THE unfolding reality of the dark side activities of cultists and gangsters prevalence in most streets within Jos metropolis in the state capital and its environs these past few weeks is becoming quite terrifying and unpalatable. This increase in the rate of violence due to cultism, illicit drugs usage amongst the youth population and gang related attacks are thus giving many stakeholders stress and sleepless nights.
In most cases, sporadic shootings in flashpoints between rival cults group and gangs have ended up leaving behind tales of woe and anguish on the side of most parents in several communities. Many youths have been consumed during these fights while many others are carelessly heading towards this terrible unexpected sad end.
For instance, a few days back, residents of Kwata Zawan in Jos South woke up to find their area under siege following a clash between two rival cult groups at a nightclub in the area resulting in the eventual death of four persons.
According to the Plateau State Police Command spokesman, DSP Mathias Terna Tyopev, the command had earlier received a distress call to the effect that unknown cult groups armed with cutlasses, axe and guns attacked themselves near a night club at Kwata, Zawan in Jos South Local Government Area. As a result of the attack, four persons lost their lives.
Though the corpses of the deceased were reportedly deposited at the Plateau Specialist Hospital Mortuary for autopsy by the police, Tyopev added that the Commissioner of Police in the state, Austin Abonlahor subsequently directed the immediate commencement of investigations into the crime.
Some days later, a shop owner, Chinedu Okoye was also killed in his shop at Abdulsalam Street in Chorbe area of Jos North Local Government Area of Plateau State. The deceased was confirmed death after he was taken to the state’s specialist hospital for treatment.
This time around, in a swift reaction, the detectives of the Police Command succeeded in arresting two suspects in connection with this particular killing. Unfortunately however, as it is, there are several other areas within the metropolis where these cults’ related activities have overwhelmed the residents of the areas. In such areas, the security has always been caught napping each time such violent conducts are triggered. Likewise, the ward heads and residents for fear of the unknown prefer to remain mute than report such cases to relevant authorities.
The security agents of the Operation Safe Haven also paraded about fifteen cult members who were arrested after a gun battle. According to the Commander in charge of Operation Safe Haven, Major General Augustine Agundu, revealed that four soldiers were wounded during the operation which led to the arrest. The commander further disclosed that three AK 47 rifles and eleven locally fabricated pistols were recovered from the suspects during the operations. Other weapons recovered from them include seven locally fabricated rifles, three Dane guns, one local submachine gun as well as three berretta pistols amongst others.
The Commander said, “We are not resting on our mandate to achieve peace and stability in the state. the eleven cultists and fifteen other criminal gangs were arrested in different locations. All of them have confessed to the crimes and would be handed over to the police for prosecution after our investigations are concluded.”
What has continued to beat peoples’ imagination is the antics and motivation behind the increasing number of youths initiated on daily basis. Interestingly, most of the people who join these secret cult groups are of adolescent ages between 15-22 and in some cases adults. Some of the strategies cults members use to lure new members include cajoling, set up, talent hunting and intimidation. However, many get involved to seek for protection, as a result of inferiority complex, frustration, love for female students, peer pressure and revenge bid.
Beyond this however, one cannot rule out the issue of poverty as one of the major contributory factor to the increasing manace of cultism in our society. Consequently, many innocent victims are lured into cultism with promises of spontaneous wealth that is never to come in a life time of an individual.
Unconfirmed reports have it that residents of Anguwan Rukuba, Tudun Wada, Utan, Jenta Adamu, Russau around the University of Jos axis, Bussa Buji and Rukuba road, and Congo Russia are presently enveloped in fear and anxiety due to the ferocious activities of these occult groups in the metropolis.
Concerned about these menace within Jos metropolis and its environs, the Director General of the Plareau State Peace Building Agency, Joseph Lengmang explained that “lately, reported cases of cult activities and gang violence appears to be on the rise within Jos metropolis and environs. In some neighborhoods for example, people are now forced to retire into their homes as early as 7pm for fear of attacks, or even caught in the middle of cult and Sara-Suka wars.”
According to him, “ gangsterism and cult violence in Apata, Busa Buji, Alheri, Gada Biu, Congo Russia, Anguwan Damisa, Anguwan Rogo, Anguwan Suya,Rukuba road, Dilimi, Nasarawa Gwom, Gangare , Utan and a host of others is as random as destructive wind gusts are random. You can brace yourself but still not anticipate the location or severity of the attacks and violence.”
Continuing, the Director General explained that “reports indicate that gang violence and cultist activities have culminated into acts of revenge that are growing more heinous by the day. Bullets have been shot, throats slit open and young boys hacked down with machetes at their prime. Some of these neighborhoods have also been identified with high risk of consumption and peddling of illicit drugs. Increasingly, families agonized about their children being recruited by gang and cult groups even at the adolescent ages of 12 and 17.
“This ugly trend is not only disturbing but worrisome considering that the perpetrators are mostly young people who are supposed to be the vanguards of peace and development in our state and not to even mention that they are supposedly our leaders of tomorrow. Therefore, we are compelled by this unfortunate development to issue a clarion call to communities and neighborhoods to be decisive in dealing with this monster before it consumes us all. The problem requires a collective action of sort, he added.
Before now, Jos, the Plateau State capital has not been subjected to such an horrific experience necessitated by activities of the dark side. Though, the city is recovering from the shackles of ethno religious and communal conflict, this new emerging insecurity dimension is proving too difficult to handle.
Evidently, some surrounding states had their fair share of this problematic phenomenon before steps were taken to neutralize them. To curb these menace, reports indicated, the Benue State government had to face it headlong a few months ago. At a point, the residents applied the “jungle justice strategy” to reduce its prevalence and resultant devastating consequences in the state.
Most of these cults groups who left neighboring states for fear of meeting their waterloo are the ones who have regrouped on the Plateau in recent times. According to IFRA Nigeria in 2019, since the creation of Pyrates Confraternity (also known as the Nigeria Association of Seadogs) by a group of six students of the now University of Ibadan in 1952, cults and cultist organizations have remained an important social, cultural reality and occupied a major place in public discourse amongst people in contemporary Nigeria with varied ways and means of manifestation.
In the course of time, the characters of cultist groups have been taking newer and newer dimensions with increasing complexity and implication on human rights (forced prostitution, sexual exploitation, human trafficking), criminally (armed robberies, thefts) and political instability(political thuggery, politically-motivated assassinations, electoral fraud) as well as constituent elements of criminal law and prosecutional powers of police and judiciary. With membership cutting across ethnic, religious, social, educational, economic and political classes; various forms of consciousness have become the order of the day.
Accordingly, cultists carry out murderous campaigns against their opponents or enemies and captives. Thus, since the 1980s, whenever confraternities have murdered people who are thought to have offended them, especially groups operating prostitution rings, they have usually been very barbaric, using such methods as disembowelment, decapitation, rape and killing or burning alive. Most times, the parents of the victims especially those forced to join a cult, hardly are aware because they may not be able to disclose what they are going through secretly.
Worse hit are our tertiary institutions of learning where the proliferation of cult related activities has been done with impunity in recent years. Unconfirmed reports also indicate that most tertiary institutions in Plateau State are becoming breeding grounds for complex and sophisticated contemporary cult groups. Consequently, a high percentage of violent happenings in campuses are usually attributed to the show of strength by these unrepentant groups.
In the words of Oyemwinmina Peter of the Security Department of University of Benin, “The greatest and most embarrassing problem facing tertiary institutions in Nigeria today is the renewal of the menace and aggressiveness of cult activities. Obviously, cultism is said to be the mother of crimes in tertiary institutions and this phenomenon is negatively affecting the image of our institutions, the learning quality and integrity of the grandaunts.”
According to him, the eradication of secret cults from tertiary institutions has become unachievable goal in spite of the government commitment to do away with this societal ill from existence. It will amount to stating the obvious if cultism is said to be the mother of all crimes in tertiary institutions today. The problem of cultism has been so overwhelming that every facet of the education industry in Nigeria has been infested by it.
In the past few months, Jos and its environs have continued to groan under the negative impact of cult related activities. Aside the issue of general sense of insecurity, the killings of youth population which has continued to threaten the future hope of the state is also taking a great toll on communities.
Many security agencies are also overstretched due to rising criminal activities even as parents continue to be devastated by the re-occurant death of their loved ones.
There is, therefore, urgent need for the state government to proffer solutions to this hydra headed problem to guarantee the protection of the citizenry. In any case, security agencies must refocus on strategizing towards restructuring a more effective framework towards tackling this issue once and for all.
Above all, communities must also ensure a more holistic approach to dealing with this issue once and for all.