Following an increase in cult activities and drug abuse in Anambra State, a Non-Governmental Organisation, Centre for Early Warning and Early Response System (CEWERS) organised a colloquium on early response to victims.
The colloquium was held at the premises of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, on Wednesday.
CEWERS organised the programme in partnership with the South-east zone of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) and office of the Senior Special Assistant on Security to the Governor of Anambra State.
Welcoming participants, comprised of students, lecturers and members of the development sector, Obioma Onyii-Ogele, the Director of CEWERS, described the growing trend of cultism in that state a sign of ‘more disturbing situation to come.’
“This issue, if (left) unchallenged, can turn the entire state into a large theatre of violent crime, inter-group conflicts and by all these deepen the compromise of the security state of polity.
“The centre decided to have this programme with the intention to expose and proffer policy options and alternatives to control this malady in Anambra State as it falls squarely into our core operating mandate,” she said.
Several parts of the state have witnessed cult clashes in recent times. One of such is an attack early August which left no fewer than five persons killed in a clash between rival cult groups in Idemili-North and Oyi areas of the state.
The Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano, who was represented by Emma Akpeh, the permanent secretary, office of the Secretary to the State Government said, “the government is doing a lot to stop cultism and its twin, drug abuse”.
“The problem of cultism if not checked will tell on our future, if we do not check it today we all will pay for it in the end,” he added.
The governor also promised to replicate recommendations from the colloquium in other senatorial districts of the state as soon as reports are sent to his office.
He enjoined the students to be well-behaved, shun cultism and speak against it.
“See yourselves as architects and builders of our tomorrow and begin to take actions,” he said.
Also speaking, a human rights activist, Austin Onuoha, said there is nothing wrong in belonging to a cult but the problem lies in their mode of operation.
“These are groups of people who want changes or are with grievances either against the society, individuals or institutions but the space is not open for them to vent so they go underground to vent and they use what we refer to as strong-arm tactics or self-help to get certain things done or achieved”.
He recommended a subtle approach in handling victims of cultism.
“Other than criminalizing them, bring them close, ask questions around their arms, questions like: can you drop your arms, outside arms what else can you do?” “Where they get these arms from? We are long overdue for a firearms audit in this country”.
“Some people get into these cult groups unconsciously, while some do consciously. We can always other than killing or jailing them ask questions around their behaviour,” he said.
The representative of the Anambra State Commissioner of Police, Uche Noah, a superintendent, urged the state government to help in providing resources to tackle the problem.