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How changing lifestyle breeds cultism in Kwara

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How changing lifestyle breeds cultism in Kwara
  • 40 dead, 105 arrested since 2015

When Dr. Bukola Saraki became governor of Kwara state in 2003, one of the first steps he took was to put in place a new law against cultism. The move was to stem the then growing wave of violence which grew into worrisome dimension during the 2003 general elections in the state with claims that cult members were used. Some thirteen years after, in 2016, his successor, Alhaji AbdulFattah Ahmed reviewed the law and imposed more stringent conditions into it, making greater provisions for the punishment for membership, commission, aiding and abetting of cultism. But neither the initial move by Saraki, nor the subsequent improvements on its terms by Ahmed, has been able to stem the tide of cult killings in the north central state, and particularly, Ilorin, the state capital, as reported by BIODUN OYELEYE.

 

n the last one year alone, at least some 45 youths have been killed in cult related wars, which often create panic in the metropolis, according to the National President of Ilorin Emirate Progressive Development Union (IEDPU), Ambassador Sheikh Uthnan-AbdulAzeez.

Statistics also indicated that from 2015 till date, not less than 105 young people have been arrested on allegations of being members of cult groups. The Union has taken several steps to tame the tide, among them the organisation of a Security Summit, creation of empowerment projects for young people and massive media awareness on the ills of cultism.

But it appears to be a hydra headed evil that has permeated the fabric of the society, especially Ilorin. At a point in time, the union asked members of various communities in the emirate to expose members of suspected secret cult in their areas and asked the communities to name those involved in sales of liquor in prohibited areas and those involved in smoking of carnnabis sativa and other prohibited substances as step towards of eradication The immediate past National president of the union, Alhaji Abdulhamid Adi, who made these calls at a security meeting conveyed for stakeholders at the union’s national secretariat expressed sadness that Ilorin emirate which was hitherto known for peace and harmony has been turned into theatre of war.

The meeting was attended Head of Divisional Police Officers, representatives of Department of State Security Services, vigilante and Metro security initiatives set up by the IEDPU in various communities.

Adi told them: ‘‘Level of criminality is getting worrisome within the metropolis .In the last 6 months more that 30 lives were wasted by cultist. Notorious areas include Agbo -Oba , Gada, Edun ,Gambari, and Ajikobi .

The latest ones about two weeks ago were at Okesuna, Stadium etc’’ . As a step toward addressing the menace, Chairman, IEDPU Security committee, Ambassador Uthman Abduazeez, who would later succeed Adi as National President, said unless the members of every community volunteer to purge their areas of crimes the anticult war and other prevailing security challenges might be difficult to win.

He urged every community to come up with the lists of suspected cult members and criminal in their community for security agencies to act upon. Lawmakers in the state at a point traced the upsurge in crime in the state capital to the proliferation of hotels and guest houses in the state. The legislature and IEDPU were unanimous in their views that proliferation of hotels, especially in Ilorin, the state capital was aiding criminality in the state. Speaking at a stakeholders forum organised by the IEDPU over rising security threats in Ilorin, the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Dr Ali Ahmad said steps were being taken to reverse the trend.

He said recent findings had shown that Kwara has highest number of hotels in the country with Adewole Housing Estate, Ilorin topping the list with over 100 hotels. He attributed the upsurge in the hotels to the indiscriminate conversion of residential houses to guest houses. Represented by Hon. Abdulrafiu Abdulrahman, member representing Ilorin North West, Ahmad disclosed that an executive bill meant to curb the proliferation of hotels in the state had scaled second reading in the Assembly.

Ahmad said the fallout of the trend include nude parties, indecent dressing, cultism, adding some of the hotels serve as abodes for questionable characters. His words: “By gazette, Kwara has highest number of hotels in Nigeria.

In Adewole Housing Estate alone, there are over 100 hotels or guest houses. Most of the hotels are residential buildings converted to hotels with no approval from relevant authorities

. “We are presently working on an executive bill that would regulate proliferation of hotels, sales of alcohol and consumption of liquor within some areas within Ilorin metropolis.

So, if that law is put in place, we will put in stringent measures that would make it impossible or very difficult to actually convert a residential building to a hotel. “But let me correct erroneous impression in some quarters that the upsurge in crime in recent times was as a result of political issue.

That is not true. Rather, it is caused by urbanization” In his own comments, the state Chief Judge, Justice Sulaiman Durosinlohun Kawu, expressed displeasure that Ilorin did not prepare for challenges associated with urbanization and expansion, which could not be isolated from the wave of crime in the city.

As a way out, the jurist urged the IEDPU to have a roll call of retired security officials from Ilorin and invite them to a meeting with a view to deliberating on how best to arrest the alarming situation.

The then IEDPU President, Alhaji Abdulhamid Adi, warned that the cultural values of Ilorin are being gradually eroded with corrosive influence of alien practices.

Adi noted that the city is rapidly expanding with influx of strangers but stressed the need to rise to the challenges in the interest of peace and harmony the city is revered and urged residents of Ilorin and its environs to report any strange development to appropriate security agencies for swift action.

During his term as police commissioner in the state, Mr. Olusola Amore once raised the alarm over the incursion of cult groups, particularly among artisans.

Amore, at a news conference said the development was worrisome as it poses serious danger to the safety of ordinary citizens who might become victims of cross-firing between two rival groups.

At the briefing, Amore, now retired, paraded three suspected cult members whom he alleged had confessed to being members of Eiye and Aiye confraternities and had been involved in series of cult attacks in the state capital of recent.

Three live cartridges and some charms were recovered allegedly from the suspects. He said: “Unfortunately on the issue of cultism in Kwara you will be embarrassed to see the kind of people now involved. In Ilorin, the artisans are now involved, okada riders, taxi drivers, tricycle riders, plumbers, bricklayers, vulcanisers, etc.

We used to think it was limited to students in the higher institutions so we checkmate them but now things have changed and we need the support of the communities to handle it.

“You see, you won’t know whether the taxi man driving you or the okada man taking you somewhere is a cult member and his opponents might just want to attack him while you are in his car and you will be a victim.” Just last week, Uthnan-AbdulAzeez, , at an interactive session organised by the Union with Islamic clerics and Chief Imams of various mosques in the Ilorin emirate and beyond, described the killing by some suspected cult members as alarming and which needed to be addressed.

The interactive session was aimed at reminding the Islamic clerics to centre their sermons during Ramadan and beyond on eradication of social vices in Ilorin emirate as the IEDPU boss urged Islamic clerics in the state to complement the effort of eradicating cultism and other vices in the state through their sermons.

He lamented that several residents of the Ilorin emirate and beyond were living in perpetual fear of insecurity of their lives and property and frowned at what he described as alarming rate of sales and dealing with human parts in various parts of the state. He charged the clerics to assist in the eradication of the menace.

“It saddens the Union that several youths in Ilorin are now smoking Indian hemp including some Islamic clerics”, he said and advised the Islamic clerics to shun rivalry among themselves and see themselves as one indivisible entity with common goal to eradicate social problems and insecurity in the state. Last year, precisely on July 7, 2017, rumour was rife that cult members were set to celebrate 7-7-17 with a special outing; to kill and maim.

Both the state executive council and the police rose to the occasion, with a senior government official confirming that he didn’t sleep for one minute in about 36 hours as officials strategise on how to deal with the 7-7/17 threat.

At the end, about 25 suspected cult members were nabbed while one person was killed. Between January and April 2017, the state police command arrested 19 suspects and recovered 40 weapons of different calibre from suspected cult members. In August 2015, 45 were arrested, in February 2016, three were arrested and in May 2016, 14 were nabbed.

The figure keeps increasing as the cult members increased their sophistication and strategies. As part of efforts to check the menace, the State House of Assembly passed the new Secret Cults and Society Prohibition Bill 2016.

The new law equally outlawed cultism establishment, commission, existence, membership and activities of secret cults and societies in both academic and non-academic environments in the state.

On August 18, 2015, police and management of Kwara State Polytechnic (KWARAPOLY) disagreed over a clash believed to have been among suspected cult members from the institution which spread to other parts of Ilorin, the state capital and claimed many lives.

The development came as lawmakers in the state summoned the management of the school and officials of the state’s Ministry of Tertiary Education to come and explain the recent spate of cult related activities on the institution’s campus.

While the police confirmed there was a clash which resulted in at least one death on the campus of the school, the management at a press briefing denied such incident as well as the number of deaths reported by the media. The media reports had indicated the casualties were recorded in various parts of the state capital following reprisal attacks.

The police said it had recovered one of the guns used in the operation. Spokesman for the Kwara command, Mr Ajayi Okasanmi, told newsmen that men of the command had two corpses from the clash, one of them from a person who was shot on the polytechnic’s ‘Motion Ground’ where students usually converge for their election activities.

Okasanmi said altogether 45 persons have been arrested over the clash with 26 of them already facing trial as part of efforts by the command to deal with the rising wave of cult activities on the campus.

At that time, the PPRO said, “We discovered the cultist if care is not taken will cause more harm than good and we have need to make sure that we clip their wings. Two people died as a result of the clashes last week and early this week.

We have officially two persons that were killed. One in the polytechnic and one at the Ajase Road, opposite a hotel, one person was equally matcheted and he is receiving treatment at University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital.

On April 4, 2016, the police paraded 14 men it said were arrested over their alleged involvement in a clash among rival cult groups that led to the death of three persons and created panic and tension in some parts of Ilorin, the state capital.

One of the suspects, according to sources in the police command, is the son of a prominent paramilitary officer. Two of the suspects are also among suspected criminals earlier declared wanted by the state police command.

The then state’s police commissioner, Mr Sam Okaula, who was visibly angry when he addressed newsmen over the rising wave of cult killings in the state capital, lamented that some of the suspects are children from decent homes but who had wandered away from the path of morality but declined to comment on the link between one of them and the serving paramilitary officer.

He also alerted members of the public to the new mode of operation by the cultists, saying they either lure their victims to the point of death through phone calls or ride on motorcycles from where they fire at their targets On February 24, 2016, a student of the Kwara State Polytechnic was hacked down by suspected cultists.

The lone victim was gunned down by five gun-wielding men at the frontage of the Administrative office of the polytechnic at about 7.00pm. His assailants were said to have been on his trail for some weeks and when they caught up with him, fired several shots at him from a distance without any effect, a development that prompted them to chase and grab him and then fired several shots on his head to kill him and then ran away.

On the night of July 7, 2017, despite a preemptive midnight raid by security agents during which about 10 persons were arrested, suspected cult members still unleashed terror on some parts of Ilorin, killing at least one person in the process.

The cult members had reportedly planned an initiation of new members in a popular hotel in the metropolis and slated some clashes to highlight the event. One man identified simply as Dauda was gruesomely killed at Edun/Opo-Malu Junction in the metropolis.

The victim was described as a dealer in furniture and interior decorations at a popular fairly used market near Edun Junction, was said to have taken to his heels when he sighted the dread group but was given a hot chase and caught at the Edun/ Opo-Malu Junction.

The cult group was said to have left the scene of the incident immediately the deceased was confirmed dead. Other shop owners were said to have scampered for safety the cultists reportedly brandished harmful objects including guns, machetes among others.

The police had earlier arrested four persons for alleged involvement in cult related activities within Ilorin metropolis. On July 12, 2017 the police again paraded 11 suspects it claimed were arrested over their alleged involvement in cult activities.

The then Commissioner of police for the state, Lawan Ado, said the cultist had targeted to strike in the state on July 7, 2017 to mark what they had termed ‘7/7/7’ during which they had plan ne dot unleash mayhem on residents.

“The cultists said they were coming to strike on 7/7/17 and so we had to deploy our men and patrols all over the state and that was why they couldn’t achieve their goal as anticipated”, the police boss said expressing sadness however that the cultists succeeded in killing a businesswoman at the Kulende area of the metropolis on the said date.

Ado, who said the menace of cultism was one of the highlights of briefings he received when he assumed leadership of the command few weeks ago, vowed to ensure that the culture of cult activities across the state is brought to an end during his tenure.

The suspects were arrested on June 29, 2017 at various locations in the metropolis with the aid of other security agencies, Ado said, stating further that the suspects had confessed to being members of the Eiye Confraternity.

On May 4, 2017 the police command confirmed it had recovered 40 assorted guns and live ammunition between January and April of that year. A statement made Ajayi Okasanmi, reiterating the commitment of the command to securing lives and property of people of the state, said: “Between January and April 2017, a total number of 19 single barrel guns, one Ghana made single barrel gun, 12 locally made pistols, six dane guns, one AK 49 rifle, one AK 47 rifle, 63 live cartridges and 17 expended cartridges were recovered”.

Elder statesman, Alhaji Kawu Baraje, said the development was worrisome and condemnable, all against the tradition of the ancient city. Baraje, in an interview with this newspaper last year said, “That is a very touching question. Not only as a citizen of Ilorin, not only as a Kwaran, but as a human being, who actually valued life and the teaching of Islam connotes peace. Every religion has a moral.

The Islam per se teaches peaceful co-existence. This town (Ilorin) is deep rooted in Islam; Islamic knowledge, Islamic practice and Islamic tradition, that is what we know Ilorin for.

“And when disturbing incidences are happening around Nigeria, people come here to take cover, they come here to seek peace and they get it. So, it becomes very disturbing when you hear… It is appalling, it is disturbing, it is a matter of concern. These strange things should be banished from our own land.”

 

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