These are certainly not the best of times for residents of Calabar, the capital of Cross River State, and environs. This is because cultists and kidnappers are running riot in the “Peoples paradise,” making life miserable for the residents.
While members of rival cultist groups battle for superiority, cult leaders are sometimes butchered in broad daylight. Innocent residents are sometimes caught in the crossfire as businesses are disrupted and traders robbed.
Indeed, people are living in fear over the activities of cultists in the state. A resident of Calabar South, who identified himself simply as Ben, told the reporter: “Calabar has changed so much. If you go to some places, people run home not later than 6pm. Even at that, nobody is safe.”
Last Wednesday, August 19, the Cross River State Commissioner of Police, Abdulkadir Jimoh, paraded 51 suspected cultists, who were nabbed with human heads in the state capital, Calabar, and Ogoja.
The suspects were intercepted at the 8 Miles area of Calabar on their way to neighbouring Akwa Ibom State.
According to Jimoh, the suspects, comprising 46 males and five females, were arrested with three human skulls on August 17.
Jimoh said: “On Monday, I got information that suspected cultists were driving dangerously, hoisting the black and red flags, and disturbing the peace on the Goodluck Jonathan Road, and driving towards 8 Miles. They were seriously pursued and intercepted at 8 Miles.
“When they were arrested and brought to the headquarters, there were 51 of them. Forty-six are males and five are females. The suspects confessed to being cultists from the Akpabuyo Local Government Area and that they were on their way to Akwa Ibom State. And when they were searched, three fresh human skulls were recovered from their masquerade regalia.
“Two Hiace buses with number plates KAM 541 XA and XA 668 UGB, two motorcycles, five machetes, and three red flags with human skulls drawn on them were recovered from the suspects. They all confessed to being members of the Nnabor Confraternity and they are the people responsible for the series of kidnapping and other vices in the Akpabuyo Local Government Area, and by extension, some parts of Calabar municipality.
“The command will undertake a forensic analysis of the skulls to determine whether they belong to some of these people that have been declared missing or some of the victims they killed. The suspects have been profiled and they will face the full wrath of the law.”
Similarly, five suspected cultists were nabbed on August 18 with a human skull and human bones by the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps in Cross River State.
The state Commandant, NSCDC, Mr Danjuma Elisha, said they were caught in the Ogoja Local Government Area of the state following a tip-off that suspected cultists from rival groups had a confrontation.
“On August 18, 2020, our attention was drawn to a cult confrontation at No. 50 Mission Road, Igoli, Ogoja.
“Upon arrival at the scene, our men found a human skull and other bones believed to be human bones. The team decided to swiftly pick the items and the persons found within the vicinity for scrutiny.
“Ten persons were picked up and after interrogation, five were identified as having questions to answer in relation to the items found.”
He identified the suspects as Ejesi, Ugbem, Ogbeche, Ajaba and Gabriel.
On August 14, 11 suspects were arrested during an initiation into a cult at Bishop Moynag Avenue, State Housing, Calabar.
Police spokesperson in the state, Irene Ugbo, said the suspects, nine men and two women, were arrested through human and tactical intelligence information.
“On August 14, 2020, a team of SARS operatives and men from the Federal Housing Police Division through an intelligence from the commissioner of police swung into action and arrested 11 suspected cultists during initiation.
“Items recovered from them include talking drum, wooden gung, two kegs of concoction and a bottle of Gordon drink.
“The suspects confessed to the crime. Investigation is still ongoing to unravel other cult members.”
Indeed, cultism is thriving in Cross River State. Every now and again, cultists are arrested and paraded in the state yet the number seems to be increasing.
From Canaan city, Calabar has become a land flowing with blood. Sometimes, decapitated bodies litter the streets.
In May, the state government declared 35 persons wanted over alleged cult related killings
The suspects were declared wanted in relation to their alleged roles in cult killings that characterize Calabar. Among those consumed by the inferno of cultism were a former chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Odukpani Local Government Area and an aide to Governor Ben Ayade, Mr. Ekpenyong Akom.
The police image-maker said: “I am aware of the tragic incident but cannot substantiate it because we are investigating the matter. He (Akom) was killed by gunmen suspected to be cultists.”
A government official disclosed that Akom was wasted during the clash between Klanx and Axe members.
He said: “He was shot, and he died on the spot. He was suspected to be a member of Klanx and was gunned down by suspected members of Axe. The cults operations are not only in Calabar but in Bakassi, Okukpani and its environs.
“When I spoke with the Divisional Police Officer (DPO), he confirmed that two suspected cultists were gunned down. The incident occurred between the Klanx and Axe members. The victims are one Klanx and one Axe. The community assisted in arresting one of the suspects at the scene and handed him over to the Mbukpa Police Station.”
Explaining why the 35 persons, who had been identified as the ring leaders were declared wanted, the Permanent Secretary, Special Services Governor’s office, Mr. Alfred Mboto, said: “The spate of killings and violence taking place in the Calabar metropolis over supremacies of various fraternities is alarming and unacceptable by government and people of Cross River State.”
The list published by government and dated May 22 had the real names of 14 suspects while 21 others had their first names or nicknames.
Investigation revealed that they were all manner of cult activities in the state involving university and secondary schools students, artisans and street boys.
According to a source, “if government wants to rid the state of cultism, it should first look inwards and nib it in the bud as many of the persons in government today belong to one cult group or another.
“Some of them are very powerful and they give the boys cover and finances and same boys are used during elections, and after elections what do you expect?
“From the best of our understanding current cult clash is between Axe men and Klanx and it is the issue of rivalry, killings and reprisals. For instance, the current situation or scores in their language is 18 to 1 in favour of Axe men.”
Some hours after the state government declared 35 youths wanted for cult-related activities, a Navy Victory Ship, NNVS, arrested 61 suspects performing initiation in Akpabuyo creeks.
Interestingly, some of suspects were said to be among those declared wanted.
J-Boy was one of the notorious cultist leaders killed in gang war. He and his gang belonged to the Vikings and had been terrorising residents of Ugep for years.
A source said that power tussle between the deceased and another member known as Arikpo 007 had left many in the gang dead in recent months.
According to a report, “it’s an internal crisis within the Vikings also known as Baggers. Few months ago, there was power tussle between J-boy and one Arikpo 007; this led to killing of another gang member.
“A robbery incident that took the life of the CEO of House 27 Hotel in Ugep and many other robberies in the community were all linked to the gang.
“It got to a stage when Jboy’s father was dragged out from his house and flogged with machetes by Arikpo’s boys.
“Following the humiliation of his father, J-boy swore never to leave cult violence until he kills Arikpo 007, a threat that kept Arikpo on the run.
“On April 20, 2020, another cult member, also a Viking, was shot dead by aggrieved members of the same cult as a reprisal after a meeting around Ijiman Street.
“The situation led to an immediate reprisal by the other faction and it was in the process that J-boy and another gang member named Solo were killed.”
Sometimes, the cultists are slaughtered like animals meant as a sacrifice. Last December, Samuel, a 34-year-old man, was beheaded at Iboku Street, Calabar South. In fact, not less than seven persons were killed and beheaded by suspected cultists during the period.
Ugbo said: “We are aware of the killing that happened this morning. The clash is between Klans and Black Axe. Nobody has been arrested but the police are on the trail of the killers.”
Kidnappers are also on rampage in Cross River. In July, a policeman, Sergeant Ifere Sampson, was killed while four Chinese working in the state were killed by gunmen.
Ugbo confirmed the incident, adding that it happened in Oban, Akamkpa local government area.
In June, traders in Calabar protested the incessant kidnappings in the state.
Under the auspices of Calabar Traders Union (CTU), the traders shut their shops for two days. They lamented that over 18 of their members had been kidnapped in the last 10 months, adding that the development reached a crescendo with the kidnap of their patron, Chief Jude Odinka, who had been in captivity for several weeks.
Vice president of Electrical Dealers and Allied Products in Calabar, Akparawa Essien, said: “We are closing our shops and markets, including timber markets, spare parts markets/shops and electrical stores for two days to protest against the incessant kidnap of our members. It has degenerated to kidnap of ordinary traders and not the moguls; that is how bad it is now. We laud the efforts of the authorities in demolishing kidnappers’ houses, but the state government must rise up and take the bull by the horn.
“We can no longer keep quiet because our members are suffering. Some of these traders use loans, while some get goods from importers on credit. But due to ransom they pay to these criminals, they have become perpetual debtors because it seems we now work for the kidnappers, as high as N7 million has been paid as ransom.”
However, the Cross River State Police Command is not sleeping over the matter. The other day, it paraded four suspected kidnappers and rescued one Cecilia Onyago, 38.
Parading the suspects, Ugbo said: “We are working to make sure that kidnapping is no more in the state. We urge Cross Riverians to provide us with information, which would enable us work harder and pick these hoodlums wherever they may be.
“We are very happy about the success recorded because Cross River State is noted for being a place people come and relax and the police are working tirelessly to make sure the hoodlums are brought to book.”
Ugbo, however, enjoined peace-loving residents of the state to go about their normal businesses without fear of any kind.
The state government is also battling crime by demolishing houses belonging to suspected kidnappers. About two weeks ago, it pulled down two houses located at the Calabar Municipal Area. The houses belonged to kidnap suspects.
The suspects were arrested alongside four others for allegedly kidnapping Ekwele Ignatius Agube, wife of Justice Ignatius Agube, and the killing of her aide in July.
Leading the demolition team, Mboto warned that anyone arrested for kidnapping, cultism and drug-related offenses would suffer the same fate except the “person lives in a family house or rented apartment.”
He reiterated that the state has zero-tolerance for criminal activities.