THE RISING MENACE OF CULTISM

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The authorities could do more to curb the spreading violence

In the latest act of madness, no fewer than 13 students of Kogi State University, Anyigba, among them a female student and her boyfriend were killed last Friday by some assailants suspected to be members of a secret cult. Some of the victims were reportedly murdered on Stadium Road and Our Lady Fatima’s Lodge and their bodies dismembered. Several houses were allegedly set ablaze. In the face of the chaos and violence many students fled the school while the injured were rushed to nearby hospitals. At about the same period in Urua Ekpa, a relatively unknown community in Itu Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, five persons were killed when two cult groups – the Viking confraternity and the Iceland group – clashed. The cause of the bloody violence is unknown.

The rate at which young men butcher one another in the name of cult killings has become so worrisome. Cult wars and gang violence have exacerbated the climate of violence, lawlessness and fear across the country. 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. From Cross River to Edo to Ekiti to Rivers and several other states, gang wars are now a daily fair with several innocent bystanders becoming victims. The menace has become so widespread that armed robbers, drug peddlers and other sundry miscreants are now being recruited into the fold. In many states, cultists of various stripes act with impunity, killing, raping and maiming victims while causing widespread destruction. Only recently two suspected cult members were killed as members of the secret cults attacked themselves at Imalete Alafia and Igbojiya communities in Ibeju-Lekki Local Government Area of Lagos State. This attack came barely a week after three suspected cultists were beheaded after their members clashed, also in Lagos. Yet the authorities seem helpless in dealing with the menace.

For sure, cultism is not new in Nigeria. For a long time, several people have identified with one form of cultism or another either for personal/family protection or for the promotion of certain positive interests. But today, cultism has become almost like a status symbol, especially on our campuses and the surrounding communities where members kill sometimes for reasons as flimsy as being snubbed by a student of the opposite sex. But the menace has spread 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.

In what the police confirmed as a clash of rival cultists, a man believed to be a student of the Ekiti State University (EKSU) in Ado Ekiti shot several times at his rival before his assailants dismembered his body with a machete. At about the same period, in what was described as a face-off between two criminal gangs, the ‘Baggars Confraternity’ and the ‘Klans confraternity’, no fewer than 19 persons were killed in one such deadly encounter in Calabar, Cross River State.

In all the foregoing, what is particularly disturbing is that the authorities seem bewildered in tackling the endemic problems of cult wars. While no plausible explanations have been provided, most people believe that the fact that there are no convictions for such crimes encourage many young people into it. And as long as this persists, Nigerians may have to brace up for more gang violence.