In just two weeks, a battle of supremacy between two cult groups claimed 16 persons. David-Chyddy Eleke reports that those killed were all young people, who at best can be described as the leaders of tomorrow
From Awka to Onitsha, Nkpor and Obosi, all in Anambra State, cultism has become a way of life for young people. This has further fueled illicit drug consumption, and the use of other substances to attain some level of highness that permits them indulge in untoward behaviours.
In Awka, the state capital, the battle for superiority between the Vikings Confraternity and the Black Axe is yet to abate. Our correspondent who traced the beginning of the battle learnt that it all began after a traditional festival of Awka kingdom, known as Egwu Imo Awka Festival, which took place in the month of May. Within just two weeks of the battle, 16 persons, from both sides have been felled.
At UNIZIK junction, a popular location in the capital city, a young boy of 20, named Chinedu (not real name) had just arrived the ever busy junction, where his Aunty sold food, and not long after, a group of five boys were said to have accosted him. As they discussed, one may mistake them to be his friends, but unknown to passersby, Chinedu had been held hostage. They walked him down the road to a less busy spot, before one of the boys drew a gun and felled him instantly, leaving him in the pool of his blood, while they fled.
It was under such condition that both groups worked, identifying and killing members of the opposite cult for two weeks. A source, who pleaded to remain anonymous told THISDAY that what seemed good was that even though the boys were killing each other, they never tampered with anyone who was not a member of the rival cult. “They have to identify the person sufficiently, and be sure he was a member of the opposing cult, before they struck.
“They usually moved in groups once night fell, seeking out the members of the opposite group. What is even more amazing was that these were young people who were still living with their parents, so what they benefited from being members of the cult is what I do not know,” the source lamented.
In Obosi, another community in the state, which has also become synonymous with drugs and gun battles, the police and men of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency have had real task keeping up with the culprits, as both security agencies have also confessed to the troubles it undergoes keeping drug peddlers in check, and also tackling cult related activities.
Recently, Anambra State Police Commissioner, Mr. Garba Umar paraded 35 cultists who were arrested in different locations in the state especially in Awka and Obosi communities. The commissioner raised alarm over the increase in cult related activities in the state. He called on parents to perform their function by taming their children as the command may commence charging them to court for murder.
Some of the suspected cultists paraded by the commissioner include; Chukwudi Machie; 34, Chukwudi Igwebueze; 32, Onyeka Igbanugo; 28, Ifeanyi Anazoba; 32 and Chukwuemeka Nwokoye; 32 among others. Machie in an interview with journalists gave a shocking hint, when he confessed that most of the commercial motorcyclists and tricycle operators in the capital city were all members of one cult group or the other. He said, “Over 92 per cent of young people in Awka and environ are members of one secret cult or the other. We recruit them young.”
The suspects who were described by the commissioner as hardened and dangerous all aged between 20 and 35 years old. The Commissioner explained that the suspects were arrested in various locations, while items recovered from them also varied. One of the groups had items such as one AK 47 riffle, one bareta English pistol, two locally made double barrel pistol, one single barrel short gun, 15 rounds of 7.62 live ammunition, three cartridges and a red Toyota Matrix car snatched from its owner at Benin city, Edo State, all recovered from them.
Another group of cultists who were also arrested and paraded a day after consisted of four persons, and were described by the Police Public Relations Officer, SP Haruna Mohammed as very notorious and have also been in their wanted list.
Mohammed said, “In continuation of the ongoing ‘operations stem the tide of cultism in the state’, the Command has on the 6/5/2018 at about 1700hrs arrested four additional suspects including the most wanted cultists in Okija, one Chidebere Idogulu alias “sinner man” of Aro Cult group and Azubuike Idogulu alias “dead man” of Baga cult group. The operations are still ongoing while investigations are in progress after which suspects would be charged to court for prosecution.”
Umar reiterated that his command would not fold its arm and watch while cultists wreaked havoc on the city, threatening to arrest and charge suspects with murder if parents and guardians failed to play their role of leading their wards aright.
The development THISDAY gathered has become a serious headache of the state government, as the activities of cultists were almost putting a dent on the achievement of the Anambra State governor, Chief Willie Obiano, which chief among them was security. A resident of Awka capital territory, and a lawyer, Barr Gerald Eke said if the killing continued, Obiano may find it difficult boasting about his achievement in security. He said, “People are killed here and there, and the government is boasting about its prowess in security, what that means is that cult related activities and killing of members of rival cult were not part of security challenges.”
In Enugu Ukwu however, the leaders of the community have acknowledged the havoc cultism, illicit drug and prostitution was causing on their youths, but instead of applying force, it decided that persuasion was a better way to make the youths change from their old ways.
There was jubilation in the community during an awareness campaign organised by the Enugwu Ukwu Community Development Union, headed the President General of the community, Hon Bonny Ozo Nkwuaku as five persons described as very notorious criminals, who are said to be on the wanted list of Anambra State Police Command submitted themselves to police authorities.
The suspected criminals were led to renounce their criminal ways by their leaders; Mr. Emmanuel Okafor, and Mr. Nnadozie Nnenwa both aged 26, and popularly known in the area as Ten Kobo and Uta respectively. The kingpins, who residents of the community said had been thorns in their flesh led their gang members out during the programme which featured lectures on the dangerous effects of illicit drug consumption, cultism, armed robbery, kidnapping, rape and prostitution.
Okafor and Nnenwa who spoke on behalf of their gang members during the renunciation begged the community for forgiveness, pledging not to return to their old ways. They solicited with well-meaning people in the community to help them start something meaningful, saying that part of the reason they indulged in crime was joblessness.
The DPO of Enugwu Ukwu Police Division, Mr. Dan Uke who was at the event confessed that the suspects have been terrorising the area for a long time, and have also given his men cause for concern. He said, “When the PG brought Ten Kobo to my office early this morning, I was surprised that he accepted to come, because we have been looking for him. When I saw the look of remorse on his face, I told him I will not arrest him for accepting to come by himself, but I asked him to write an undertaking that he would not engage in crime again.”
The traditional ruler of the community who was represented by the traditional prime minister, Chief Clement Nwafor also expressed happiness at the programme and the renunciation of crime by the suspected criminals, urging youths to engage in meaningful ventures as a way to take their minds off crime.
The programme featured an awareness campaign, which saw youths of the community walking through major roads and sensitising all of the need to stay off vices.
The President General while reporting to the traditional ruler of the community, Igwe Ralph Ekpeh earlier during a courtesy call shortly before the commencement of the programme said his leadership believed that only negotiation, dialogue and sound advice, rather than arrest and imprisonment can keep youths of the community off vices.
Nkwuaku said he and members of his executive thought out the programme and specifically sought out notorious criminals in the community whom they preached to, on the importance of living drug and crime free life.
He said, “I am particularly happy that this is happening under my watch as president general. We walked around the community and sensitised the people of the need to shun cultism, robbery, drug, prostitution and others. These suspected armed robbers who have been on police wanted list also received amnesty today as they have vowed they will not engage in crime again and if they fail, we will now bring to bear the full weight of the law.”
Nkwuaku said his executive had met and dialogued with prominent personalities in the community on the possible ways of rehabilitating the repented criminals. Mr. Oddy Akubuike, Chairman Enugwu Ukwu Youth Forum while corroborating Nkwuaku said, “We have mapped out ways of absorbing the youths that have renounced crime.
“We have bought WAEC forms for the ones that want to go to school, barbing equipments, and others which we will use to empower them. We have spoken with various prominent persons in the community and we are going to integrate them into the society through skills acquisition and empowerment.” He urged other communities to consider solving the insecurity problem in their domain by using soft approaches as it has done.