Nigeria clamps down on cultism

LAGOS: The Nigerian Government have been clamping down on cult activities that are taking place on university campuses. Since the advent of the nation's economic crisis in the early 1980s and the faith crisis of recent years, many Nigerians especially the young have become nihilists and have been plunging themselves into cultism, crime and drug abuse, among other vices.

Cult practices have become a regular scene in universities and colleges, as well as in middle schools in Nigeria, leading to many bloody clashes on campuses.

In recent years, cult gangs have emerged with a new disguise, using the children of police officers in higher institutions as a shield to hide the violent acts that they have committed.

In southern parts of the country there were seven reported cult clashes, leading to scores of people dead last year alone.

In August, a bloody clash between two rival cult groups at the University of Ilorin in central Nigeria involved the son of a serving senior police officer, who led a 200-member cult group.

The most appalling cultism case was recorded in July in the northeast State of Borno, where the police arrested a 13-year-old girl for the cult-linked killings of 51 people, including her father.

As a member of a cult based in Lagos, the pupil confessed that she had travelled by "spiritual" means from the northeastern state to Lagos to attend the cult meetings.

According to her, she killed her father because he was an "obstruction," stopping her from taking the life of her grandmother.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo on Friday in the central city of Ilorin, which has been identified as a hotbed for cult riots, reiterated the government's determination to eradicate cultism on college campuses.

"We will not relent. We cannot afford to hand over our schools to cultism which destroys our youth on daily basis," stressed Obasanjo during his three-day working visit.

In another venue, the president said the government is particularly concerned about the issue of cultism because the future of the country lies in the hands of the youth, accounting for about 45 per cent of the population.

"What this means is that, unless we do something now and urgently too, we are likely to be in a greater danger of losing control of them in the next 10 to 20 year," Obasanjo warned.

Describing the continued presence of cultism on campuses as "a reflection of terrible leadership" in the nation's educational institutions, he said religious leaders have been directed to provide an adequate curriculum on subjects that would instill moral uprightness in the nation's students.

"The problem of cultism in our educational institutions is a reflection of the leadership in these institutions. If you have good leadership, it would not admit these terrible students nor harbour them," he said.

Obasanjo, who ratified the anti-cultism law when he came to power in May 1999, warned that anyone caught in secret