If you call it a sin city, you might not be totally wrong… It is the home of cult activities, robberies, drug abuse and other illicit activities.
Among some residents of Benin City, the Edo State capital, the mere mention of the word “Upper” promptly evokes apprehension and dread.
In Benin City, there are a number of communities with the prefix “Upper.” They include Upper Siluko, Upper Uwa, Upper Mission and Upper Erhunmwunse. But Upper Sakponba in Ikpoba Okha Local Government Area of the state stands taller than the rest for the very wrong reasons.
If you call it a sin city, you might not be totally wrong. It is a place associated with all manner of notoriety. It is the home of cult activities, robberies, drug abuse and other illicit activities. When the cultists strike, they leave their victims with blood, pain and sorrow. And when these cultists operate, even policemen flee in fear..
On November 17, a young man identified as Lucky escaped death by the whiskers at Osariemen Street, off Upper Sakponba Road. He will forever remain grateful to his co-tenants and other neighbours who didn’t abandon him to his fate in the hands of his attackers.
The incident was witnessed by the reporter. About 8.30pm, Lucky had, along with his friend, gone
to a nearby house where a naming ceremony was taking place. Not quite 20 minutes that the duo left, some voices could be heard in the area. The voices compelled the poor boy to obey them before any complaint. Before he could say Jack Robinson, he was overwhelmed by the attackers.
To save his life, Lucky struggled to escape and ran to his house, a stone’s throw from the scene. But his attackers were not satisfied, even after collecting his mobile phone. They went after him and caught him in his room. One of the attackers broke a bottle of beer and stabbed Lucky in the chest and on the back.
At that point, Lucky’s neighbours had scampered in different directions, screaming for help. The injured boy was in excruciating pain. He was in a pool of his own blood for more than 30 minutes before help came and he was rushed to a private hospital by some Good Samaritans.
According to those who were at the scene, the suspected cultists accused the poor boy of staring at them while they were walking to the venue of the ceremony. All efforts he made to deny the allegation were rebuffed by the cult boys.
This was just one out of many others happening daily in the area. In fact, palpable fear reigns supreme among residents of Upper Sakponba. The upsurge in the activities of robbers, burglars, pick-pockets
and other criminals in the area has continued unabated.
The resurgence of cult wars in many parts of the t city has no doubt become a source of worry for not only the government and the people of the state but indeed all peace lovers and the security agencies.
Not too long ago, a cult clash believed to be raging between members of Eiye confraternity and the Black Axe erupted and shook the entire Benin City. The incident left about 20 persons dead.
According to residents, even the efforts of security agents to curb the criminal activities have yielded little or no result. The traditional institution, through the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare11, has also issued out warnings and threats to those perpetrating crimes in his kingdom.
But even that has not achieved much, as more young men are recruited everyday into different secret cults.
Some of the residents and victims, who spoke with Daily Sun, are worried over the rampant rate at which people are being robbed, especially commuters and market women. They called on the security agencies to be more proactive, so that people in the community could sleep with both eyes closed. Some residents noted that the security agents seemed helpless on how to tackle the challenges.
The places that are renowned for cult rivalries, clashes and robberies include Republic, Eke, Eweka, Jesus Christ, St Saviour, Erediauwa and Nomayo Streets. Other notorious areas are Abico, Eguasco, Oka One and Two, Three Houses as well as Idogbo.
Some of the notable cult groups in the area are Aye, Axmen, Eiye, Black Axe, The Buccaneers, Manfright, Jurists, Black Mafia, White Angels, Daughters of Jezebel, Sisterhood of Darkness, Iye, Vikings and Innocent Boys. Most interestingly, the members of the female cults are girlfriends to the male cultists. As gathered, they act as spies for their male counterparts, just as they are involved in prostitution.
Many are convinced that if the necessary interventions are not quickly carried out, the situation could pose a greater danger to the state.
A concerned resident at Independence Street in Upper Sakponba, Mr. Aigbovbiosa Okuomose Edenabuohien said: “These young boys have brought bad name to our area. We the elders are not in support of a situation where people resort to violence or jungle justice to settle scores with either individuals or groups. Violence cannot be an option for any person or groups of persons seeking remedies to problems.
“The rate, at which these boys have access to sophisticated weapons such as AK47 and cut-to-size foreign and locally-made guns is worrisome. These are the weapons they easily use to commit atrocities. More disturbing is the fact that the cultists, even when caught red-handed, are hardly ever conclusively prosecuted. Many are worried that the suspects merely end up being paraded by the police and the rest is history.
“There are rumours that these dreadful elements may be enjoying the patronage and protection of some powerful but infamous godfathers.”
Another resident of the area, Chief Aigbovbiosa Usunobun, who is one of the community leaders,
told the reporter that for sanity to return to the area and the city, the relevant authorities as well as parents, guardians, community leaders and the clergy must speak in one strong voice to condemn the horrible trend.
He called for an urgent rejuvenation of moral values and societal norms, which place more importance on collective security, peaceful co-existence and exemplary character. According to him, these were what most parts of Nigeria thrived on in the days of yore.
In fact, many residents of Upper Sakponba, otherwise called Upper, usually deny living in the area, no thanks to the cultists who have over the years made the area a notorious zone.
“I live at Omoregie in Upper Sakponba whenever I am in Nigeria. But when my friends ask me where
l stay, l tell them somewhere else. The area has become something very embarrassing. However, they don’t attack me because l always buy drinks for them whenever l am in town,” Mr. Asemota Okhionkpamwonyi, who is based in Spain said.
Mobile phones and other valuables are easily robbed at gunpoint in Upper. Once it is about 7pm, walking on the street is a great risk in many parts of the area Upper. This challenge has taken its toll on nightlife in the city, as commercial business centres now close shop as soon as it is dusk so as not to be attacked.
Apart from robbing in commercial vehicles and on the streets, residents are also attacked by the Automated Teller Machines (ATM), while making withdrawals.
A victim, Mrs. Igbinogun Ekinadose told Daily Sun: “They stole my handset last month when I was coming from the market. I was making a phone call when two small boys came from behind and snatched it from my ears. We are all living in fear because of the boys who don’t want to work. Even when you are alone in the vehicle or with others, these boys still do whatever they want to without any fear of being caught.
“It was better sometime ago when many of the young men travelled through the desert to Libya. But since they started repatriating them, the area is now very rough.
“Most of the boys refused to attend school or learn a trade. They depend on their brothers and sisters in Europe for monthly allowances. When the relatives abroad refuse to respond, the boys go haywire and enter the street for survival.”
It is common to see young men in the area drinking different alcoholic beverages in beer parlours during the day when serious-minded people are at work. In some cases, immediately the already drunk youths sight anyone suspected to be financially okay, they force him to clear the bills.