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The Rise Of Cultism In Benue Communities

Some communities in Benue state, North-central Nigeria have been facing an epidemic of cultist attacks.

Emmanuel, suspected to be a member of a cult group known as ‘The Black Squad,’ was killed in Agboughul community of Makurdi, Benue State, North-central Nigeria.

He was at home with his siblings when a knock sounded on the gate. When he went to check, he was overpowered and killed on the spot, a source who craved anonymity told HumAngle.

Another victim, called Ajudo, was also killed during an argument.

Residents are afraid to talk

Blessing’s (surname omitted) provision store was robbed and goods worth millions of naira carted away. She now sells food to make ends meet.

“I don’t know these people, but I think they are the area boys. They go about raiding shops, breaking into people’s houses, attacking people on the way and collecting their properties,” Blessing said.

Some of the hot spots include Agboughul, Bembem, Boma, and behind Makurdi Modern Market.

Shija, a motorcyclist, told HumAngle he had stopped taking people to such places due to the surge in cultism. “Those areas are not places ordinary motorcyclists like me should go. It’s either you are a member or know your way. If not, you don’t go there at all,” he said.

Some residents, especially victims, do not want to talk about it. “We may incur more wrath upon ourselves,” one said. Shija Terhemba, the commandant of a vigilante group in Agboughul community explained that their efforts have led to more attacks but there is no going back.

“The other day I was shot two times by the hoodlums. What happened was that I heard sporadic shots. I didn’t know whether they were fighting amongst themselves, so I called my men. They had killed someone already,  so we made up our mind to go hard after them,” he said.

When they found the location, Terhemba and his men joined up with some policemen and continued the search.

“Immediately they discovered that a police and vigilante group had arrived, they started shooting at us, and that was how we opened fire too,” he narrated.

They exchanged gunshots for hours and that was when Terhemba and three of his colleagues were shot.

“That day they killed four people. Although three of us were shot, none of us died,” Terhemba continued. “My pain is not because I was shot but the fact that the police ran away immediately after I was hit.”

Terhemba pointed out that it is a recurring situation and that the police always arrive at the scene, but sometimes after the cultists had killed, robbed, and left.

Residents suffer

Wielding guns and machetes, the gangs attack houses and shops. This has caused some residents to pack out of certain areas. 

“Danger zones like Boma road, Bembem, behind and back of the modern market,” a resident said. “Once it’s 7 p.m., no matter the urgency, if you must, go along with other people because those areas are not safe.”

When contacted, Police Public Relations Officer Catherine Sewuese Anene, said the police commission is aware of the growing criminality in the communities. However, she alleged that the hoodlums are not strangers but residents.

“We have begged them on several occasions to hand over the hoodlums to the police but the parents wouldn’t,” she said, adding that maximum security has been deployed.

The situation has affected daily activities in the affected areas. “It’s been over eight years since we moved in here and the situation has gotten worse. People are killed, robbed, and molested,” another resident said. “Shops are broken into and this has become a norm. Many families have had their share of the crises.”

HumAngle observed that cultists live in their numbers in the Agboughul community and have literally turned the place as their domain. Different cult groups carry out their activities and are always at loggerheads in their fight for supremacy.

“Here is like the boundary between Black and Red groups, we are either running to lock our doors or crying of robbery,” Terhemba said.

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