• The authorities could do more to contain the scourge

From Plateau to Ogun and Cross River States, the rate at which young men butcher one another in the name of cult killings has become a worrisome development. Last week in Awka, Anambra State capital, there was a killing spree by members of rival cult groups leading to the death of no fewer than 15 persons. The state Police spokesman, Superintendent Haruna Mohammed, confirmed that the Command has embarked on an aggressive manhunt for the perpetrators of the killings “following actionable intelligence received about their hideouts.”

That cult wars and gang violence have exacerbated the climate of lawlessness and fear in our country is no longer in doubt. The menace has become so widespread that drug peddlers and other sundry miscreants are now being recruited into the fold. In many states of the federation today, cultists of various stripes act with impunity, killing, raping and maiming victims while causing widespread destruction. Yet the authorities seem helpless in dealing with this crime.

For sure, cultism is not new in Nigeria. For a very long time, several people have identified with one form of cultism or another either for personal/family protection or for the promotion and safeguard of certain interests. But today, cultism has become almost like a status symbol, especially on our campuses while members kill sometimes for reasons as flimsy as being snubbed by a student of the opposite sex. Cultism is a pervasive activity among students on our campuses, most of whom join the groups in their bid to exercise authority in addition to exacting revenge over rival groups. Young men and women unleash violence, anguish and pains on their victims, families and the larger society. For them, the association with a cult group, usually after an oath of initiation, is a ticket to prestige and greatness.

But the menace has moved from the campuses of our institutions of higher learning to the streets and these criminal gangs operate without restraints, perhaps because they have powerful backers within the society. Not too long ago, some prominent personalities were among 67 suspected cultists arrested and quizzed in Benin City, the Edo State capital, by men of the special squad deployed in the state by the police authorities at the time, to curb the growing killings and cult activities. In the days preceding the deployment of the police team, some criminals said to be members of ‘Eiye’, ‘Black Axe’, ‘Buccaneers’, ‘Aiye’ and ‘Jurist’ confraternities had unleashed hell on the streets of Benin. The body count was 22 dead. Among those arrested for their alleged involvement in the mayhem were 14 Junior Secondary School students between the ages of 12 and 15.

There is hardly a day when some young men and women would not fall victims to this goring spectre of criminal violence most of them as a result of battles for turf between rival cult groups. In many of the states, gang wars are now almost a daily fair with several innocent bystanders becoming victims. What is even more worrisome is that members of many of these cult gangs are also involved in armed robbery and kidnappings as the nation has, in recent months, witnessed with the ‘Badoo’ cult group in Ikorodu in Lagos State.

No sane society should condone this form of barbarity that constitutes a threat to national security and put the future of our young people in jeopardy. We therefore call on the federal government to deal ruthlessly with the problem of cultism including taking appropriate measures against the sponsors of this savagery. It should not hesitate to apply the full weight of the law in dealing with culprits involved in this depraved way of social behaviour.

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