Idowu Omiyale (not real name), a minibus driver in Lagos, Southwest Nigeria, was out for work early in the morning, when he was attacked at Ikorodu Garage by suspected cultists. Omiyale had a weekly target to remit a certain amount to the minibus’ owner, but he couldn’t meet up after his assailants nearly butchered him to death.
He spent weeks at the hospital, but that was not all. His minibus was damaged by the cultists.
“He was attacked in broad daylight at a park in Ikorodu garage, bedside Benson filling station. I spent over N200,000 to settle his hospital bills,” his boss said.
While these attacks have led to the loss of lives and wanton destruction of properties, some survivors, like Omiyale have to live with scars from wounds sustained during the attacks.
Surge of cultism in Lagos State
In the last two months, the Lagos State Police Command had arrested several individuals belonging to different cult groups across the state. According to the Police Report during these months, Ikorodu, Obalende and Lekki-Ajah are the places in Lagos with high cases of cultism.
In many of the arrests, police had retrieved ammunition, including guns, cutlasses, knives, bullets among others possessed by the suspected cultists.
“There has been a lot of news on attacks by cultists, especially in Ikorodu. During the #EndSARS protest, they mobilised themselves into groups and used the opportunity to steal from people,” a resident of Ikorodu who did not reveal his identity for safety reasons told HumAngle.
“We identified them by their names. After the protest, the police were able to apprehend some but not all. They still constantly disturb us,” he adds.
Despite the Police making several arrests, residents still feel unsafe.
114 suspected cultists arrest in two months
On new year’s eve, three suspected cultists were arrested by the Police in an all-night patrol at different locations within the state. Three days later, on Jan. 2, the Police officers at Akodo Division arrested two suspected members of Aiye Confraternity at Eleko Beach in a foiled attack on an unsuspecting victim.
Within the same month, eleven suspected cultists were arrested by the police after they had terrorised Owode-Elede, Agilinti, Maidan, and Afinjuomo, all in Mile 12 and Ketu areas of Lagos State.
At Ikorodu, the divisional Police had engaged some suspected members of the Aiye confraternity in a gun duel at Igbelara, arresting two suspects and recovering arms.
On Jan. 28, two suspected cult members in the Ikorodu area of Lagos were arrested following a rivalry clash that left one person dead and many injured. According to the report, the suspected cultists, who were members of the Eiye confraternity, unleashed mayhem in Igbo-Olomu, Ikorodu, over the death of a member who was killed in the Ajegunle area of Ikorodu.
In a suspected cult clash at Coker-Aguda Local Council Development Area, which reportedly claimed two lives, the police said they arrested 12 persons. It was learnt that one of the deceased was lured out in the night from his Aguda residence before he was killed by rival cult members.
Also, a Police special squad set up by Lagos State Police Commissioner, stormed Ikorodu area, arresting five suspected traffic robbers/cultists on Feb. 5. The operation was part of the promises by the Police Commissioner to rid Ikorodu of criminal elements.
In February, following a cult-related clash at Alakuko area of Lagos Sango/Tollgate and Dalemo, the Lagos State Police Command arrested 19 suspected cultists.
The command said items recovered from the suspects included dangerous weapons, assorted charms and substance suspected to be Indian hemp.
Between January and the first week of March, 2021, the Lagos State Police Command reported the arrest of 114 suspected cultists, with more than half picked up in Ikorodu part of the state. During the arrests, the command recovered several arms used by the cultists.
Despite several arrests being made, cultism continues to thrive in the state.
The police in Ejigbo division also arrested four suspects that gang-raped a teenager in Ejigbo. Cutlasses and substance suspected to be Indian hemp were recovered from them. Within the same Ejigbo, two suspects were arrested at a shrine with dangerous weapons appeasing the god of iron.
After an attack on some residents at Ebute Metta, police apprehended two suspected cultists and recovered locally made shotguns, live and expended cartridges, cutlasses, knives and mobile phones.
The police command also reported the arrest of 50 suspected armed robbers and cultists who were nabbed at Imota, Igbokuta, Adamo and Emure in Ikorodu area of the state. This arrest was made during a sting operation carried out by the Commissioner of Police Strike Force between Friday, March 5 and Sunday, March 7, 2021.
Laws against cultism
The Lagos State House of Assembly, in Feb. 2021, passed a bill banning the activities of cultists and illegal societies across the state into law.
The Bill titled ‘A Law to provide for the prohibition of unlawful societies and cultism in Lagos State and for other connected purposes,’ says a society shall be regarded as unlawful if its members are engaged in illegal, destructive activities contrary to public policy, safety and peace of members of the public.
In Section 3, it reads: “Any person who is a member of an unlawful society or cult, identifies as a member or solicits for members of an unlawful society or cult, attends a meeting of an unlawful society or cult whether as a member or an intending member of the unlawful society or cult commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of 21 years imprisonment.”
“The jail term also concerns anyone who attends such meetings or does any illegal act which may probably cause a breach of peace, disturb the public peace or conducts activities in such a manner as to pose a threat to life and property.”
“Anyone who forms, organises or combines and agrees with anyone to form or organise an unlawful society or cult, manages and assists in the management of an unlawful society or cult or knowingly allows a meeting of members of an unlawful society or cult to be held in any property under his control commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of 15 years imprisonment.”
“The 15-year jail term further applies to anyone who intimidates or compels people to join a cult group.”
Similarly, the House amended the Unlawful Societies and Cultism (Prohibition) Bill 2020 and proposed punishment for parents of convicted cultists.
While passing the bill during the plenary session, the speaker, Hon. Mudashiru Obasa said “Parents of cultists found guilty of cultism in the state ‘might be liable for punishment.”
“The bill, if signed into law, will provide for the prohibition of unlawful societies and cultism in Lagos and for connected purposes,” he added.
“We will also differentiate between the types of cultism in the country so that we won’t solve one problem and create another.”
Police vow to end cultism
In the last raid by the Police in the state, Hakeem Odumosu, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police promised to take the anti-crime fight of the command to the den of hoodlums irrespective of areas of the state.
The CP emphasised identifying and raiding dens of the ‘bad boys’ who have been terrorising the people of Lekki, Ajah, Badore, Sangotedo, Elemoro, Ibeju-Lekki and Akodo.
In a press release, Odumosu, called on the community leaders to support the police in combating crimes and getting rid of the hoodlums and their antics in their respective areas of the state.
While efforts put in place by the police command to apprehend cultists are laudable, many Lagosians still live in fear of attacks by these criminals – hence the need for the police unit to amplify its strategies.
“The problem about moving around is that they can start their clash at any time of the day without notice and one might just fall victim of it,” a resident in Ikorodu said.
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