…Police Move against Sponsors, Gather Evidence from Arrested Cultists
By Ikeugonna Eleke
The Anambra State Commissioner of Police, CP Aderemi Adeoye, has moved to stop the rise in cult related killings in Awka.
Awka, the Anambra State capital, has recently become a theatre for cult related killings following a supremacy tussle among rival groups.
A week ago, following the killing of a popular local musician in front of his house, and the butchering of a mentally ill man suspected to have been a cultist before falling ill, the spokesperson of the Anambra State Police Command, DSP Tochukwu Ikenga, in a press release disclosed that the CP had planned an operation that would see to the massive arrest of cultists and their sponsors.
Ikenga, in the press release, quoted CP Adeoye as saying the Police Command would come down very hard on cultists who delighted in killing people.
‘We warn that no one should call us for release of any cultist arrested in the coming clampdown, except they want to be disgraced.
‘There will be an all-out operation against cultists and their sponsors in the state. We assure the good people of Anambra State that their peace and tranquility that were punctured by the recent cult-related killings in the capital will soon be restored.
We solicit the cooperation of all law abiding citizens in ridding the society of the menace of cultism,’ the CP stated.
One week after the threat, Fides went in search of the CP to know what had been done. In an exclusive interview, the Commissioner said work had already started and that several suspects had been arrested, while the Command was concentrating on building evidence against their sponsors for possible arrest.
‘Over that weekend more than 55 suspects were arrested, including 14 who were rounded up during initiation in a forest. They were rounded up in a forest. They were to be initiated into one of the cults and the officers in the area arrested them and recovered all the weapons.
‘Among those arrested, another 25 have been linked to crimes that are cult related and arraignment has already started and those found not to be culpable have been released.
‘That is not the end. We are analyzing statements made by all those arrested and we are building credible evidence against their sponsors, and we do not want to catch anyone on the elbow and they wriggle out.
‘Those sponsors, we want to catch them red handed with credible evidence that can stand scrutiny in the court of law because once we descend on them, it is straight to court. We are trying to conclude our investigation first before we take action,’ Adeoye said.
Adeoye said the Command had analyzed the killings thoroughly and found them to be a cult war, targeted against members, but insisted that because of the fear and apprehension, police had waded in because every life was important.
‘What is happening is that this is a gang war by rival cults and they target opponents. We are against it because of the fear it causes in the minds of investors and other law abiding citizens.
‘Even in our laws, penalty for cultism is not death, so when they kill each other, to us, it remains a horrendous crime and we have a duty to put an end to it.
‘We made a press release saying we will clamp down on them soon, but by then the operations had already started. The purpose of that release was to make the public aware of what we were doing so that they would not misinterpret our actions,’ the CP further disclosed.
Meanwhile, a source told Fides that Awka Community whose sons are mostly the victims have rallied round to find a way of ending the killings.
The source who refused to state his name said, ‘Awka Indigenes are worried. On a daily basis their sons are killed by their very kith and kin in the name of cultism, depleting the number of able bodied youths in the community.
‘Elders of the community have scheduled a meeting to deal with it. They know the sponsors and they also know what the problems are. There is nothing that is the problem except ownership of revenue windows, both from market tolls and loading bays for both buses and tricycles.’