THE RISING NUMBER OF CULT GANGS

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The authorities should do more to curb the menace

More than 15 persons were killed across Edo State recently following cult clashes between two confraternities. Few days after the Edo incident, a similar disorder was foisted on Lagos by members of another rival gangs, which clashed in Ajegunle. The mayhem resulted in bloodshed and injuries. That dozens of young people have had their lives brutally terminated as a result of cult activities in recent weeks should worry the authorities.

That cult wars and gang violence have exacerbated the climate of lawlessness and fear in our country is no longer in doubt. 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 states, especially in the southern part of the country, gang wars are now almost a daily fair with several innocent bystanders becoming victims. What is more worrisome is that members of many of these cult gangs are also involved in armed robberies and kidnappings.

The authorities should be concerned by the dangerous path which many of our young people seem to have chosen. In several towns and cities across the country, hardly a day passes without reports of clashes involving cult gangs in supremacy battle and reprisal attacks, sometimes for the flimsy reasons of being snubbed by a student of opposite sex, leaving in its wake heavy casualty. Young men, and in some instances, women now take solace in cult gang instead of engaging in positive enterprise. The rate at which they hack themselves to death without restraint, with cudgels, machetes, axes and other dangerous tools, should make critical stakeholders shudder in fear.

Bars, night clubs and gardens where innocent people gather to relax are not spared from this atmosphere of lawlessness. These public spaces have become the hideouts for these criminal elements to disrupt the social order and unleash terror on members of the public after becoming high on drugs and alcohol. This menace, which otherwise should be conscripted to the stone-age is debasing our ethos and social values. Although it is more entrenched in the southern parts of the country, it has since become a national menace to the extent that secondary school children are now routinely initiated into cultism. They operate freely on our streets and higher institutions of learning where they have splintered from the original confraternity into Black Axe, Eiye, Aye, the Vikings, Buccaneers, Mafia, Eternal Fraternal Order of Legion, Consortium, Trojan Horse, Iceland Group, Jurists, Black Scorpion and White Bishops, to name a few.

Besides killing and maiming innocent people, cultists also rob, rape and commit brazen arson. Some powerful elements in society are also known to be fuelling this malady, using the cult boys as political thugs to settle scores against their adversaries. These influential public figures are the unseen faces that provide the funds used to acquire arms and support the egregious lifestyle of this band of social misfits. We call for the arrest and diligent prosecution of these miscreants and their backers for the crime of gang violence to dissuade many young people from venturing into it.

Gang war is an internal security issue which the police should be able to deal with. They should fish out those responsible for the recent cult killings in Edo and Lagos States and bring them to justice. Cultism is adversely affecting our youths. Lives of many of them are wasted in their prime in gang clashes. Many of them also either become social destitute or end up in jail after being caught by the long arm of the law. We must put an end to the menace.