Akure residents worry over bloody cult clashes

Some of the suspects paraded by the police.

Palpable tension gripped residents of Akure, the Ondo State capital, following a cult war between rival groups in the city which led to the death of over ten people across the city, penultimate week. The disturbing development forced leaders of the ancient city to appeal for reinforcement of security operatives.

Three suspected members of a rival cult group were hacked down at a popular supermarket in broad day light while the perpetrators equally maimed and destroyed properties. Passersby, onlookers and sellers at the area fled for dear life as the rampaging cult members shot sporadically not minding who could have been hit in the process.

The war between the two rival cult groups, Eiye and Aye, Nigerian Tribune gathered, was sparked by the killing of a member of a group which led to a reprisal. While some youth groups claimed over 10 persons were killed and over 25 others seriously injured in the fiasco across the state capital, the police said only three persons were murdered.

The police from the state command wasted no time to nip the activities of the cult groups in the bud, just as it combed all areas suspected to be the battle ground for these groups which included Oke-Aro, Old Garage, NEPA Junction, Odi-Olowo, Arakale and Stadium Junction, all in Akure. This led to the arrest of about 31 suspected members of the dreaded groups by the police while the command vowed not to rest on its oars.

Speaking during a press conference, the former ambassador to Greece and the Asiwaju of Akure land, Professor Olu Agbi, disclosed that no fewer than ten young men were killed in the various shootouts in the town and accused the security agencies of fuelling the bloody rivalry between the two cult groups, just as he called on the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to do the needful.

Agbi said the war against cultism and other crimes in the state capital could only be meaningful if the police command is devoid of those who help perpetrate the activities of the cult groups. He lamented that residents are no longer safe as a result of the mayhem unleashed by the deadly groups, resulting to downturn in businesses as well as causing residents to flee their homes.

According to him, “Reports reaching us indicate that some law enforcement agents are members of these cults. This has made the fight against cultism difficult for the top hierarchy of the security agencies. We ask the IGP to purge the police of the secret cult members so that the war against cultism and other crimes could be meaningful. We call on the Ondo State police command to monitor its men posted to anti-cultism squad so that we will not have cultists masquerading as police officers.  We urge the setting up of anti-cultism squad in each of the police divisions in the state capital.”

Speaking further, he stated that the capital city of Akure was peaceful but with the recent activities of the groups, it had become a shadow of itself. “We are disturbed by these reports more so that Akure, before the recent events, was peaceful. We accommodate people irrespective of their tribes, cultures, social status or creeds,” he said. The community leaders however called on investors not to be dissuaded by the reports in the media as the community remained friendly to visitors and investors.

Similarly, a group within the city, Akure Division Renewal Group (ADRG), condemned the attacks and activities of the groups, calling on security agents to come to the rescue of the people of the state. In a statement issued by the president of the group, Chief Luyi Rotimi, he described the killings as barbaric, evil and inhuman and appealed to the youths concerned not to turn Akure to a battle ground or theatre of war, irrespective of the reasons for their actions.

The group frowned at the indiscriminate arrest of innocent youths in the town. It called on the state government, as a matter of urgency, to surmount the issue of cultism through empowerment and human development programmes.

“The government should engage these youths so that they can channel their energy towards productive jobs. Akure is a peace-loving community and we should ensure that the peace is maintained at all times,” it advised.

Similarly, another youth group, the Orange Youth Network, has expressed concern over what it described as the “needless, worrisome and avoidable bloodshed” in the state capital city of Akure.

The director general of the organisation, Dr. Kayode Ajulo said the development is a “challenge to all as a matter of urgent public importance and imperative exigency.”

They called on all stakeholders “to live no stone unturned in putting an end to this morally reprehensible act, where promising youths of our dear state get their lives wasted on the basis of cult affiliation clashes.

“On record, not less than 11 healthy youths of sound mind have been wasted. On the basis of the above, Orange Youth Network has budgeted N100,000 for whoever has, and is ready to give privileged security information, to unmask the perpetrators of this shameful killings.”

This also led to an emergency meeting of all top police officers at the instance of the state police commissioner, Mrs Hilda Harrison, who read the riot act to all the officers disclosing that the command would not fold its arms and allow miscreants continue to disturb the existing peace in the state. According to her, “enough is enough to the breakdown of law and order by miscreants in the state capital.”

The police boss said the command was poised to make the state unbearable for persons with criminal tendencies, warning criminals to relocate from the state, while urging all the top police officers across the state to be vigilant and bring to book all those fomenting trouble in their divisions.

Speaking on the allegation that some men of the state police command belong to cults, she said it remained an allegation and the command was still investigating but vowed not to shield any of her men found to belong to any of the cult groups that had been terrorizing the people of the state. “If sufficient evidence is found, we will not shield anyone. We are still investigating the allegation,” she vowed.

Speaking on steps so far taken by the state government, the chief press secretary to the governor, Segun Ajiboye said Governor Rotimi Akeredolu met with top officials of the security agencies in the state and issues discussed included security and how to flush out criminals and crime out of the state.

He however assured that the impact of the discussion would soon be felt by the people of the state adding that “all hands are on deck to ensure that Ondo State continues to remain the most peaceful state in the country.”

However, the over 30 suspected cult members that were arrested have been charged to court for conspiracy, attempted murder and murder and were ordered to be remanded in police custody by an Akure Chief Magistrate, Victoria Bob-Manuel.

The police prosecutor, Martins Olowofeso, told the court that the suspects conspired and repeatedly stabbed one Adebayo Samuel with a piece of broken bottle and also shot Adetunji ldowu to death while one ldowu Adetoro and Oluwafemi Yinka were killed with a machete.

The prosecutor said that the offences were contrary to and punishable under section 516, 320 and 316 of the criminal code cap 37 Vol 1 laws of Ondo State of Nigeria, 2006. The matter has been adjourned till July 25 for mention.