism will take you nowhere and that is why your decision to renounce it is in the right direction. It is a killer of destiny. It is a destroyer of lives. Nobody in his true senses will decide to stab and shoot people. It tells you that there is an evil force behind you,â€ he said.
Akpe added: â€œNobody is interested in killing any repentant youths of the State. As you denounce, it ends your era of shame and evil. Cultism will not take you anywhere. Cultism is for the weak-minded youths. Anything you take by shedding blood will be taken from you by shedding your blood.â€
Spero-Jack, the Special Adviser on Security to the governor told the youths that by dint of hardwork, he rose to become the first Bayelsa State Director, Department of State Service (DSS).
He appealed to the youths to develop their talents by taking advantages of various opportunities created by Dickson in education and other sectors.
Porri, on his part, commended the youths for their bold step and warned them against going back to cult-related activities after publicly rejecting cultism.
Porri, the Chairman of the IYC, central Zone, advised the youths of the state to shun cultism and focus their energy on contesting the forthcoming elections into local government councils and State Assembly in 2019.
He noted that the IYC, Central Zone, under his leadership has resolved to support any Ijaw youths interested in vying for political positions in 2019, noting that the youth body will not defend anybody arrested for crime-related activities.