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In Lagos, members of different cult groups are on the loose. Everywhere you look, they are on the rampage, spreading death, distress and panic. And residents are worried.
Although they have been in existence for long, members of the clandestine groups are stepping up their game and displaying considerable gusto. These days, they strike in broad daylight, leaving sorrow, tears and blood in their trail.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia, defines a cult as “a religious or social group with socially-deviant and novel beliefs and practices.” The members are said to share common beliefs that are sharply opposite to those of established religions and practise traditions that are different from what is regarded as normal and acceptable in society.
Unlike some decades ago when the activities of such groups were mostly restricted to university campuses and tertiary institutions in Nigeria, where they were termed “secret cults,” they have spread to the streets and are fast assuming a frightening dimension. Secondary school students now make up a large part of the groups. The cultists are keeping Lagos communities on edge, stealing residents’ peace and replacing it with fear and sorrow.
The illicit groups are everywhere. They have found a home in Mushin, Ipaja, Baruwa, Ajegunle (a boundary settlement between Lagos and Ogun states), Ojodu Berger, Ajegunle in Ajeromi/Ifelodun Local Government Area, Agege, Ikorodu, Bariga, Ojuelegba, Oshodi, Orile, Iponri, Iganmu and Badagry. Some parts of the Lagos Island and Ajah are not left out of the danger zones, where the gangsters reign. In many of the areas, the fear of cultists is the beginning of wisdom. Many residents don’t only dread them, many also avoid them for the terror they are.
Even without provocation, they strike, maiming and feeding on innocent blood. During cult clashes, they brandish all manner of weapons. Life appears meaningless to these people, as they unleash mayhem on innocent residents. The cult members often engage in supremacy battles, especially over who should collect levies from traders, motorists and hawkers in different parts of Lagos. Many have been brutally killed and others severely injured during cult wars. In the past, skulls have been crushed with sledgehammers and dismembered bodies displayed on the streets.
Just last week, the Lagos State Police Command arrested three notorious cultists who allegedly murdered an official of the Neighbourhood and Safety Corps, Bolaji Monsuru. The three suspects were among over 70 members of cult groups paraded by the police in the state.
The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Imohimi Edgal, while parading the suspects, urged parents and traditional rulers to advise their children to stay away from crime. He vowed that the command would continue its massive clampdown on cultists in the state. Of the figure, 57 were allegedly arrested while being initiated by the leaders of Aiye in a bush at Elemoro area in Ajah.
He said the suspects had confessed to participating in the killing of Bolaji, adding that one axe and a blood-stained knife recovered from the suspects had been sent to the forensic unit of the police for analysis.
Another development that is worrisome to parents and other members of the society is the initiation of underage members into cult groups. It was gathered that some gang members are as young as 13. There was a 16-year-old boy among the busted gang.
Edgal has promised to leave no stone unturned in ensuring that these bad elements are flushed out of society. In the arrest, investigation and prosecution mission, he said the police would spare no one, no matter their family’s economic, social or political status.
In Lagos, as well as many parts of the country, different cult groups bear unique names. It was gathered that the popular ones among them are Buccaneer, Alora, Black Axe, Eiye, Aiye, the Brotherhood, Kings of the Street, Black Boys, Harmless Progressives, Black Angels, Yellow Bra, Happiness and Owonikoko, among others.
Daily Sun discovered that initiation ceremonies for new members are conducted in the bushes in the wee hours of the night. New members are asked or harassed to take an oath of allegiance to the groups’ rules. In doing so, the gang leaders employ diabolical means to “fortify” the new members against attacks from their enemies. It was said that some also test new members’ capacity to endure rough circumstances by subjecting them to severe punishment that often leave them with physical and emotional bruises.
With the influx of teenagers and youths into different cults, a concerned mother, Mrs. Grace Omoruyi, has wondered how morality has grown wings and flown out of the window. Speaking with the reporter on telephone, she said the cult members’ thirst for blood was something that needed to be confronted by all.
“I am worried by the level of silence among our parents. Everything starts from the family. That little thing that a parent feels doesn’t matter today goes a long way tomorrow when the child grows up. We need to discipline our children and inculcate in them the sanctity of life. This goes beyond religion, though the churches and mosques also have a big role to play. We need to catch them young. Kudos to the families who are up and doing in raising responsible children. They are raising a responsible society and giving the security agencies lesser work to do.
“Cultism always leads to armed robbery. In every three cultists, there are two criminals. When they are in possession of guns and other weapons, one cannot rule out the urge to explore them. Unfortunately, some parents don’t ask their children certain questions, especially regarding the company they keep and their lifestyle in general.
“Most importantly, the police need to work better and deal with these groups of people without fear or favour. I understand the force has its own challenges, but Nigerians will not accept that as a genuine excuse to allow evildoers to walk freely on the street,” she said.
On the last day of last year’s Senior Secondary Certificate Examination/West African Council Examinations (WAEC), some students of Meiran Community School in Alimosho Local Government Area shocked residents of the area. While jubilating for successfully completing the exams, some of the outgoing students engaged in a free-for-all. It was later gathered that it was a clash between two rival cult groups.
A student who narrated the fracas that took place close to the school premises to the reporter said she couldn’t believe here eyes when some of her classmates brought out daggers and axes to engage in the fight. She said a particular boy brought out a charm from his pocket and openly used it to overpower his opponent to the amazement of all.
“We knew before then that many of them were cultists but we didn’t know how deadly they were. Nobody knew what led to the fight but it appeared it was something they all prepared for. Some persons were injured but nobody was killed. Some of them would be between 15 and 18,” she said.
A community leader in Lagos, who asked not to be named, blamed the affluent in the society as the most guilty of the menace. He accused them of promoting the ugly trend, using their resources to cover up for their children and relatives when caught in the act.
He said, “Have you ever seen the son or daughter of a rich man being paraded on the television as a cultist? But you and l know that they are more in different cult groups, especially in Lagos. Except the same yardstick is used to punish everyone caught in the act, we might continue to cry over the roof with no solution. The law shouldn’t be bent for any individual because of his or her connection to those in authority.”