Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
Three soldiers and 22 others, mostly undergraduates were yesterday arrested by security operatives in Maiduguri, Borno State in the ongoing clampdown on alleged cultists group in the troubled state.
According to the Borno State Police Commissioner, Mohammed Aliyu who paraded the suspects, they belong to a group, Neo Black Movement (NBM), which has members cutting across students of higher institutions in Maiduguri, business community and personnel of the Nigerian Army.
Parading the suspects before reporters, the Borno Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Aliyu, said the group were caught at about 2a.m. in a hotel built at a deserted area of Maiduguri during an initiation process.
Aliyu, who was flanked at the briefing by both the heads of Department of State Services (DSS) and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps in the state, said: “The strategies put in place have again yielded results as 25 members of Neo Black Movement (NBM) were arrested for criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly, cultism and armed robbery.”
“Following a tip-off, a total of 25 members of the Neo Black Movement (NBM) cult most of whom are students of University of Maiduguri, Ramat Polytechnic and dismissed military personnel were arrested by the command operatives in collaboration with Hunters in Bagani Hotel at Fillin Maideribe, Abuja Sharaton while they were unlawfully gathered and conducting their initiation procession with candles, calabashes containing reasonable quantity of red substance suspected to be human blood and charms of different kinds.”
He added that: “Meanwhile, on sighting command operatives/hunters, one of them (now at large) fired a gun shot in the air and took to his heels.
The CP said some of the things they were caught with include: 16 assorted phones of different make, three calabashes containing reasonable quantity of red liquid suspected to be human blood, one live 7.62mm ammunition, among other things.
Meanwhile, some of the arrested suspects who spoke to journalists, insisted that they were not cultists and that the substance in the calabashes were local drinks with some alcohol to make them high.
Handing over the soldiers caught in the clampdown, the head of military counter-insurgency in the North East (Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole), Maj. Gen. Olusegun Adeniyi said the three soldiers, Lance Corporals Augustine Aronlo, David Emmanuel and Private Onu Chidubem, have been tried and dismissed from the Army.
He however warned that the suspects should not be dismissed as cultists as facts pointed to the fact that they are armed robbers and kidnappers.