The spate of insecurity especially cult war in Anambra state is a concern to stakeholders. OKECHUKWU ONUEGBU reports.
Cult war is fast becoming the worst security challenge threatening the residents of Anambra state in recent times.
As at the time of writing this, it was found that almost all parts of the state are experiencing it one way or another since past six months. From September 2021 to January 2022, for instance, not less than 20 persons have been either kidnapped or killed in different parts of the state.
Statistics of cult war
Cult war appeared to be on increase across the state. At Awka, the capital city, at least one person is being gunned down every day by suspected cultists.
In the month of October 2021, investigation shows that not less than 10 persons died in cult war around Ifite, Unizik junction and Amaenyi axis of Awka, Amansea in Awka North and Igbariam in Anambra East. Also, from December 1 to 31, 2021 about 10 suspected cultists were also killed. These include the trending videos of one reportedly killed at Amawbia on December 19, 2021 whose manhood was equally severed before dumped somewhere at Awka.
Others were four persons, including a supposed leader of tricycle operators shot dead on December 14 at Unizik junction by suspected cultists and two others killed at Amansea in the same month.
This could have also contributed to increase in numbers of corpses being dumped or abandoned around the state recently. For instance, it took relevant authorities in the state more than four days to evacuate some unidentified corpses found at Awka, Nkpor and Onitsha between December 28, 2021 and January 4, 2022.
The most recent, however, were on January 3, 2022 when a young man was shot dead around 1pm at the ever- busy Aroma junction which is not far from B Division of the Nigerian Police, Jerome Udorji Secretariat (Anambra State government), Government House and other institutions.
According to an eyewitness, “The young man was shot dead by two young men in their late thirties. They alighted from a commercial tricycle, walked to the guy and shot at him sporadically until he died.
“They were there until he died. Then, they walked bravely to another tricycle that was loading passengers, boarded and left without fear. People were there. There were moving vehicles and passengers too. But no one could utter a word due to fear. It was later we learnt the deceased was a cultist, and was probably killed by a rival cult gang.”
Similarly, between January 7 to 10, 2022, a cult clash at Nkpor, Idemili North LGA left about seven persons wounded.
A source said, “A young man suspected to be a member of one of the cult groups was gunned down around Eke Nkpor-Uno abattoir while another one was sighted lying lifeless around Fr Gbozuo Road, also at Nkpor Uno. It was gathered that the war took another dimension on January 6 as no fewer than four people were feared dead at different locations in Nkpor-Uno. The incident made the citizens in the area to feel uncomfortable in their respective daily dealings.”
But the Anambra State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) DSP Tochukwu Ikenga, who admitted there were shootings at the area did not provide details of casualties.
He said, “It was an unfortunate incident that happened at Nkpor but normalcy has been restored. The state Commissioner of Police, CP Echeng Echeng, on receive of the news directed that both human and operational assets of the command be deployed immediately and preliminary investigation has shown that the shooting is a result of a cult clash between two cult groups and our men are on the ground there as I speak with you. We are calling on the citizens within the Nkpor axis not to panic as Anambra State Police Command is firm and we are ready to protect lives and property.”
Speaking further he said, “On whether there was any life lost, I do not have the full detail yet, but I can confirm to you that truly, there was a shooting incident but the number of casualties, I don’t know yet as the operation is ongoing within the Nkpor axis just like what I told you that CP Echeng Echeng urgently directed for the deployment of our personal there and we are seriously on the mop-up operation as we speak, both covert and overt, aimed at nailing the situation there.”
Powerful persons fingered
Investigation shows that some if not most of the sponsors of these cult related activities are known to the government and security agencies. But they remained untouchable probably due to their political affiliations, connections and other economic gains they were allegedly yielding to the power that be.
Perhaps, this entails why the Coordinator, Awka North and South Keke (tricyle) Drivers Welfare Forum, Comrade Osita Obi, during a protest against alleged imposition of leadership and exploitation of tricycle operators held on December 15 by the group, accused security operatives and government of being aware of the sponsors of cult activities in Awka and urged the government to fish them out.
“A lot of people have been killed in this town, including that of yesterday (December 14).
We don’t want it again. Keke drivers are tired of leadership imposition and want to be allowed to operate independently. That many of them can’t afford to live in good houses, sending their children to better schools and wearing good clothes doesn’t mean they’re not making money. But they are remitting the money to cultists and would be maimed and killed if they refuse to comply,” he alleged.
Aside Obi’s claims, in 2019, the Anambra State police command through its former Police Public Relations Officer, SP Haruna Mohammed, in a press statement named some notable politicians as sponsors of cult related killings in the state capital.
The statement reads, “Another breakthrough by the Anambra State police command has been recorded, as Puff-Adder operatives arrested alleged sponsors of recent cult-related killings in the state. It would be recalled that on the 10th and 11/08/2019, there was a clash between two rival cult groups, the Black Axe and Vikings Confraternities at Eke Awka and Dike park all in Awka South LGA of Anambra state where one Chinedu ‘m’ surname yet unknown Alias (Nambo) and Uche Anarah ‘m’ were brutally murdered.
“Following the incidents and while acting on credible intelligence, the Command’s Puff-Adder operatives led by the Commissioner of Police CP John Abang had on the 13/08/2019 at about 4:20pm launched a manhunt of the hoodlums at Dike park and Umukwa village areas of Awka and arrested four suspected sponsors/members of Black Axe and Vikings Confraternities…”
However, the named popular politicians (names withheld by us) which the police announced their arrest were equally freed within some few hours and nothing had been heard about the cases to date.
Nevertheless, PPRO, DSP Tochukwu Ikenga, has reassured that the command was working round the clock to wipe out cultism and security breaches in the state.