◗ As cult killings escalate
On February 21, 2018, at Umunede Bar in Aguda, Surulere, Lagos, Moshood Bolaji, a member of Lagos State Neighbourhood Watch, was killed by a gang of five.
Within minutes, the neighbourhood was in pandemonium as people ran helter-skelter for their dear lives. Nobody knew why the man was killed. But everyone believed his killers were cultists. His death was one of a series of killings that has turned the Lagos suburb of Isolo, the epicentre of cult wars in February.
A few days earlier, Favour Ajudonu was caught in the crossfire of another cults clash. She was lucky as she lived to tell the story. What started as two groups of teenagers competing for her affection swiftly spiralled into a show of machismo. Terrified by the ensued violence, she had instinctively jumped into a speeding tricycle, urging the operator to continue moving until she crossed the Isolo Bridge. She had witnessed the murder of two teenagers by members of a rival cult, the Black Axe. The slain teenagers were reportedly members of Supreme Vikings Confraternity, popularly known as Aromates and notorious for brutality in the Isolo axis.
In the aftermath of the double killings, the Aromates rallied to avenge their comrades’ death, ‘flew their colour’ and declared war against the perpetrators––including the lady that was the bone of contention. Their manoeuvring put the Isolo suburb under tension until the police stepped in with prompt and sweeping arrest of anyone dressed suspiciously in the evening hours. These two incidents in February are testaments of the escalating cult wars across neighbourhoods of the congested Lagos metropolis.
Ejigbo: Vikings’ enclave
In Ejigbo, a few kilometres from Isolo, a bitter cult battle rages, waged by the Aromates against anybody of influence in the district. Skama, a tall, dark-skinned youthful character––so feared nobody wished to have a conversation about his real name––is reportedly commanding the Aromates.
Skama, Saturday Sun gathered, is an orphan who recently became the cult’s capo, and since his confirmation as the group’s leader, he has constituted himself into a nuisance in the community, residents claimed.
Recently, his entourage allegedly attacked a family over a female herbal medicine hawker. The aim of the attack, allegedly launched on his order, was to intimidate a family member whose friends belong to a rival cult. The conflict was quenched by the intervention of the police. Presently, Ejigbo residents sleep with one eye closed. As they have come to realize, the fear of Skama is the beginning of wisdom.
Ijesha: Scene of mafia-style killings
Wahidi Amao fled Ikorodu for the fear of his life––but not in one piece. He lost one of his knees to the incident.
He returned to his father’s house in Ijesha, which he believed to be a safe haven. Unknown to him, those who hunted him were more determined to bring him to account. Saturday, Feb. 17, was his date with nemesis. Right in front of his parents’ home, along Odo Olowu Road, in Ijesha, he was shot dead in cold blood––two shots, one to his head, and another to his neck––and died on the spot.
An eyewitness account by Iya Sikira gave an insight into the last minute encounter between the deceased and the death squad that came after him.
“I was coming out from the opposite street when I accidentally saw two young men shot and kill a young man. One of the killers was fair in complexion, while the other one was dark. They shot him in the head and neck, and he slumped immediately. As soon as they shot him, they simply entered the opposite street and disappeared into thin air. I watched them from where I was hidden from their view by a parked car, praying they would not see me. I was so afraid I was shivering because I had never seen a thing like that in my life. Soon after, his parents came out and when they saw what happened they started crying. By then I had come out from my hiding place and went closer. The man lost so much blood. His father tried to lift him but he was already dead.”
Later it was alleged that the deceased was an Aromate and was killed for his involvement in the killing of a rival cult member.
Four days earlier, Tuesday, Feb. 13, shockwaves of another killing rippled through the Ijesha environs. According to witnesses, at about 8 pm, a tricycle with six young men stopped at the junction where Adeola Street link up with Ronke Street and in the twinkle of an eye, they shot and killed a young man.
The victim, identified as Lati, Saturday Sun gathered, lived at Oto Oba area of Itire but used to frequent the place of the incident to sit around with friends.
According to an eyewitness, when the killers got to the place where Lati was sitting on top of a table, they made a statement: “Is this how far you can run?” Without waiting for his reply, they shot him in the head. They tarried long enough to ensure that he was fully dead before they entered their tricycle and drove off. In panic, residents and shop owners quickly packed their wares and shut their shops.
Two hours later, security operatives began to arrest people on sight. Passersby who were unaware of the incident simply walked into the waiting hands of the security men.
“Some occupants of No 3, Ronke Street, the building close to the crime scene, were also arrested,” a source claimed.
Still in Ijesha, a few weeks ago, a gang killed two persons at Fadahunsi Street. The killers stormed a barber’s shop and crudely murdered him with a machete, while they shot his assistant to death.
For every reported killing, there are several others that are unreported.
A climate of fear
Saturday Sun spoke to some residents on the impact of the on-going silent war. The majority opinion was that the sporadic killings are engendered by an unending cycle of vendetta, fed by the blood-for-blood creed governing the dog-eat-dog world of cultists.
The spate of killings has created a climate of paranoia in which every unknown face that walks through Ijesha neighbourhoods is a suspect and susceptible to danger, as experienced by our reporter recently. At Agunlejika Bus Stop, where he was making inquiries, he found residents unwilling to say anything on the situation in the area. An orange seller went to the extent of calling some area boys to query the reporter.
One of the boys, later called Tallest, was quite irascible. It turned out the reporter’s snooping around opened an old wound.
“We are not cult boys, go look for your cult boys somewhere else, but anyhow Wahidi will be avenged. He is our boy, but we are not cult boys,” he told the reporter rather harshly.
As the reporter furthered his investigation, he noticed one of them tailing him around as he asked random questions from residents.
In the night of the same day, the reporter was at a popular bar on
Odo-Olowu Road. Mindful of the tension that had enveloped the neighbourhood, he had asked for permission to sit, not with the group carousing in the bar, but away from them so he could have a chilled drink. A member of the group, who later identified himself as Skobo beckoned to the reporter and asked why he was seeking permission.
The reporter went straight to the story of Wahidi.
“I am just new here and already hearing killings and over-boundaries,” the reporter told Skobo.
Skobo laughed and announced: “We have a Jew here.”
Jew, in cult-speak, is someone who does not belong to any fraternity and who is naïve about the underworld.
Skobo and his cohorts assured the reporter the bar is safe for hanging out––“as long as you don’t keep late night” was their brotherly advice.
Before finally exiting the bar at 10:45 pm, they ordered a bottle of beer for the reporter.
The female attendant who brought the order urged the reporter to be quick about his drink, as the time was long passed her closing hour.
The reporter had asked her casually: “Do you not fear the killings here?
The attendant, who looked 30-something replied: “Why do you think here is dry today?”
The response jelled with the earlier conversations by Skobo and his gang in which they complained that the usual people didn’t show up.
Police talk tough
When Saturday Sun approached the Lagos Police Public Relation Officer, Chike Oti on the pervasive cult war in the state, he stated that the Commissioner of Police, Edgai Imohimi is on the situation. “The CP has directed a contingent of Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) personnel to relocate to Census Police Outpost and other places necessary,” he stated.
Out on the street, those who have their ears to the ground have a compelling theory about the escalating underground war. A reliable source that spoke on the deep background told Saturday Sun the big picture of the raging storms of cult war. The clashes, according to him, are jigsaws of a keenly contested turf war, that eternal struggle in the underworld for territory dominance and demarcation.