Cultists' Carnage

In the last two months, over 21 students have died in the hands of campus cultists, with Kwara Poly leading the pack

It was a sultry afternoon at the roundabout of the north campus of the Polytechnic Ibadan. At about 3.20 p.m on 7 March, a newspaper vendor sat at a sharp bend as he waited eagerly to sell his papers. Suddenly there was a shrill cry and a pandemonium from the opposite side. Sounds of gun shots also rent the air. Iroko Jubril, a student of Business Administration had just been hacked down. And now, he lay in a pool of blood. Nearby, another student, Ajibafe Ibrahim, of the Department of Financial Studies lay lifeless. When he heard the death knell, he had scampered for safety. But he was pursued by the same assailants who killed Iroko. He was macheted and killed, with his head severed. Both students belonged to a secret cult, The Eiye Confraternity.

It was at the end of the pandemonium, after witnesses, including the newspaper vendor, had fled the onslaught that more ghoulish stories filtered in. A.M Abimbola, a security man, who tried to dare the attackers had his left hand macheted. Sheriff Adigun, an HND II Estate Management Department who was seriously injured, was rejected by the management of Alafia Hospital because of his critical state.

Rotimi Adekunle (alias Rasa), an HND I Physics/Electronics student of the institution told TheNEWS that the onslaught was a reprisal carried out by members of a rival cult, The Neo-Black Movement (Black Axe) who, three weeks before, had lost one of their members Adeniji Aderemi (alias Morgan) via the machete cuts which the cultists inflicted on him.

Following the spate of clashes between rival groups, the Rector, Professor Oluremi Alabi who had been reluctant to shut the institution, made a volte-face. On 8 March, the Polytechnic ordered all students to embark on a mid-semester break. This came in the wake of Governor Lam Adesina's threat to sack the management of the institution. He was visibly when he met the Rector of the school: "I am not happy at all. You cannot be killing people anyhow. I know they slaughtered two students like rams inside the polytechnic in broad daylight and you say you have security, and you allow them to go without taking any action". He then ordered the management to find a lasting solution to the menace or be sacked.

The students' union president, Walter Ekomaye, said "students alone cannot successfully fight the war against cultism. We have to work in unison with the management."

But the Oyo state Police public Relations Officer ASP Ope Kusor's expressed another view. He told TheNEWS that drastic action ought to be taken against suspected cultists. "This will serve as a deterrence to others."

Efforts by stakeholders to stem what many perceive as a hydra-headed monster have not been successful. On 13 February, the Students Union President of the Lagos State University, Comrade Tunde Salau was murdered publicly. He was macheted to death as he emerged from the examination hall by assailants who were not masked. The attackers pursued their victim. And when they caught up with him, they shot him thrice. They later used axes and machetes to butcher him.

Cult violence is however more rampant in Kwara State Polytechnic, Ilorin. In recent times, casualty figures are about eighteen, the latest being the reprisal on members of a secret cult in January 2002. The attack claimed three lives. This incident was the aftermath of a clash which had left about 15 students dead at Oke-Andi on the outskirts of Ilorin, happening even after the institution had been shut down and re-opened. The three slain students were attacked with machetes at midnight as they watched television broadcasts during the Nations cup competition in Mali. Dissatisfied with the unsavoury development, the local chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), Mr. Ola Adefila asked the Rector, Professor Bolanle Olatunji, to resign, citing alleged apathy to security on campus.

On Monday 11 March 2002, about 50 cultists, invaded the male hostel of the University of Agriculture, Makurdi, killing three students. They were identified as Seugh Iser, Patrick Adeyi Ogbegbe and Ebiam Donald. When the Vice Chancellor of the university, Professor James Ayatse saw the gruesome manner in which they were murdered, he was aghast.

Ternshangre Godfrey, President of the university students union government however, told TheNEWS that "this is the first time we were having violent cult activity".

But cultists struck again at the Benue State University at about 1.30 pm on March 13. A witness said that three unidentified persons walked up to John Terhile Uhen (alias Kimko), a third year student of Political Science. On being excused from his class mates, one of the assailants pulled a gun out of his pocket and shot him.

TheNews gathered that it was an alarm raised by an ex-serviceman working as a porter in the university, that made passersby to give the assailants a hot chase. The men were caught, brought to the university campus and burnt.

The month of February also witnessed the rage of cultists at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye when some members of the Eiye confraternity attacked Yinka Abayomi, the chairman of a pressure group on campus, Anti cult Alliance Movement (ACAM). He was sleeping when the assailants arrived.

The orgy of cult violence was also enacted in February at the Ambrose Alli University Ekpoma when Jerry Ojemenvah, a 300 level medical student was abducted and killed. His head was found three days after the atrocious murder in a nearby bush.

A female student of the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife was raped by two suspected members of a secret cult Tayo Fadiya (200 and Damilola Ogundoyibo (22) on the night of 16 February. The men were said to have informed the victim that she had a message from home. But no sooner had she opened her door than the men stuffed her mouth with a towel before having intercourse with her in turns until she became unconscious. When her neighbour suspected foul play, she alerted other students, who forced the door open. The men tried to escape but they were caught and later handed over to the police.

Meanwhile, rising from its quarterly executive meeting which was held in Abuja a forthnight ago, a group known as the conference of Alumni Association of Nigerian Universities (CAANU) has pledged to collaborate with the authorities of higher institution to tackle the problem of cultism. Its National President, Otunba Dele Oye said: "The issue of cultists is not just a local problem but a societal problem. Cultism is just like a department in that culture and we have to set up anti-cult activities."