James Ojo Adakole
Treasurer of Solomade Estate in Ikorodu Local Government Area of Lagos Stat, Lekan will not forget Thursday, June 6, 2019, in a hurry. His community, Solomade Estate, was one of the areas in Ikorodu attacked by rampaging, blood-thirsty cultists. Fortunately for him, the fierce clash started shortly after he had closed went home from work.
Recalling what transpired that fateful day, Lekan told Sunday Sun: “I was very lucky that day. As Treasurer of Solomade Estate, I close work by 6pm. Unfortunately, the security man on guard wasn’t lucky as he had his hand ripped off simply for trying to stop them for shattering the office windows. Whenever they start their fight, nobody is safe; they even go to the extent of smashing the windscreen of vehicles passing by at time. The glass window of the office was smashed too. When soldiers were invited, everything died down. We are praying they don’t start attacking again.”
Lekan was not the only lucky resident who escaped the bloody incident unscathed. Ayodele, a resident of Isikalu, another street attacked by cultists that day, also survived the cult clash.
“It was a terrible experience. Everyone was scared because of the way they were fighting. A lot of properties were vandalised in the process. The anxiety in the area has really affected our business. We can only thank security agencies who came to our rescue,” Ayodele said.
For residents of Ikorodu, the frequent clashes between rival cult groups, especially Aiye and Eiye, has been a blight on the people living in the axis. “It is unfortunate that Ikorodu is always in the news for the wrong reasons due to the incessant cults clashes,” says Israel, another resident of the area.
These days, most residents are deeply concerned and worried over the situation. They are leery of moving around late in the night.
“Clash between cultists is something that happens every time in Ikorodu,” said Ikenna Ugwu, who recently returned home after completing his the one year national youth service.
His words: “Around April when I returned to Lagos after my National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) programme ended, they were killing themselves almost every day in my area. What they do is that they identify people who have affiliation to other cult groups and kill them. So, they were just killing themselves. When this happens, we hardly know peace. They were even killing barbers too. There was this barber I normally patronise any time I visit my parents in Ikorodu from school. The guy was an easy-going person who had nothing to do with cultism, but it was gathered that his brother or friend belongs to a cultist groupand he was trying to cover up for him. On a fateful Sunday morning, the barber was going to church, when two dreaded men appeared from nowhere and started chasing him. They shot him at his legs and he started begging them. They were unmoved and used stones to break his head into pieces.
So, what they do is that if they see anyone that belongs to another cultist group, they will attack them. They move from one community to another. There was a time when it was rampant at Odogunyan, from then it shifted to Igboshoro and so on. I don’t think anything can be done about the situation at the moment. Cultism has always been there, you cannot stop it. The worst is that children from primary schools are recruited. In my area, you hardly see children amble around the streets because nobody knows what will happen next. They attack communities unannounced. After killing you, they either cut your head or smash your head with stones. Most shops close early these days. The situation is becoming too much in Ikorodu. We have cases of cultism in other areas but that of Ikorodu is becoming too much.”
Investigation by Sunday Sun revealed that cultist activities in the area escalated due to internal wrangling among members of the local vigilance group known as Onyabo, which has been a major anti-cultism movement at the grassroots level in the area. The internal wrangling led to a battle for supremacy and leadership of Onyabo among factional leaders of the vigilance group.
Commenting on the issue, a top official of Ikorodu Local Government Council, who preferred anonymity for fear of being victimized, told Sunday Sun: “There are some measures we have taken on this issue of cultism in Ikorodu Local Government Area. At the council level, we were really worried over the frequent cases of cult clashes in the area, so we had a meeting to discuss the way forward. We looked into possible causative factors that are fueling the sudden rise in cult clashes in the area which often leads to killing of innocent people in most cases. We later discovered that there was this crack within Onyabo, the local vigilance group called “Onyabo”.
As government, we invited all the parties involved in the matter. We invited a man called J.J, a factional leader of the Onyabo group, who gave us his own side of the story. We also invited other factional leaders of the group and they all gave us their own side of the story. From their claims, we discovered that there was a tussle for supremacy among the various factions of Onyabo. Then we invited one Mr. Rafiu Onilegboro, who seemed to be a rallying point of the debacle.
So, we as government, the community and some other dignitaries in Ikorodu stood to address the issue. From the wide deliberations and consultations that followed, it was unanimously agreed that Mr. Rafiu be appointed the head of Onyabo in Ikorodu and that brought an end to the disputes among factions of the vigilance group, consequently restoring unity and tranquility among its members. Since then, we have recorded a lot of good results in terms of arrest. So many cultists have been arrested since that development.
We all know who these cult members are and they also know us, they are our children and we live in the same terrain, but who is going to come out and say who is who? Everyone is afraid. As it is, there has been relative peace in the community now when compared to what has been happening before.
In our report, we came up with some ideas and way out like raising a security trust fund which Barrister Adewunmi Ogunsanya was the chairman; the Onyabo group also made know their demand for effective operation. They asked for vehicles, weapons and financial assistance to move the group forward. Already, all hands are on deck to actuatilse those things. We are working towards getting these tools for them. The local government chairman has taken it upon himself every month to ensure that half a million is disbursed to the Onyabo group.”
Speaking with Sunday Sun, Mr. Onilegboro, the newly installed General Commandant of Onyabo Ikorodu, Lagos State, disclosed how members of the local vigilance group have been collaborating with other security agencies to rid Ikorodu area of cultism.
“We are doing the best we can do in the community to stem the tide of cultism in this area. This is because most of the clashes between these cult members happen in a flash, without any known reason for such fights, and before you know it, some innocent people would have died as result of the shootings by the cult members. When they start shooting, those going offices would be discouraged and they would stay indoors; traders would also lock up their shops. During such times, the road would be empty of people. The situation is really of great concern to everyone here.
“So, we the Onyabo group decided to gather ourselves and complement government efforts towards tackling cultism in Ikorodu. This is because we are closer to the community and can easily fish out these cult members. The government will find it difficult identifying them easily but those of us residing in the community know them very well, including their parents as well as their homes. However, some of them are not indigenes. Therefore, we are collaborating with the police and other security groups in carrying out our objectives. For the cultists terrorizing this area with knives, cutlasses and guns, we have been able to arrest many of them and handed them over to the police.
So far, it has been positive. Anytime they start their battle, we are always equal to the task. The last one that happened, they looted shops after causing mayhem,” Onilegboro said.
He enjoined residents to join the group in the ongoing efforts to eradicate cultism in the area by providing security agencies with relevant information, noting that with such synergy, cultism would end in Ikorodu.
Police Public Relations Officer, Lagos Police Command, Bala Elkana, a Deputy Superintendent (DSP), in a statement disclosed that the most wanted leader of one of the cult groups, Yusuf Omidele, popularly known as General, alongside 20 other suspects were arrested during the recent attack in Ikorodu.
Elkana stated that about 10pm on that day, Police received a distress call that some cult members from two rival groups engaged themselves in a supremacy battle along Isikalu palace and Solomade area, Ikorodu. According to him, the Command’s Anti-Cultism Unit and patrol teams from Ikorodu were promptly drafted to the scene.
In a recent telephone chat with Sunday Sun, Elkana reiterated the commitment of the Lagos State Police Command to stamp out cultism and gangsterism at all levels, adding that it would not be business as usual under the watch of the State’s Commissioner of Police, Zubairu Muazu.
“We have different ongoing surveillance operations. If you look up, you will see helicopters hovering around. Down, you will see enough vehicles on patrol too. So, the Command has not been sleeping. We have been up and doing and that is why Lagos State has been enjoying the peace we are seeing presently,” he had said.