“Nothing testifies more eloquently to the contagion of cultism in our society than the fact that more than half of the 36 states of the federation now have laws that prohibit cultism and cult activities.”
Over the years, cultism has held inexplicable attraction for the nation’s youth population. In the 1990s, cult groups had roots largely in the universities and other tertiary institutions where they sprang up as fraternities. Then, there were no private universities and polytechnics. They kill, steal and destroy and tolerate no challenge or presence of rival groups. Cult wars are rampant on campuses and when they break out, turn the whole place into killing fields. Apart from students, lecturers and non-academic staff are often cut down. To get a kind of protection, these other members of the academic community also enlist in cult groups. In some cases, they do so out of fear for their lives. Anyone who has witnessed the ravages of cultism in Nigerian schools would grasp the immensity of its contribution to academic decadence in Nigeria. Today, the Nigerian society is not just grappling with the menace of campus cultism. The spread of it to secondary schools and the larger society is beginning to be worrisome. In the metropolitan city of Lagos, it is not just the Badoo Boys. The Police Command while receiving over 200 repentant members of Eiye, Black Axe and Buccaneer in January this year confirmed that the number brought to a total of 860 cultists who formally surrendered within four months in Ikorodu part of the state alone. In Rivers State, the House of Assembly had passed the Secret Cult and Similar Activities (Prohibition) Law, No. 6 of 2004. In the law no fewer than 101 cult groups that included the desperately deadly Deygbam and Deywell were listed as operational in the state. The presence of over 30 cult groups in Akwa Ibom State, this year, made Governor Udom Emmanuel to sign the Cultism and Other Violent Behaviour Prohibition Order in the state, which took effect from March 12, 2018. Nothing testifies more eloquently to the contagion of cultism in our society than the fact that more than half of the 36 states of the federation now have laws that prohibit cultism and cult activities. In some of these state laws, the penalty for culprits upon conviction is death sentence. More disturbing is that cult activities have made secondary schools, especially in the public sector, as unsafe as the tertiary institutions. Evil campus fraternities are finding their ways into these schools. Last week, the Enugu State Post Primary School Management Board (PPSM) had to expel nine female students of Urban Girls Secondary School, Enugu for their alleged membership of a cult group in the school. The board further declared that any pupil in the state found to be a member of a cult group would not only be expelled, but also be prevented from enrolling in any school in the state. We welcome any measure geared towards making schools and the society at large saner and commend the big stick Enugu State wielded against the deviant young girls. However, since the activities of the girls contravened Section 62 (1) of the Nigerian Criminal Code Act, which makes membership of unlawful societies a crime against the Nigerian state, the board should have considered prosecution. That, in the opinion of this newspaper, should be the way to go for education boards in all the states of the federation and the managements of tertiary institutions. It is not enough to expel student or pupil cult members. They should be handed over to the police for prosecution given that aside Section 62 (1) of the Nigerian Criminal Code Act, many other laws at both the state and federal levels make membership of unlawful societies a crime that must be rooted out. We note, however, that the more result-oriented approach at tackling cultism especially within the larger society should be proactive rather than reactive. Proactive measures demand that the different tiers of government should direct their energies more at addressing issues of social welfare, job and wealth creation than in expanding prison walls to take in more convicts of the crime of cultism or financing police raids on cultists’ hideouts. This, in our view, should not be pursued in relegation of the importance of the need for the enforcement of the laws that frown at cultism in the country. Laws are meant to be enforced. It takes no more than political will to do it. The litany of the laws against cultism have neither saved students, the schools nor the society from the evils of cultism because no one gives a hang about their enforcement.