From Paul Osuyi, Asaba
Residents of Asaba, Delta State capital, have attributed the recent upsurge in the nefarious activities of cultists to the laxity of security architecture in the capital city.
Miscreants suspected to cultists recently held the growing state capital by the jugular, killing and maiming people at will.
At the last count, no fewer than 12 persons have reportedly be killed across various parts of the city, with corpses often seen in unexpected places.
A bloated corpse of a middle-aged man was found at the state-owned broadcasting outfit. With the tongue stuck out, the corpse which was dumped in a stagnant water inside open drains had other debris for company. There were bruises in parts of the dead body, fuelling speculations that he might have been killed and dumped by rival cultists.
Earlier in May, there was a shooting incident at Cable Point area of Asaba ostensibly due to a face-off between two rival cult groups – the Aiye confraternity and Vikings.
As a result of the shooting incident, another middle-aged man was found in the pool of his own blood after sustaining bullet wound on his right eye. He was said to have died at the hospital where he rushed to for treatment.
Just when the dust raised by the shooting incident was about settling down, a corpse was found on the ground with knife stab on the left rib within the same area. The victim was simply identified as Chijine Chigbata, a security guard with a private firm.
The unrelenting attacks and counter-attacks by suspected cultists further led to the taking of two more lives identified as Jude Nwakama and Okwudili Ozah. Their bodies were found in Akwuofu and Oduke areas of the town with battle axe cuts.
Although, the state police command confirmed about five of the corpses, and attributed their deaths to the fighting between rival cult groups, residents of the state capital are worried over the development as they claimed that there are more corpses almost on a daily basis that are unreported.
The respondents who spoke with our correspondent, said the town was no longer safe due to the high rate of insecurity, and urged the state government to put machinery in motion to urgently check the menace.
While most of the respondents blamed security operatives for the upsurge in crime rate, a civil servant, Mr. Joshua Okpanefe attributed it to the action of politicians who allegedly armed thugs in the recently concluded general elections.
Okpanefe argued that the insecurity situation “is an offshoot of the just concluded elections, whether we like it or not. Our politicians armed various thugs masquerading as political gladiators of various kinds to propagate their ideas, and manipulate the electoral process in one way or the other during the elections.
“Now those boys are only brandishing their weapons now and the ocultic connections which they used to fortify themselves in the political arena during the last elections, that is exactly what is happening now.
“We are even worried that it may snowball into something else, because those who lost had their groups, those who won had their groups, and even the intra-party squabbles also had their various groups. And if this play out in the social space, it will be a terrible war for government to contend with,” he submitted.
Another resident, Charles Nwarbadi is worried that the present level of insecurity in Asaba and its environs has never be witnessed before in the state capital, and added that the security agents were not doing enough to curb the trend.
“I think the security agencies are not doing what right about the situation. There is laxity in security, security agents are not doing their work, like I said. And the youths craze to make wealth is also a problem,” Nwarbadi added.
Also for Tony Efe, another civil servant, the trend is very disturbing, saying that he was aware of the corpse that was found within the premises of the state broadcast outfit.
“It is a disturbing trend really in the state capital because I am aware of a corpse that was dumped at DBS premises. There have be killings all over the place, I think it is threatening the peace of the state mostly in Asaba. I really don’t know what could be responsible for this renewed wave of violence but people in such clandestine groups, I don’t know what they benefit,” he frowned.
Andy Emephia also came hard on security agents, alleging that they could be responsible for supply of arms to the new terror kings in town.
“It is clear that there is no security mechanism that can contain these people, except probably we are living in a fool’s paradise. Where do they get their arms from? Where do that operate from? It is within the society. So if we are saying that the security apparatus, that is the police and all security agents are not up and doing, it calls to mind the issue of state police or the issue of funding of our local vigilante. If we step up our game and empower the local vigilante, perhaps there will be a ray of hope,” Emephia suggested.
He further advocated corporal punishment for those caught in the act of cultism, claiming that this will reverse the trend. He also called for re-awakening of societal values by parents, religious bodies and civil society organisations.
On his part, Mr. Efe advocated that plain cloth policemen should be deployed to every street to monitor activities and ring the alarm bell when necessary in order to nip such security situations in the bud.
Efe contended that the trend can be reversed if security agents are committed to the protection of lives and property in the society.
“If government is serious about addressing it, they can be stopped because they don’t act in isolation, people are aware that they in the community. If the security agencies are really serious about it they can quell the violence and reverse the trend. The security forces are not doing enough at all. What they should do, like in South Africa, plain clothes policemen are more than those who put on uniform. That is what we need at this point in time,” Efe said.
While Nwarbadi advocated strengthening of security agencies as part of the solution to the issue, Okpanefe urged government not to tolerate any act of lawlessness, insisting that a space should be called by its name.
“But the greatest worry of the people is where do they start from. I tell you even some persons in very top offices are involved, they are connected somehow. That is the reason why there has be no clear cut government policy attacking this problem all this while in the state capital.
“So there must be a new dawn in that aspect, the government must take up the issue not just as an ordinary insecurity matter but as a new threat to our polity. If the government takes it up that way, we are sure that there maybe a solution.
“We are expecting Governor Ifeanyi Okowa to come up with something really tangible that would help to solve this problem especially in his upcoming inauguration speech because we cannot continue to tolerate this in the state capital,” Okpanefe stated.
Meanwhile, the Public Relations Officer of the state police command, DSP Onome Onovwakpoyeya has absorbed the command of any act of complicity in the new crime in town, saying that a lot was being done to address the situation.
She confirmed the arrest of one Samuel Okwuonyekwu, a confessed member of Aiye confraternity and two others in connection with the recent violence in parts of Asaba, adding that one locally made double barrel short gun was recovered from one of the suspects.
Onovwakpoyeya said efforts have been stepped up to crackdown other fleeing suspects, adding patrol and surveillance have been intensified within the metropolis to forestall further attacks.
She revealed that the command, in effort to nib violent crimes in the bud, recently held meetings with various stakeholders, especially, the volunteer anti-cult groups, vigilante groups, “as well as strengthened the conventional stop and search strategy, create tactical operation point and aggressive patrol, all these have yielded positive results.”