IN recent time, activities of cultists in Nigeria have become worrisome.
THEIR objectives remain bizarre to people and authority outside their sects.
CULTISM as studies show has been part of societal pressure group but had always operated within the realms of its relevance; hence, its presence is mostly noticeable in places like higher academic environs.
Such bodies have their distinct goals recruiting members in-line with their objectives. They control the affairs within their territories and even beyond without leaving much trails for non-members to track their operations.
PERHAPS, the visions of the founders of such groups in tertiary schools may not be completely clear but its role as societal pressure group cannot be ignored.
UNFORTUNATELY, academic institutions no longer hold exclusive reserve of these cult lives as cultism has infiltrated into even the rustic larger society and larger social stratum of late.
Statistics shows that Rivers State, Lagos State, Edo State and Bornu State rank very high among the states in Nigeria under the siege of cultism.
IN Rivers State, inter cults rivalries have led to a good number of deaths in the past one month alone, according to River State Police report. This is even when schools are closed, rendering claims of cultism as higher institutions’ characteristics as mere conjecture.
THIS is not in any way disputing the fact that cultism and related practices had in the past found schools as good nest for their breeding.
NOW, a new reality is that their territorial control extends to remote social settings, giving communities tougher social ills to deal with than before.
WHILE banditry, gangsterism, witchcraft, occult groups and cartels jostle for space in the social system report with insecurity, entrance of cultism adds more pressure to social crises and pushes citizens’ peace further down the margins.
ANAMBRA State ranks high amongst the 36 states of the federation withvery impressive crime-fighting record.
IN appreciating Anambra State’s good record, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu poured glowing eulogy to government and people of the state during the state’s launch of Operation Kpochapu II in October, last year.
SHOCKINGLY, despite the state’s high status in crime fighting, cult activities leading to a number of deaths continue to dent her records.
CONSEQUENTLY, concerned minds would not hesitate to ponder outcomes in societies with less capacity to engage criminals in their climes.
IN the case of Anambra, a state reputed for its non compromising stance in security, former Commissioner for Police in the state, Dandaura, upon assumption of office in March, last year, observed that new wave of criminality in the state is cultism.
HE noted that no fewer than 700 suspected cultists were arrested while over 40 persons lost their lives to cult activities with more than 10 people wounded between January and March, 2019 alone.
AS at October, 2019, police report said 82 suspected cultists were arrested by the Special Police Anti Cult Squad (SPACS) in the state.
BREAKDOWN of the figure shows that no part of the state is free from cultists’ disturbances as Onitsha, Obosi, Nkpor areas had 22 persons arrested. Nnewi, Ekwulobia, Oko, had 22 suspects, Amansea, Awka had 10 persons. Nkwelle Ezunanka recorded 10 arrests of suspected persons while 18 people were arrested along Ogbunike, Abagana axis.
TO cap a worrisome development, police confirmed arrest of 103 suspected cultists across the state on July 16, 2020.
IN the exercise leading to the arrests of these bad elements, minors within the ages of 15 and 16 years made the list, having confessed to being members of a secret cult.
IT was further revealed that they were initiated into the confraternity by adult members, some of whom are on police wanted list.
FURTHER breakdown of places these elements operate shows that out of the 103 arrested cultists as at July 16, 2020, Ogidi axis, Amawbia, Ekwulobia, Nanka axis, all got 18 suspects each. In Oba, Nkpor, Igbariam axis, nine suspected cultists were arrested. Oko, Oraifite axis got 19 suspects arrested while Ogbunike had 22. At Agulu, Awka axis , 10 suspects were arrested while Abba, Abagana axis had four suspects. At Oyeagu axis, three suspects were nabbed to buttress the fact that no community across the state could be said to be free from their presence.
OUT of the 103 arrests made as at that time, 30 suspects were screened out and released unconditionally, 20 suspects were charged to court. 28 were placed under police supervision for being under-aged while 25 suspects are undergoing further investigations, police report says.
PONDERING how cultism stole into community level, National Light sees not just decadence on the part of the youth who are major culprits but also lapses on the part of parents and guardians whose duty it is to inculcate morals on their wards.
IT is equally our considered opinion that more robust investigation and prosecution plans for suspects be evolved to ease complexities of separating cult activities from other innocuous groups.
SECURITY operatives charged with responsibility of fishing out cultists should engage their duties with more professionalism. They should have central data regularly updated to track suspects and their accomplices.
WHILE restriction of freedom of association is not advocated in anyway, enabling laws to halt escalation of associations proven inimical to peaceful society should be enacted.
SPECIAL courts may be set-up to look into cult incidents and culprits given sentences that benefit the state and reform offenders since majority of the culprits may come from production class.
SPECIAL welfare department should be established to follow up rehabilitation process of culprits as some of the victims may be products of peer pressure.