AN Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) and two other police officers were on Friday morning shot at the Upper Sokponba area of Benin City, the Edo State capital, as members of two cult groups, Aye and Eiye, renewed their battle for supremacy in the state.
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The shooting of the ACP, who is an Area Commander in the state police command, has heightened tension in major parts of the city, just students, traders and residents of Upper Sokponba, where the incident happened, remained indoors for the most part of Friday.
It was gathered that members of the rival cult groups opened fire on the senior police officers immediately they sighted the vehicles conveying them. For the past two weeks, the Murtala Muhammed Way, popularly known as MM Way, has become the epicentre of bloodletting in the once peaceful city.
To forestall further breakdown of law and order in the area, military personnel have been deployed in the flashpoints – Third East Circular, Upper Sakponba, Idogbo, Three House Junction and the adjoining streets, where activities of the cultists can easily spill to other locations in the city.
Between Monday and Friday, no fewer than 18 persons had been reportedly killed in the course of the conflagration the cult rivalry has become in the locality.
The cult clash was in addition to the cases of carjacking, robbery and other sundry crimes in the area, just as two suspected armed robbers were lynched by a mob penultimate week.
While the immediate cause of the violent cult clashes could not be ascertained, Saturday Tribune gathered that the appreciable number of the gangsters in the city for the funeral rites of one of the major actors of one of the cult groups, which was scheduled for Friday, could have sparked off the battle.
The police officers and others who sustained varying degrees of injury were said to have been taken to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital and other nearby hospitals for treatment.
Meanwhile, the spillover of the Upper Sokponba Road cult clashes is already telling on areas such as a Ekenwan, Siluko, Wire Road, Dumez, Texile Mill, New Benin, Ogida Quarters, Ogbe Quarters and Ibiwe Quarters of the City. While shops, markets and banks in the Sokponba axis quickly shut down, no school, public or private, opened on Friday.