For three months, the Bayelsa State Police Command has not been able to bring to book the cultists that attacked Lillian.
Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
Three months after she was attacked by some female cultists at Otuoke in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, 16-year-old Lillian Friday is yet to get justice.
For three months, the Bayelsa State Police Command has not been able to bring to book the cultists that attacked Lillian. Worse still, Lillian and her family have been left to carry their own cross in raising funds for a surgery to repair the eye that was damaged by the attackers.
It all began on April 26, 2018, when Lillian, a student of Community Secondary School, Otuoke/Otuaba, was beaten and battered as a result of her refusal to join a female cult group.
She had woken up that fateful day believing that, with her refusal to be pressured to join a cult group in the community, she would be left alone to face her studies. But she was wrong. Her attackers, members of a dreaded female cult group in the community, were only waiting for a good opportunity to ambush her.
She narrated her story to Daily Sun: “When we resumed school as SS2 students, one Josephine came to meet me, that I should join their cult group. That was the beginning of daily harassment from them. Sometimes, to avoid their problem, I would not go to school and stay with my mum. The harassment continued outside the school, as they accosted me anytime I was coming from choir practice. There was a day they attacked me on the bridge and whenever I visited my aunt at Otuaba community. On another day, I was going on an errand when one of them called me but I refused to answer because I had nothing to do with them. They now said they would deal with me since I had refused to answer them. But I insisted that I had nothing to do with them.
“On the day of the incident, I went to buy fruits at the back of St. Stephens Anglican Church, Otuoke. They saw me and wanted to attack me, but one of my uncles, who is a CDC member, Mr. Agu, warned them that if they did anything to me, he wouldn’t take it lightly with them. One of them, however, used an object to hit me in the eye. They were four and I did not see the object used on me. I fell and lost consciousness and it was later that I woke up in the hospital. Some of them are my classmates at Community Secondary School, Otuoke/Otuaba. I have given the police the names of two of the ring leaders.”
Lillian’s mother, Mrs. Igboki Friday, was saddened over the incident, which she said has put her daughter through intense psychological trauma. According to her, all that the family needed from government was for justice to be served by bringing the culprits to book.
“I was not around when the incident happened,” she said. “I was called on the phone and informed. As I came back, I saw my daughter in pains. Immediately, I went to the Kolo Police Station to report and they said they wanted the victim to recover first so that they could now go for arrest. There is a law in the community that nobody can go on its own to make arrest without intimating the community leadership. We reported to the CDC chairman and its cabinet. That very day, they brought the mother of the ringleader who pleaded and begged. She said her daughter was nowhere to be found.
“The family is taking care of her medical bills. I want government to come to our aid. The safety of my child in the community matters a lot to me. I believe that, since 2017, we have not been safe in that community. Now that things have come to a head, I want government to bring the culprits to book because I cannot take the law into my hands. I have always appealed to my children to behave in a godly way, but since the girls now believe they are bigger than the government and community leaders, they should be brought to book. I want justice for my child so that we can live peacefully in the community.”
Lillian’s uncle, Mr. Benson Agiobu, noted that the family had been informed that Lillian would need to undergo an eye surgery. He said the family would seek justice to the very end to ensure that the assault on the young lady did not go unpunished.
“For me, I have decided to pursue this matter to the end. And also in terms of taking this matter seriously, I am appealing to government and civil society groups to come and help us rescue our youths in the community so that we don’t take the law into our hands. I need justice for my niece and this family. It was hectic getting her to a hospital that was willing to attend to her injuries. She was rejected by four different hospitals that did not have the proper medication to administer to her. Thank God for the Bayelsa State Government that has signed the amended bill of cultism into law that cultists would be severely punished.”
Mr. Aluzu Augustine, coordinator of the Patriotism Advancement and Community Orientation Network (PACON), a non-governmental organisation that is leading a campaign against cultism and drug abuse in secondary schools in the state, got wind of the incident and took up the battle. He called on the police to arrest the culprits.
Augustine, who lamented that Lillian’s eye covering had been severed and would require an ophthalmologist to envision the level of damage done to her eye and vision, said the attack must not go unpunished.
He expressed surprise that the culprits were Lillian’s schoolmates and they have carried out their cultism activities in the open without fear.
“She has been harassed and intimidated by the gang. On several occasions, they tore her notebooks in class and threatened her life. She has had cause to report the gang to teachers in the school who only warned them to leave her alone. And nothing else was done. On one occasion, the gang members mobilised to her house, up to seven of them, and beat her up. When she reported the threats and assault to her mother, the mother warned the suspected cultists to leave her daughter alone and also reported to the community chief. The community leader pleaded that the police should be left out of the matter since it had been settled by the community. The law must take its course as PACON is ready to provide free legal service to the family to seek redress,” he said.
Augustine also took it upon himself and used his NGO to seek funds on every available social media platform to raise the needed funds for the eye surgery since the family was too poor to foot the medical bill.
Investigations revealed that PACON’s efforts were successful and an eye surgery was successfully carried out at the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital (NDUTH). Though she is still recuperating, her family has expressed gratitude to all those that contributed funds for her.
Findings in the community showed that relatives of the suspected cultists have been pleading with elders of Otuoke to settle the matter without the involvement of the police.
The police public relations officer, Mr. Asinim Butswat, said that the police have not made any arrest. It was gathered that the suspects were being shielded by their families, who refused to divulge information about the girls’ whereabouts.