Cult War in Benue State

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Paraded cultists in Benue State
Paraded cultists in Benue State

Terror attacks by rival cult gangs in Benue State, a once peaceful state, have become a source of concern to the indigenes and authorities in the state

By Pita Ochai  |  Dec. 10, 2012 @ 01:00 GMT

AT about 6.30 pm on July 8, Gabriel Atom, a resident of Edwin Jekkay Street, High level, Makurdi, went to a barber’s shop on his street for a haircut. Barely 30 minutes later after the haircut, as he was stepping out of the barber’s shop, he was confronted by a gang of six boys armed with axes and knives at the entrance. Sensing danger, Atom attempted to escape, but he was overpowered by the boys who descended on him with the axes and cutlasses inflicting injuries on him. They left him for death to complete the assignment. Indeed, Atom died from the injuries the following day in a hospital. It was later discovered that Atom belonged to a rival cult group and had been involved in several brawls with the cult group that attacked him.

On September 14, James Ode, a student, went to a restaurant in the Court 5 area of Makurd,  to eat but got a shocking experience. As Ode wanted to settle down to take his meal, his phone rang. Ode stepped outside the restaurant to receive his call. He spoke to his caller in his native dialect but his conversation was audible enough for those in the restaurant to hear.

While still speaking on the phone, a young lady who was having her meal with another young man in the restaurant, approached Ode and told him that he should stop speaking in his useless dialect. She told him she was sent by a young man who was sharing the same table with her in the restaurant. Ode wasn’t happy with the message, and sent the young lady back to tell her friend that he should close his stupid ears if he did not want to hear him speak. The young man became furious and promised to show Ode that he was the lord of the territory.

Few minutes after Ode returned to the restaurant take his meal he was accosted. He was shocked when five boys with knives and axes demanding what gave him the guts to insult their capon. Luckily, as they were about to beat him one of the boys identified him as a neigbhour to his uncle.

Just a few days after the Ode incidence, the Benue State police command discovered a corpse identified as Dennis Ede at Adikpo Street in Makurdi. That was after receiving information about sporadic gunshots on the street. “The police got information about gunshots at Adikpo Street and immediately mobilised to the scene only to discover the corpse of Ede in a pool of his own blood. The victim is suspected to have been attacked by cultists; though no arrest has been made, the police recovered one empty shell of cartridge at the scene of the incident,” said Daniel Ezeala, Benue State Police Command public relations officer.

Those are the horrible experiences being faced by residents of Benue State as a result of growing cult activities in some towns in the state, especially in Makurdi, Gboko and Otukpo. The growing state of violent cult activities is giving residence serious security concern. Gangs of suspected cultists parading the state are becoming more brutal and daring. Bloody trails are left behind as victims meet their deaths in the most gruesome manner.

In September, two students of Fidei Polytechnic in Gboko, were hacked to death by a gang of 10 suspected cultists. Few days after that, a group of young boys struck at the NKST Church located at High Level, Makurdi, and killed another young man about their age, who was entering the church. As a result of the cult menaces, the authorities of the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, closed down the institution in September following a clash between rival cultists. The suspected cultists have been on rampage on the campus, raping ladies and killing perceived enemies.

Before now, cultism was restricted to higher institutions in the state but now the cankerworm has eaten deep into the society. While cultist practices are on the increase at the different higher institutions, members have introduced the practice to the younger generation of secondary school age. In the month of September, 45 suspected cultists were arrested by the Benue State police command from different parts of the state with different weapons recovered from them. Most of those apprehended were either teenagers or in their early 20s. On November 6, clashes between two rival cult groups resulted in the death of four students of the College of Education, Katsina – Ala.

According to Albert Tivlumum, a Wadata resident in Makurdi, the cult activities have brought security challenges to the state. He said people now live in fear in different parts of the state because it is difficult to know the next point the gang would strike.

Alfred Torkula, the Tor Tiv, Ochivere, the paramount ruler of the Tiv nation, lamented the killings and devastation various communities in the state had to contend with as a result of the activities of cult groups in parts of the state. He said that when the cult activities started way back, everyone thought that it was something that was confined to the universities. Regrettably, he noted, it had spread to secondary schools and even primary schools, and now their activities are threatening the peace of the society and destroying the future of the young ones.

Itsa Emmanuel, a 14-year old leader of a group known as “Koboko cult”, who was arrested at the Wadata area of Makurdi, said that they were motivated to form the gang by a yet-to-be identified young man whom, he said, also drew up guidelines and modus operandi for members. According to him, membership of the cult group is drawn from youngsters who must be of primary and junior secondary school ages.

The initiation of new members into the “koboko cult” entails the consumption of a concoction prepared from hard spirit and alcohol and some other materials and the pouring of libation. Members also consume the stuff at their gathering to enable them feel high and become bold enough to undertake any assignment. They gather each day at their meeting points to gyrate after which they move into the streets ready for any action and sometimes for a showdown with rival groups or gangs with which they have scores to settle.

Emmanuel disclosed that they have, over time initiated new members into the cult but lamented that it was their quest to gain relevance in their neighborhood and the society that forced them into establishing the cult group to counter various others that exist in the Wadata area of the town.

The high percentage of school age youths involved in the criminality has become so worrisome that Ejike Alaribe, Benue State Deputy Police Public Relations Officer, DPPRO, lamented the alarming rate of peer group influence on children. “So many innocent children and youths are being lured into cultism and other forms of crime by their bad and evil-minded friends,” he said.

Ezeala agreed that cult activities in the state have become rampant but that the police is doing everything to arrest the situation. However, residents think the police has become ineffective in tackling criminals in the area. They called on government and security agencies to beef up surveillance in the area to avert further loss of lives.

To Achor Haruna, a psychologist, the practice of cultism among youths is a reflection of the nature of the society. “If you are in a society where oppression, injustice and corruption is rampant, children that grow up in such an environment develop such mentality,” Haruna said.

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