Editor’s note: A Lagos-based Naij.com author, Obule Ocheyenor, joins the circle of authors whose aim is to bring the attention of the Lagos state authorities to criminal activities of Lagos state cult gangs. No matter who may be revealed as the driving force behind the mayhem, security operatives must bring these activities to a halt.
Security agencies in Lagos state must be living in barefaced denial if they think activities of cult gangs in some parts of the state do not constitute a serious security threat. Hardly any week passes without the cult gangs unleashing terror on innocent, law-abiding residents of areas such as Bariga, Mushin, Jibowu, Fadeyi, Onipanu, Palmgrove, Yaba, Old Apapa Road, Ilupeju, etc. Wielding offensive weapons such as guns, axes and cutlasses, the cult gangs not only brazenly engage one another in fierce, bloody battles, they also attack innocent people caught in the crossfire. They burn houses, destroy cars and everything in sight. Sometimes these battles last for several hours without a whimper from security operatives. It is after the battles and reprisal attacks are over and colossal damage wreaked that security personnel arrive the scene and arrest passers-by who knew nothing about the incident.
A cult gang struck again in Bariga on Saturday, 23 January. Adejoke Adefuye, a 65-year-old woman was burnt to death. The cultists on a reprisal attack at about 9:00am set ablaze a bungalow at 19, Oshinfolarin Street, Bariga. The attack lasted about two hours yet it could not be thwarted by security operatives. The cultists had been terrorising the area unchallenged the previous day before setting the building on fire along with the elderly woman on Saturday, while other occupants of the building sustained minor injuries. All occupants of the building were rendered homeless after the incident. This brazen lawlessness is difficult to justify under any circumstance. The masterminds of this dastardly act may have been arrested, but hardly anything will come out of the arrest, as has been the case in the past whereby culprits arrested in connection with cult mayhem were hardly charged to court.
Aiye and Eiye cult groups are the most notorious groups disturbing the peace of the areas mentioned earlier. Most members of cult gangs are artisans and jobless youths conscripted into the groups by university students who are also cult members living off campuses in the affected areas. They are willing tools in the hands of politicians who deploy them during elections against their political opponents. They have held sway for so long in those areas because of the unbridled backing they enjoy from politicians. These politicians usually free them from police custody once they are arrested. They are never charged to court even if they commit murder, which is quite often the case. Soon after they regain their freedom, they go back to unleash terror on the community and the vicious cycle goes on and on, without anybody willing to bell the cat.
Mushin used to be the most notorious hotbed of gun and cult-related violence in Lagos. However, over the years, the adjoining Onipanu, Palmgrove, Jibowu, Fadeyi and other areas such as Bariga and Yaba have gained similar notoriety and are even outdoing Mushin in this regard. Those who travel along the busy Ikorodu road, especially the axis of Onipanu, Jibowu, Palmgrove and Fadeyi, once in a while, get caught up in these frequent turf battles between the cult gangs. Innocent people caught in the crossfire have lost their lives in the process, while the lucky ones escape with severe injuries. The gangs in Mushin usually advance to one side of Ikorodu road, while the rival gangs from Bariga also take up the gauntlet thrown down by the Mushin gangs and hell is let loose on Ikorodu road which becomes the battleground. The ensuing chaos which often takes place in broad daylight can last for hours and disrupts economic and social activities before the police quell it. Lagos is too sophisticated to allow this wanton supremacy battles to happen with such frequency.
The state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, and the commissioner of police, Fatai Owoseni, must put their foot down, muster the necessary will and stop this unnecessary shedding of innocent blood by these cult gangs. They should adopt the Ogun state solution whereby the police have routinely smoked dozens of cultists out of their hideouts and the state now witnesses relative peace. The cultists were on the loose across the length and breadth of Ogun state before they were decisively routed recently. Ogun state may still have other security challenges such as armed robbery, smuggling and kidnapping but not on the scale cult groups were wreaking havoc before their menace was curtailed.
The helplessness of security operatives over these frequent clashes in Lagos is questionable. It is the belief of many residents of the affected areas in Lagos that security agents know the backers of these cultists but cannot do much to rein them in because they are influential and highly-placed members of the society. The last has not been heard about the danger posed by these cult gangs if decisive steps are not taken to cage them. The special squad set up by the inspector general of police, Solomon Arase, should be despatched to those areas to arrest the cultists who have been having a field day for so many years.
Community policing could also go a long way in gathering intelligence on the perpetrators of the bloody skirmishes. Community leaders should work with unbiased intelligence operatives to smoke out these anti-social elements undermining the peace of these affected communities. Lagos, which is seeking to be the ultimate destination for foreign investors, cannot afford to allow pockets of violence perpetrated by cult groups derail government’s massive investment in crime prevention and control.
Mr Ocheyenor wrote from Lagos.
source : Naij.com