Cultism, has become a major security challenge that is of great concern to both government, security agents and residents of Lagos State. From one end of the state to the other, cultists seem to be holding sway, with orgies of killings associated with their regular fights.
Though the Police in Lagos under various Commissioners of Police, have done all within their abilities to bring the menace of cultism to the barest minimal , Lagosians are daily inundated with news of their misgivings.
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But the alarming twist to this worrisome trend is the involvement of minors, both males and females. Most shocking is the fact that after initiation, these underage boys and girls are further introduced into robbery and other forms of criminalities..
Most of them are positioned at major bus-stops in the state, posing as commuters waiting to board buses to their respective destinations, only to end up snatching phones , cash and other valuables from genuine commuters
At other times, these teens who are usually seen in groups, would board a commercial bus and sit strategically at the edge. All of a sudden , they would alert the driver to stop , pretending to have entered the wrong bus. But by then, they would have successfully made away with their victims cash and other valuables.
Also, these minors are sent as advance party to survey an environment before their bosses would storm the area for operation. Investigation also revealed that at times, they pose as hawkers, to monitor targets and give details of targets’ movement to their senior partners for onward onslaught.
Invasion of barracks ( Ojo)
Not too long ago, some of these minors threw caution, fear and discretion to the dogs by sneaking into Navy Town barracks, Ojo, to burgle apartments of naval personnel who had gone to work. The suspects, whose frail looks would never give them away as buglers, revealed during an encounter with them, that they usually scaled the fence of the barracks through a bill board close to the wall. They, however, described themselves as mere errand boys, disclosing that their ‘masters’ usually waited for them at the other side of the fence each time they went for operation. At the end of any successful operation, they would be given N1000 and above which they claimed they used to feed.
In a chat with some of them, they blamed their indulgence on hunger . One of those arrested by personnel of the Nigerian Navy Wey, a maintenance unit of the Nigerian Navy, at Navy Town, Ojo, Lagos, claimed his father had been jobless for years and could barely feed the family. His mother, a tomato seller around Satellite, according to him, had her goods destroyed by officials of the Kick Against Indiscipline who were enforcing the ban on street hawking.
One of them, 13-year-old Ehis (surname withheld as he is still a minor), a primary 6 pupil of Assurance Primary School, Kirikiri, revealed that he started stealing four months ago. He stated that his alleged partner in crime, Elijah(surname withheld), introduced him into burglary. He said: “Elijah said we should go to people’s houses to steal. We would jump the fence into the barracks at about 6pm and would hide until it was dark.
“Elijah would tear victims nets with blade, from where he stole the items. At times some of the kitchen doors were left open, thereby facilitating his entry. On my part, I would be on the look out for any intruder. At the end, we would take the stolen items to our boss who would be waiting for us at the other side of the fence”.
Asked if his parents were aware of what he was into, he shook his head, explaining that he usually went for the operation on the pretense that he was going to eat in a friend’s house since there was no food at home.
Primary, Secondary school students (Surulere)
Further checks revealed that Primary and Secondary School students are also into cultism.
Most of them display their notoriety by engaging rival cult groups in a free-for all.
Last year, four secondary school students and an artisan, alleged to be members of a cult group that has been terrorising Surulere and its environs in Lagos, were arrested by the Anti-Cultism Unit of Lagos State Police Command.
The students were arrested in their school uniforms, on their way to attack a rival cult group at Eko Boys High School, in Mushin area of the state. During a search, the Police , recovered axes, cutlasses and knives in their supposed school bags.
Upon interrogation. the students, Ajala (13), Femi (17), Dauda (15) and Timilehin (17), all surnames withheld said the fifth suspect, Mayowa Rauf Oguntoye (18) was their leader and provider of the weapons in their possession.
One of them , Hafiz, a Junior Secondary School 1 student of Birch Freeman Junior Secondary School, Surulere, told this Reporter then, that the cutlass found on him was for self-defence.
He said , “ We went to play Principal Cup football match with other schools. Fight usually breaks out at the end of a match, as the loser would attack the winning school. So, I had to arm myself with a knife for self defence.”
Earlier this year, the Police in Lagos swooped an initiation procession , where 12 Primary and Secondary school students of Egan Primary and Secondary school, were being initiated into Awawa confraternity group, in Igando area of the state.
Surprisingly, some of them who were between 8 years and 16 , were in their school uniform, leaving one to wonder how they left the school premises without the knowledge of the schools’ authorities.
In this case, the eldest of them and only female, who is Junior Secondary School 3 student, was the first to be initiated into group. She was said to have lured others in Primary 2,3,4,5 and 6 respectively, to where they were initiated.
In some of the public schools, students are traumatized by those who have been initiated into one cult or the other, in their bid to force them to join their confraternities. They are threatened with death if they opened up to anyone , either on the threat or after they have been initiated.
One of the most starling confessions from a self confessed cultist, was that from 16-year-old Babajide(surname withheld) who revealed that he bowed to pressure from members of Eiye confraternity in 2013, after much battering.
In an earlier interaction with the Secondary School Certificate holder, he revealed that , primary school pupils and secondary school students , including artisans in the area were forced into cultism. Attempt by anyone approached to put up resistance according to him, meant an outright relocation of such child’s parents from the area, adding that members of the group were dreaded by all, there.
He further disclosed that children between 10 and 13 years who were initiated into major confraternity groups such as Arrow Baga popularly known as Arrow, were sent as spies. The children as gathered were also sent to survey places like the massive Navy barracks before their ‘masters’ would strike.
During an interaction with him, he disclosed that he started from the lowest rank known as ‘ Tender’, where he had to spy on rival group members, particularly during fight and gave their location to his members to launch a surprise attack.
He said, “ I graduated to robbery and along the line, I lost my father. By the way , my mother was separated from my late dad. She abandoned me and my two siblings with my father. When my father died, I travelled to the village in Ondo state to see my mother but she never welcomed me as a mother would welcome a child she had not seen for long. Rather, she called me names and sent me away, saying it was impossible for me to stay with her because she had remarried . I went to stay with a friend who is also a member of same cult group.
“Most robbery cases in Satellite Town and its environs were carried out by cultists. I only participated in the morning raids ,where those leaving for their respective business places are attacked and dispossessed of their cash, phones and other valuables. At the end of each operation, I usually got between N1,500 and N3,000.
Babajide , further disclosed that series of fight in the area were caused by rival cultists. He gave names of two major volatile cult groups in the area as Eiye and Arrow .
“We usually had problems with the Arrow boys, over supremacy . So many persons have died during such clashes in both camps. Our hit men are referred to as Flyers and Adaba . To graduate from the position of ‘Tender’ to ‘Flyer’ or ‘Adaba’ , it requires human blood. Anyone that can kill three persons at a go during fight with rival cult groups automatically becomes a ‘Flyer ‘ or an ‘Adaba’. But I don’t have the mind to kill”.
Cultists zones in satellite
He revealed that areas prone to cult activities included: Tambolo village, Ibasa, across the river, Bale, Ijegun, Egba, waterside, Fire Service around barracks, among other places.
Teenage girls too
Girls are also initiated into cultism in Lagos, like every other places. One of them, 14-year-old Barakat(surname withheld) who was paraded alongside other minors at the Lagos State Police Command four months ago, confessed to belonging to the Eiye Confraternity.
She disclosed when approached that she joined the group because of her love for her boyfriend, a decision she said changed the course of her entire life.
She said, ”Since I joined them, I stopped going home. I began to stay with my boyfriend in his parents’ house. After the group had studied me for a while, I was given the role of a spy. My work was to look out for policemen and other security agencies on the cult’s trail. I was also deplored to cook for our members.
She was paraded alongside four other girls between ages 10 and 13, The girls, who just left primary school, confessed to have been lured into the group by their boyfriends.
Forceful initiation (Alaba international)
At Alaba , along the Mile-Two/Badagry expressway, there have been reports of harassment and intimidation of residents by some miscreants who end up dispossessing victims of their valuables. When news of these complaints reached the Commissioner of Police, Zubairu Muazu, he deplored the Commander, Special Anti-Robbery Squad, CSP Peter Gana to fish out the perpetrators.
Surprisingly, out of the six suspects arrested at a dumpsite site in the area, four of them were teenagers who confessed to be members of the Eiye confraternity. Some of the member also admitted being members of a robbery gang that had been terrorizing residents.
One common feature about these suspects who are between 15 years and 19 years, was that they all left their parents homes at different times, to fend for themselves. In the day time, they would work as load carriers and scavengers while at night, some of them would complement their job with robbery.
Six out of 10 children are cultists
A visibly surprised CP Imohimi Edgal during his reign as the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Police Command, expressed shock at the involvement of minors in cultism.
He disclosed while parading some of the suspects that, ” when I asked one of my officers to do an in-depth research or investigation on the reasons for increase in cultism among the young ones, it was revealed that six out of 10 children are into cultism.
“This is not good for the growth of our country. What are their reasons? Investigation revealed that they join for supremacy over others. They join to avoid intimidation by their peers. They join so that they have an edge over girls in their communities.
Blaming poor parenting as the cause of the involvement of minors in cultism, Edgal, continued, “ Some of the children paraded were between the ages of 15 and 20. Tell me how a child of 15 will leave the parent’s house at unholy hours without their parents’ knowledge.
“Shame on you, if you are such a father. Go back home and take charge of your children, as we are losing them to drugs, crime and cultism.
“I want to appeal to parents to understand that our children are the future hope of our country; if we allow them to miss it, we will have no hope and no future leaders to take over from us”, he said.
(First published in Vanguard)