Cult wars have exacerbated the climate of lawlessness in the polity

It should worry the government that despite efforts to curb the menace, cult-related violence is on the increase across the country. No fewer than eight people reportedly lost their lives following a clash between rival cult groups in Gboko, Benue State last Sunday. The fight between the groups referred to as red and black confraternities was said to have been sparked by disagreement over the sharing of money given by some politicians. Last month, gunmen killed five persons in Idemili North and Awka South local government areas of Anambra State “as a consequence of cult-related war among rival cult groups in Okpuno, Ifite and Obosi communities,” according to Christian Aburime, spokesman for Governor Chukwuma Soludo.  

That many of our young people now take solace in cult gangs, instead of devoting their energy to positive enterprise is deeply concerning. 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, etc. Although more entrenched in the southern parts of the country, it is a national menace with children in primary and secondary schools now being initiated into these cult gangs.  

 For these violent miscreants, no place is sacred. Usually armed with cudgels, machetes, axes, and other dangerous tools, they operate in places of worship as well as bars and nightclubs. Gardens where innocent people gather to revel are also not spared from their lawlessness. Indeed, most of these public spaces have become hideouts for these criminal elements who disrupt the social order and unleash terror on members of the public after becoming high on drugs and alcohol.     

   As we have reiterated in previous interventions on this issue, cultism is not new in Nigeria. Many people in the past 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. What’s more, their activities are no more restricted to campuses of institutions of higher learning as it was in the past.      

 The main concern is that cult wars and gang violence have exacerbated the climate of lawlessness and fear in the polity. And these frequent clashes have their roots in a fierce struggle for supremacy and contest for control of sphere of influence. It is also no surprise that cult activities have heightened days before the general election with many young Nigerians increasingly having their lives brutally terminated. So prevalent is the menace that in many states of the federation cultists of various stripes act with impunity, killing, raping, and maiming victims while causing widespread destruction.   

 For many of these young men and women who engage in this gory spectacle of criminal violence, there is nothing they cannot do. There are reports where some use heads of human beings to play football. Perhaps more disturbing is that powerful elements in the 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. We must put an end to this menace.     

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