Reign of cultists in Iba community

■ Residents narrate ordeal. We need more police presence –Monarch

The once peaceful Iba communi­ty in Ojo Local Government Area of Lagos State is gradually losing her innocence and tranquillity to the violent activities and reign of cultists who are predominantly students at all lev­els. This is largely due to the proximity of the community to the main campus of the state university, LASU.

They scatter, shatter, rape, burgle, kill and terrorise residents to the point that it has be­come a crime to report such incidents to the police whenever they occur, looking only to God mostly for divine protection from brutal cultists.

Investigations by Saturday Sun showed that the prominent cult group in the commu­nity is the Eiye confraternity, which came into prominence in the area when the level of cult activities was at its peak in LASU eventhough the problem began in the area around early 2000. Some parts of the com­munity largely affected include Iba Hous­ing Estate, Ipaye, Igbo-Elerin, and Iyana School. A prominent resident of the area, Mr. Aderinto (not real name) blamed stu­dents for cult activities in the community. He stated that there can only be respite if the school authorities are able to minimise cultism on campus, “from where they began devolving into the streets and bringing their influences into the streets and initiating most of the boys in the Iba community who today are the ones now manifesting wickedness in the community.” It was learnt that the cult­ists have further grown in size and influ­ence due to the involvement of a prominent prince of the community (names withheld) as a member of Eiye confraternity. Though a very close source to the palace revealed that the prince is no more a member of the group, he added: “The seed he has sown is part of what is making cultism thrive in the land.”

Because of the activities of the criminal gangs, most bus stops in the area have be­come death zones. Once it is 7pm, the look on the face of everybody is that of suspi­cion and fear. Agali Amadi (not real name) disclosed that if he goes out of Iba by 4pm, he would start leaving where he is to return home. “As someone that was born in this community, I would say that I have seen enough, though I thank God that today I am a living testimony, else I would have been dead. I was threatened to join them because most of the boys threatening the environ­ment today, we all grew up together. They chased me to the extent that I had to hide in a church for several months. With the fact that I know most of them physically, they have attacked me several times and collected my phones and even my wallets”, he stated. On one of the occasions, Amadi was able to col­lect his phone back when he went to meet the head of the cult in the area.

Some of the leaders of the cult group are spread across different zones. Williams is known to be the leader of the Victory Estate wing of the cult, Aliyah is the leader of the Mosadolohun wing, Michael leads the Iba Estate group, while Pedro, Sunny Pa and others operate within Iba estate and part of the new site. It was also learnt that their meeting base is scattered within the community. Some meet at Adoff, another group meets at Aratumi, while another group meets at the estate too.

A source revealed that even the Eiye boys sometimes attack and rob themselves. Due to their activities, no cyber cafe can be found in the whole of the Iba estate. All of the cyber cafes have closed shop because of burgling and other attacks. Mr. Chinwe used to own a cafe in the new site. He explains why he closed shop. “I started a cyber cafe business, and one morning all I saw was that my shop was burgled, laptops and desktops were taken away. I took it in my stride and restocked and again the same thing happened. One day we were in the shop with some customers, suddenly some boys came in and robbed us of all our belongings. It was this time I made up my mind to leave”. Rukayat on her own part explained that, carrying a bag on the street often makes one an object of attack. “They will come after you and collect the bag from you. One day I carried a bag of books and they came after me, the next thing I heard was a slap from behind and that was how six boys hijacked the bag from me”, she added.

It was further gathered that new gangs have sprung up from the Eiye gangs. These evolving gangs are dissatisfied with the Eiye cult group and have come up with their own line of ac­tivities. Four new local cult groups have so far emerged in the community as at today. They include Obosso boys, Jargon boys,Olomi boys (water boys), and Shey Etiready (are you ready) boys. A source revealed that, because these boys cannot cope with some of the demands of the bigger cult groups, they decided to form their own, though most of them are former members of the Eiye cult.

The age range of members of these groups usually is between 14 and 19, most of who are young school leavers and dropouts. Their main weapons are machetes, bottles, iron rods and guns. People cannot walk alone by 5am to go to their places of work, they must go with one or two people as escorts, else they will be robbed. These boys are after phones, money, wristwatch­es, motorcycles. Isiaka laments how N100,000 was collected from him. “The money was meant to buy building materials for a client, because I collected the money the previous night and that was how in front of the local council which is an open space I was tracked, beaten and the money was collected”. Another bitter consequence of the cult activities is that commercial vehicles that usually load at Iba New site have all stopped loading there especially those going to Esa ga­rage due to the control of the motor park by the cultists.

Mamud hints that there are no safe corners in Iba. “Everywhere and anywhere you think you can go to, these boys are right there, they are so many that they can’t even be numbered.” He explained further that just around mid-February, they beat and tied up to the electric pole, some elderly men who were vigilantes guarding the community. He further hinted that they operate as armed robbers, rape girls and they also fight because of girls. Investigations also revealed that some of the okada riders in the community are members of the different gangs, hence most of their raids and activities are done using motor cycles.

In January, the cultists launched a major raid on early risers around 5am and they robbed a lot of people who were going for their daily busi­nesses. Some of the victims, who spoke to Satur­day Sunexplained that they lost valuables in the incident. Agbeke Aina explained that she was on her way to the market when they began the raid, soon they got to her and col­lected all her money which she wanted to use to by goods to sell in her shop. Tosin Funmi explained that as she stepped out of her house, it was in the waiting hands of the cultists that she landed and they did not hesitate to collect her phone, money and wristwatch.

Another major characteristic of the cult boys is gang fight. They are always at loggerheads and whenever they are, they bring down hell with them. At a party that was held recently in the area, one person lost his life. Some of the eyewitnesses ex­plained that a lady was dancing and a guy approached her and because she declined dancing with the fellow, trouble ensued. “Sometimes, these boys would just spring up fight without any cause and once peo­ple have taken cover for shelter, they begin looting shops and wreaking havoc.” Mad­am Aminatu is a victim of such incident. She explained that she on one occasion, lost all her frozen foods which she bought to sell. “It was as if these boys had been monitoring me, immediately we just saw them fighting and I closed my shop and took cover, before we came back, they had broken into my shop and taken my stuffs away”. Ibrahim Bakare, a prominent per­son in the town, revealed that in January, a Senatorial candidate came around the area and gave money to people at Igbo-Elerin which is some distance from Iba new site, the cultists began breaking the windscreen of vehicles in Iba community in protest.

According to Alabi Oso: “Almost all the children of the indigenes are involved in cultism, they are also the ones giving the strangers in the community the power to operate. Aside this, most of the so-called young guys who are OPC members are also among these boys who are terrorizing the community.” Ariyo Amao also notes that the absence of police station at the new site of Iba is the major cause of the rise in the activities of cultists. He stated further that the police too, are also in the habit of raid­ing innocent victims after such incidents are over.

Asafa Akanbi noted that the king of Iba community has tried to make sure that the cult boys are got rid of but some other peo­ple, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that where the king’s palace is lo­cated is so far from where most of the cult activities take place.

Inside the Iba estate, daylight robbery is very common. Gangs of Indian hemp smoking youths are often seen stopping buses and robbing their passengers at will. Some of the dangerous zones in the es­tate are the estate market, estate field and around the estate secondary school, the two small estate back gates. Mrs. Adanigbo Abata, said: “As a nurse, I was on night duty and before I could come back in the morning, my house had been burgled”.

The king’s response

Saturday Sun spoke with the King of Iba community, Oba Yushau Goriola Oseni on the development. He explained that most of the time, he joins the local vigilante teams set up by the community to keep watch over the area. “I do join the local vigilan­tes to keep watch over the community most of the time. During our watch, anybody that we get hold of, we hand them over to the police and I myself do follow them to court to make sure that such children are sentenced”. He hinted that with this, they have been able to curtail the activities of the cultists in different locations.

The king would like the government to help them make sure that the Police Station located at Adoff bus stop becomes a full divisional police station. The police post sited at Adoff bus stop cannot function ef­fectively because it is under the authority of the Ojo police station. “We have written to the CP and we are working tirelessly to make sure that this post becomes a full sta­tion so that we can site police posts in other areas of the town to curb the menace”.

The paramount ruler also revealed that he has plans to set up chiefs and lesser rul­ers called Baale at the heart of the troubled zones so that they can be his eyes and ears and help curb the menace.

The king added that the precarious se­curity situation is mainly caused by job­less youths. “It is the idle hand and mind that is the devil’s workshop, I want to urge the government to provide more jobs for the youths”. He explained that there have been situations where some of the boys that were caught would confess that they had good jobs before but due to the absence of electricity to work, their friends then introduced them to crime and they had no choice because they were hungry.

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