The initiative by Akwa Ibom Governor Udom Emmanuel in signing a bill into law proscribing 65 cult groups is principally intended to stalk the rising menace and inadvertently dishevel the penetrating influence of secret cultism in the state.
Of recent and on a daily basis, some cult groups have posed a serious threat to the security and peaceful co-existence of the hardworking people of the state. Some investors and innocent passersby have been the butt of their menacing activities.
Where the cult groups do not engage in an altercation with some members of the public over flimsy issues, they turn their weapon of violence against rival cult groups. Where this happens, the innocent parents and other unconcerned members of the public bear the brunt of such malady.
Just a few weeks ago, some cult members in the garb of students of Government Technical College, Ewet Offot in Uyo local government area struck in the school compound, wounding many and destroying property worth millions of naira. As a result, the state government stepped in and shut the school’s doors, reopening after some government officials, the school authority and parents had met and agreed on certain conditions.
There is no government that will remain aloof and insensitive to the insecurity to lives and properties of its citizenry. Chapter 11, Section 14(b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) states “The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” Apart, the government has a morally bound to check societal decadence as well as preserve the life and property of its subjects.
While Straightnews deeply appreciates Governor Emmanuel for his resilience, resolve and courage in signing the executive order, we are apprehensive over the ability and firmness of the government to stemming the societal virus that has permeated every segment of the society.
In 1952, Nobel Laurel Price Winner, Professor Oluwole Akinwande Soyinka, and six others formed the ‘Pyrate Confraternity’ (a.k.a Sea Dogs). It was believed that the pioneer and its members used cultism as a platform to fight human rights and justice (activism). By that time, the most brilliant students were enlisted into the fraternity to fight such systemic corruption as sexual harassment and lecturers’ persecution of students, among others.
After some years, other cult groups have emerged. These are Black Axe, Jezebel Daughters, Black Eye, Black Beret, Supreme Eiye, KKK, and Aro Mates, among others whose activities suggest nothing but evil in the society.
These cults groups share some features in common which are the initiation of new members, ritual practices, oaths taking, inscription marks on their bodies, use of sign, symbols and colours.
Their activities involve frequent violent clash among different cults groups which always lead to death or end in casualties, a constant abuse of drugs, sexual assault, vandalization, forceful intimidation of lecturers, examination malpractices, harassment and bullying of fellow coursemate, assassination to mention a few.
In Akwa Ibom, Emmanuel relying on Section 70 of the Criminal Code Law Cap. 38, Vol. 2 Laws of Akwa Ibom State, 2000 signed the Cultist and Other Violent Behaviour (Prohibition) Order.
Among the proscribed secret cult societies include Vikings, Black Axe, KKK, Buccaneers, Mafias, Luttox (Junior Black Axe), Debam, Dewell, Icelanders, Red Skins, Pirates, Amoc, Akwa Marines and Utoto Groups (419), Luttox, Red Skins, St. Stephens, Dewell, and Sept 11 Group.
Others are Secret Sons of Satan, King Cobra, J.V (Junior Vikings), Bats, Predators, Black Ladies, Black Cross, Scavengers, Skylolo, Sons of Nights, Blood Brotherhood, Junior Buccaneers, White Angels and Musket.
Unfortunately, the advent of democratic governance in 1999 has exacerbated cultism in Akwa Ibom. Before now, the military class was averse to the menace. Many universities including the University of Uyo had rusticated many for their membership in secret cultism. During the 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019 general elections including governorship in the state, cultists had field days. In the 2019 election, the cult leaders amalgamated the groups into what they tagged “Family” for the purpose of grabbing power. It is not a secret that various elective and appointive political offices are being occupied by them.
As dangerous is the game, the quest for power or social identity, poor parental training, peer pressure/peer group influence, revenge, emotional instability, wealth, loneliness, use of cultists by politicians, drug abuse, poverty and search for protection are touted as addictives to cultism membership. The adverse effects are premature deaths, political thuggery, robbery/theft incidents, a high increase in school drop-outs and rapes.
Though the law is in force, the government must take a leap further to quickly nip what is seen as societal coronavirus that has eaten in the body polity and psyche of our society. Already, many lecturers, teachers and students in tertiary, secondary primary schools have fouled the air of cultism-free society. Some church leaders, notable politicians, parliamentarians, royal fathers, youth leaders, motorcyclists, taxi drivers and the jobless have equally swelled the rank of cultists.
Beyond the ban of the cult groups, the Federal and state governments must take some pragmatic but stringent measures to curtail secret cultism from various both public and private offices.
The state government has to publish the names of leaders and members of different cult groups and they should be made to publicly renounce their memberships.
Where they are found to have renounced, but they are clandestinely involved or participating in their meetings, then the governor has to sign another executive order to seize their property and bar them from holding public offices for life.
Let the government rid the public offices of cultists and stop intending members from getting into elective and appointive offices in the future.
Again, the government has to open the system by providing gainful employment opportunities to the teeming jobless graduates and youths whose age-grade swell up the cult groups.
Moreover, the government has to pay bounties to whistleblowers to provide more information on the banned and other existing groups for use in tracking and arresting and jailing the culprits. Even the identity of the whistleblowers should be shielded for fear of an attack by the cultists.
The Federal Government must make political offices in the country less attractive to stop whetting the appetite of some selfish and greedy politicians who use secret cultists to scale into public offices by all means and by crooks.
We call on the Federal Government to, as a matter of importance, purge the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Police Force, Department of State Security and paramilitary bodies of secret cultists.
It is hoped that the ban is not a gambit by the state government to clamp down on its perceived political or otherwise enemies, which after it might have succeeded in closing the road against them, then other cultists in the good book of government will the ‘Business as usual.’ Doing so will amount to self-defeat and grand deception. And failure to implement the order to the letter is like trying to stop suicide in the presence of your enemies.