Fred Itua, Nkechi Chima, Agu Dawn and Benjamin Babine Abuja
Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Muhammad Musa Bello, recently stirred the hornet’s nest, when he confirmed the fear of many residents that drug abuse and cultism were on the rise in primary and secondary schools in Abuja.
He expressed shock at the rapidly growing moral decadence, even as he called for a collaborative effort to end the menace threatening to destroy primary and secondary education, especially in public schools. Bello, who hosted the Federation of Muslim Women Associations in Nigeria (FOMWAN), FCT branch, said cultism in the past was restricted to universities and tertiary institutions and wondered why it has gained popularity in lower schools today:
“One of the main areas of concern to us is the issue of drug abuse and cultism in our schools. We used to know of cults in the 1970s at the university level. Now you have cults in primary schools and we wonder how do they even get to go there?”
He urged FOMWAN to help restore family values in the society by working to eliminate cultism, drug abuse and other social vices among children and women. He called on the group to use its vantage position and decades of experience to focus on matters concerning children and women, especially as they relate to drug abuse and cultism.
On this account, Daily Sun visited some public schools in Abuja. Many respondents confirmed the minister’s fears. At the Government Junior Secondary School, Apo Legislative Quarters, a JSS 3 student said: “I am a victim; I was attacked by them. Some of them are now ex-students while others have older brothers who are cultists. They used to come to the school to operate, but now it has reduced.
“One of my classmates who had an issue with me called his older brothers who were cultists and they beat me up. They would usually wait till we left the school premises before they attacked whoever their target was.”
A student of another school in Apo, who also pleaded anonymity, revealed: “The one that is reigning now is ‘Marlian cult’. I hear many students talking about it. They say they are Marlians, zero belt, zero pant. They say such strange things. Our teachers are now investigating it. There was a certain time that our civic teacher had to check the girls in our class and she found out that many of them are into that type of stuff.”
A teacher from the same school who refused to be named, advised parents and guardians to monitor their wards closely to ensure they are not exposed to destructive programmes on television and social media:
“A child is able to grab something that you may not know that they can grab. Even children in JSS1 can become influenced if they are in the wrong company both on ground and online. It has passed just area cult the
“social media is contributing. As teachers we usually advise all our students to stay away from those things.”
Vice principal of a school in Apo Resettlement said: “To the best of my knowledge, there are no cases of cultism in this school. The only case was a while ago and we were able to quickly fish them out, called their parents to send them to rehabilitation centres.
“They used to go to the hills. Some of them would carry red handkerchiefs and red caps. But now, there is no case of cultism here. And from time to time, we create awareness and educate the young ones that it is not a good thing.”
Mr Maxwell Igho, Federal Government College, Apo, said there is increase in reported cases of drug abuse among the students: “The pungent smell of smoke and gin often oozed from some hostels, a development that prompted the school authorities to swoop on the culprits and deal with them accordingly.
“I am a non-academic staff in charge of hostel management and welfare of the students. Drugs are not allowed on the school premises, but there are always these stubborn students who bring them in.
“Over time, the management has noticed an increase of dump of cough syrup bottles around the school and a certain behavioural pattern among the students.
“Last week, two students were suspended because of their level of intoxication. Some of the traits observed in drug addicts are sluggishness and slow reflexes.
“Their eyes are usually dull and look sleepy. Their schoolwork is poor because they are too slow in class because of the substance they are consuming.
“From our findings, the leading cause of drug abuse is peer pressure. It is always disheartening to call parents to come and pick up their child because of drug abuse. The school is trying to organise seminars during assembly to discuss the dangers of drug abuse.
“On our part, we have tightened security, to monitor what goes out and comes into the school. That way, we can regulate what is brought into the school premises. Some of these habits are learnt from home and there is very little we can do to control it before it gets out of hand.”
At the Government Secondary School, the Vice Principal, Academics, Mrs Umar, said: “The school has not recorded any form of cultism except indiscipline by students and extortion of money from junior students by senior students.”
At Emmanuel Model Academy, Lokogoma, Abuja, its principal, Mrs Rotimi, also said: “We have not had any form of cultism in the school and I pray we will never experience it.”