Residents of three communities in Benue State have appealed to the Governor of the State, Hyacinth Alia, to come to their aid over incessant cult-related killings.
The three communities located in Benue South Senatorial District – Ugbokolo, Amejo, and Okonobo – have been in the throes of daily killings by youths who are members of rival cult groups.
At least 10 persons were murdered in August in Ugbokolo town. The killing led to a grounding of socio-economic activities around the nearby Benue State Polytechnic.
In a bid to arrest the ugly development, an umbrella body for the affected communities, Ede-ma Development Association (EDA) in a statement, on Sunday, drew the governor’s attention to rampant cult-induced killings in the communities
“We also call on the Benue State Government under Governor Hyacinth Alia to set up a probe panel to investigate and proffer solutions to the increasing cases of cultism, which we gathered, is very much alive in virtually all communities across the state,” the statement issued by Michael Agbam, the national president of Ede-ma, said.
Mr Agbam explained that Ede-ma as a progressive civil society organisation believes “cultism, and indeed all forms of criminality and violence, in any part of the state constitute a danger to the security of lives and property…”
Why we’re speaking up
Mr Agbam said the association was speaking up about the incident a month after its occurrence due to the alleged failure of the police to bring the perpetrators of the killings to book.
” We had also expected that the security agencies, especially the Nigeria Police Force, are fully on the ground and therefore ought to have quickly responded to such open criminality to restore public order and confidence. This was however not the case in view of the litany of violence in which cult groups openly chase and hack perceived rivals to death in broad daylight.”
However, the spokesperson of the Benue State police command, Sewuese Anene, disagreed with Mr Agbam’s allegation regarding police failure in responding to the violence.
“There was a cult clash in Ugbokolo which police intervened swiftly and it was brought under control. One person was killed,” Mr Anene told PREMIUM TIMES in a WhatsApp message.
The association commended two youth groups – Edumoga Youth Association (EYA) and Edumoga Youth Movement (EYM) – for quelling the “daily killings.”
Earlier, Philip Agbese, who represents Ado/Okpokwu/ Ogbadibo Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives, condemned the “barbaric” killings.
Mr Agbese urged “law enforcement agencies to rise to the occasion of restoring peace and order in the town.”
“He also charged operatives to launch a full investigation into the matter and those responsible should be apprehended and prosecuted to serve as a deterrent to other cult members or intending members terrorizing the town,” a statement issued by one of Mr Agbese’s spokesperson, Oche Ekwote, said.
Ugbokolo and its environs have been in the grips of gun violence for a couple of years now.
The resurgence in killings has been traced to the proliferation of small and light weapons in communities.
Recently, the Benue State police commissioner, Bartholomew Onyeka, ordered a crackdown on persons in possession of illegal firearms.
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