The way cultists maim, terrorise and even kill members of rival groups is worrisome and distressing. Innocent people going about their daily activities are exposed to the heinous and criminal activities of the cultists who operate with no regard for the laws of the country.
Results from their unchecked attacks are deaths, destruction of property and, above all, tensions and anxiety among residents of the areas where they perpetrate evil. Often, they hold the residents to ransom. And the government seems to be doing little to arrest the ugly trend.
Many security crises in the country begin from a little thing; they grow and soar astronomically to the extent that governments at all levels will have to spend a fortune not only to halt them, but also to rectify the consequences. In 2009, the Boko Haram terrorism began slowly and less noticeably. Now, after it has killed thousands of people, despite the claims from the Federal Government and military, its end is nowhere near. Kidnappers are freely operating, capturing people for ransom. While many victims have lost their lives, a lot of money has been paid by the families of the victims. Yet, not only do these kidnappers increase in number, their operations are becoming too numerous. They operate almost in all the regions of the country.
Cults previously seemed to be peculiar to the higher educational institutions in Nigeria. Parents thus warned their children to shun cult groups on campuses. Cultism has now become fluid, spreading to off-campus residences. In June 2016, there were several cases of reported clashes of cult groups in which more than 15 people were killed in Calabar, Cross River State. In Otukpo, the ancient city of the Idoma in Benue State, cult attacks and clashes are not new. That same year, scores were murdered when Ayes (aka Black Axe), Baggas, the Judges (aka Whitees) and the Juries clashed.
Lagos now appears to be the headquarters of cultists in Nigeria. Residents of areas such as Surulere Estate, Alagbado, Olorunfunmi Street, Oworonshoki and Muri Ojora Street, Amukoko live in fear, tension and anxiety. Just recently, more than three incidents of cult clashes were reported in Lagos State alone. In these attacks, more than five people died and many were seriously injured. Edo and Ogun states are not exempted from the scourge.
Oftentimes, struggles for supremacy and dominance trigger the clashes. Each of the groups wants to dominate its sphere of control. There is always a shooting spree whenever these miscreants unleash attacks on one another and they always wield sophisticated weapons.
The efforts of the police so far should be commended. Furthermore, they should be motivated. The arrests they have made show that they are actually ready to nip the menace in the bud. Nevertheless, this is not enough because prevention is better than cure. Before these cultists are arrested, blood and tears would have flowed, lives would have been lost, and property destroyed. Therefore, preventive measures should be put in place. This becomes imperative because, apart from the immediate effects of the clashes, more people, most especially the youth, are often initiated to spread the tentacles of the cult groups. Then, the police will have more suspects to arrest while the threat persists and more innocent lives are lost.
The Federal Government should, as a matter of urgency, declare a state of emergency on the issue. People already have more than enough to wear them out in the country and should not be living in panic. The government should empower and direct the police to fish out these criminals from their hideouts. The cultists are not invincible; they live among the people, who should be encouraged to give useful information about them.