October 2nd, 2012
by Hope Abah, Makurdi
The growing activities of dare-devil cultists are giving residents across Benue State a serious cause for concern.
Hellish tales have become the lot of residents in most popular cities of Benue State in recent times. Gangs of suspected cultists are becoming more brutal and daring. Bloody trails are left behind as victims meet their deaths in the most gruesome manner, either under the cloak of darkness or in broad day light. Fear has become the order of day for residents, especially of Gboko and Makurdi of late.
Only recently, two students of Fidei Polytechnic in Gboko were hacked to death by a gang of 10 suspected cultists.
Last Sunday, a group of young boys struck at the NKST Church located at High Level, Makurdi and killed another young man about their age who was entering into the church.
Also, the authorities of the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi closed down the institution a week ago following clash between rival cultists. The suspected cultists have been on rampage on the campus, raping girls and killing perceived enemies.
Within the same period, police in the state said it arrested no less than 45 suspected cultists from different parts of the state with dangerous weapons recovered from them.
Amazingly, most of the apprehended suspects were either teenagers or in their early 20s. The high percentage of school age youths involved in the criminality has become so worrisome that the Deputy Police Public Relations Officer Ejike Alaribe in the state, once said, “so many innocent children and youths are being lured into cultism and other forms of crime by their bad and evil-minded friends”.
As a result of the development, every new day now becomes a miracle and every successful movement between 6:00pm and 10:00pm within the affected towns, is a cause for celebration because the ‘boys’ are on the loose; snatching their victims’ belongings, maiming, raping and killing innocents souls.
And so, it happened last week, when he decided to call it a day after plying the roads for nearly 12- working hours. Simon John, a commercial motorcyclist, was eager to return to the warm embrace of his wife and two kids.
Unfortunately, that was never to be as the 27-year-old was gruesomely murdered by unknown gunmen suspected to be cultists who stormed his No. 3 Boniface Street home, Ankpa quarters in Makurdi, the state capital having trailed him while returning from work that fateful Thursday night.
As he wanted to open the door to his house at about 8:00pm, the young men numbering up to 30 accosted and dragged him out to the next compound before they snuffed life out of him.
Family source said the late Simon had just returned after the day’s work and was about to enter his room in the family house when his assailant forcefully dragged him to the neigbourhood and pumped bullets into his head.
“More than 30 young men between the ages of 23 and 29 stormed our compound at 8:00pm that night, while Simon was trying to enter his room, having just returned from work.
“The men were armed with guns and other dangerous weapons, without any cause, they dragged my brother to the next compound and fired shots, killing him instantly,” said Chia Ashigbiade, elder brother of the victim.
Weekly Trust gathered that the assailants also made away with Simon’s handset and his proceeds for the day’s job.
A neigbour of the deceased, Martins Onah who described him as a good man, said cult boys now terrorise residents of the area.
“At least, two or more persons are killed in this vicinity every month and the police had done nothing about it. We live here in fear,” he said.
Onah explained how mother luck saved him on two occasions from the deadly gang who waylaid him along the same street and demanded his handset. But as they attempted to harm him, he took to his heels as fast as his legs could carry him, entering the house and shutting the door behind him.
The deceased’s wife, Mrs. Abigail Simon, mother of their two children, said she had gone to a nearby shop to buy some items when loud screaming within the neigbourhood attracted her to run back home only to find the lifeless body of her husband on the ground.
She said a few minutes later, the police came and took the corpse away.
Helen Ikyohyor, a relation of the deceased said the hoodlums had laid in wait a stone throw from late Simon’s house and that as soon as they committed the crime and ascertained that he was dead, they fled the scene.
She lamented how recently the gang stormed her business premises, poured petrol on her body and nearly set her on fire before one of them pleaded on her behalf, but her family house and shop were set ablaze by the gangsters.
According to Ikyohyor, the death of Simon was a great loss and needless. “The boy was good. I carried him as a baby. From my experience in this vicinity; the attack would continue throughout this week, in fact, by 7pm, we will all have to run away from this street.”
She debunked claims that Simon’s death might be connected to his link with the cultists who launched the attack to take back their pound of flesh following insinuations that the deceased was their member until three years ago when his father now late, bought him the motorcycle in a bid to remove him from the company.
The police confirmed the incident through its spokesman, Daniel Ezeala. He said the deceased was macheted from the head region by the suspected cultists and that the corpse is still at the Federal Medical Center, Makurdi for autopsy while investigation goes on.
Ezeala described the activities of the cult boys as, “rampart in Makurdi”, just as he vowed that the police would bring the culprits to book.
However, residents think the police have become ineffective in tackling criminals in the area. They called on government and security agencies to beef up surveillance in the area to avert further loss of lives.
Similarly, the police during the week also confirmed that it discovered a corpse identified as Dennis Ede at Adikpo Street near the area late Simon was killed after receiving information about sporadic gunshots there.
“The police got information about gunshots at Adikpo Street and immediately mobilized to the scene only to discover the corpse of Dennis in pool of his own blood.
“The victim is suspected to have been attacked by cultists; though no arrest has been made, the police recovered one empty shell of cartridge at the scene of incidents,” spokesman Ezeala said.
Despite the assurances from the security agencies that they were on top of the situation, residents are scared to sleep with their both eyes closed. More worrisome is the fact that they do not know for how long the ugly incidence will live with them.
The story is not different either in Otukpo. A teenage girl was kidnapped in the town earlier in the week by unknown men suspected to be cultists.
Eighteen-year-old Anne Queen Omale who resides with her parents at No.1 Harrison Adoga Street was abducted while on her way to Otukpo main market.
Her father, Onyuna Omale has sought divine intervention by requesting for prayers for the safe return of his daughter.