It is not the best of times for residents of Awka, Anambra State capital as cult related killings escate in the city centre.
This has also become a source of concern to stakeholders of the town, to the point of crippling the city’s growing nightlife.
Recently, there have been several killings of young people in Awka, and most of those killed have also been identified as cultists.
Membership of cult groups in the city is said to be on the increase.
An Awka resident, Mr Uche Okafor said apart from undergraduate students, tricycle riders, bus drivers, idle youths and other artisans are now members of various cult groups.
Okafor said: “The main problem of cultism in Awka is not undergraduates; it is these unschooled boys, most of whom are idle. The main membership of cult groups in Awka are people you won’t suspect. All these tricycle riders, shuttle bus drivers and other artisans are all members of one cult or the other.
“It is like being a member of a cult has a status symbol, and announces you as a big boy. That is why you see all these brainwashed boys joining a cult everyday, despite the frequent killings.
“The main issue that has remained a problem, which is causing these killings is supremacy tussle, over ownership of loading pits and collection of revenue. Awka people know the sponsors of cult activities, but incidentally, these sponsors are also known big boys, who are benefactors to some people.”
Recently, there have been several killings in the State capital, which have all been linked to cult activities, even though many go unreported.
Most surprising was an incident in July, where a man identified as Mr Igwe Omeli, a known revenue collector was killed by suspected members of a rival cult group at the popular Eke Awka Market, his head severed off and body made away with.
The deceased was said to have arrived at Eke Awka market very early in the morning to resume his revenue collection job, when he sighted some boys, known to him as members of a rival cult and made to escape from them, but he was quickly gunned down, and in the midst of confusion that ensued, the assailants cut off his head and took it away, leaving behind his trunk which was later evacuated.
Just last week, a popular musician identified as Chinedu Alusi was also killed by suspected cultists. He was shot dead in front of his residence as he ventured out of his compound on Monday morning. He was accused of being an informant to a particular cult group, and said to have been leaking information to them, against another group.
A source, who said he witnessed the killing, said: “What is happening in Awka is not a joke. Once you’re a member of a cult group, they will kill you. The best thing is not to be a member at all.
“I wonder why people are joining a cult. There is no money to be made from being a cult member, and the problem in Awka is getting out of hand; people are killed everyday, yet some other people are still joining.
“This is a guy who was so talented in Ogene music, but see how they just wasted him,” the source said.
Meanwhile stakeholders of the various communities have started seeking solutions to the frequent killings.
The member representing Awka South I State Constituency in the Anambra State House of Assembly, Hon Henry Mbachu during a recent meeting of leaders of Awka, Okpuno and Ifite, which make up Awka South I State Constituency called on them to join hands to tackle cult killings in Awka.
He said: “We have to come together to seek an end to the constant cult killings witnessed in Awka. Whether anyone likes it or not, we have our own blames for the things that are happening in Awka today.
“Everyday we wake up to news of cult killings. It is either by our action or inaction. Infiltration by outsiders is also a problem for us. We have a lot of outsiders, who have infiltrated us. These are the matters we must treat for us to end these killings.”
The stakeholders agreed to schedule a new date to set out ways to tackle the problem of cultism in the city.
On the other hand, Anambra State Police command has also issued warning to cultists in the city, with the Commissioner of police, CP Aderemi Adeoye vowing to arrest all the cultists in the State capital.
Adeoye said the command had launched a new operation, and that all cult members in the city would be arrested.
The commissioner sounded worried about the high level of cult activities in the city, while giving assurance that sanity would be restored in the city.
He described cultists as murderers who were not fit to live among decent human beings in the society, stating that they have sponsors, who always came to their aid anytime they were in trouble, but stated that the command would not listen to such person’s intervention for release of any arrested cultist.
“The Police Command will come down very hard on these heartless cultists who take pleasure in killing people. We warn that no one should call us for the release of any cultist arrested in the coming clampdown, except they want to be disgraced.
“There will be an all out operation against cultists and their sponsors in the State.
“We assure the good people of Anambra State that their peace and tranquillity that was punctured by the recent cult-related killings in the capital will soon be restored.
“We solicit the cooperation of all law-abiding citizens in ridding the society of the menace of cultism,” Adeoye assured.