Cultism can't be totally eradicated in Cross River State now. It took a long time to evolve to this level and it will take some time before it will be completely eradicated. These were the candid words of the state Commissioner of Police, Hafiz Mohammed Inuwa, while parading 78 suspects his command arrested across the state in the last few weeks.
At least 324 assorted locally made guns and imported ones as well as ammunition mopped up by the command across the state were also displayed during the parade of the suspects. And members of the public who have not surrendered their illegally acquired firearms were advised by Inuwa to do so within a week or else the long arm of the law would catch up with them, adding that whistle blowers would be rewarded for exposing such individuals. Proliferation of firearms is at the root of the menace of armed robbery, cultism, kidnapping and sundry crimes in the state.
With the approach of general elections in the country in 2019, security agencies have an uphill task in terms of mopping up arms as desperate politicians with a lot of money to throw around would go to any length to arm their thugs to confront their political opponents.
Cultism is a huge menace the police and other security agencies have been grappling with in the state lately and the more the number of suspects arrested, the more the upsurge of the clashes between the various cult groups and the bloodletting that accompanies the clashes.
Another evolving dimension to the sordid situation is that there appears to be a thin line between membership of cult groups and robbery gangs as police have routinely arrested cultists for armed robbery. This indeed, is double jeopardy.
Activities of cult groups have spread across the three senatorial zones of the state, even up to places like Boki and Ogoja hitherto unheard of when cultism is mentioned. Suspects paraded by Inuwa reflected this geographical spread of the activities of cult groups and the commissioner expressed the unrelenting resolve of the police to go after them and other criminal elements in the state, and appealed to traditional rulers, religious and community leaders, the judiciary and the political class to assist the police “fight this upsurge that tends to shatter the peace of the state.”
It is a moment of reckoning for some of the suspects who may eventually be found guilty after a rigorous court trial. Out of the 78 suspects paraded, 27 of them were arrested in connection with alleged involvement in cultism, followed by 16 murder suspects and 16 suspects arrested for armed robbery. Two were paraded for alleged defilement, among them a 48-year old pastor named Pastor Dominic Udo John who allegedly defiled his 12-year-old housemaid at Ikot Ekpo at 8 Miles, Calabar.
The other suspect paraded for allegedly defiling a 9-year-old girl is 29-year-old Michael Emmanuel Okon resident at 2, Ikot Effa Street, Calabar. He allegedly threatened the little girl and dragged her to his room and defiled her.
At least 16 suspects were arrested in connection with the recent deadly cult clash in Boki that led to the death of Sunday Charly, while a DPO SP Solomon Danja and Corporal Paul Richard were shot and they narrowly escaped death while attempting to quell the cult battle between Vikings and Klans Confraternity. They are still recuperating from the attack.
The commissioner said more policemen have been deployed to Boki to restore normalcy and warned that any attack on police personnel by members of the public would be met with severe consequences henceforth.
Among the suspects paraded was a 27-year-old woman, Veronica James Usim, who was allegedly arrested with 14 packs of live cartridges allegedly used to promote communal war. According to information by the police, following a tipoff on the 23rd of March this year, Veronica who hails from Ekong Anaku village in Akamkpa LGA and a resident of 91, Archibong Esor Street, Calabar, was accosted at Ojor/Uyanga junction with a sack containing the live cartridges and could not give a satisfactory explanation about the items.
The killing of a robbery kingpin known as Black Jesus aka Seven Star General, may make the Calabar/Ikom highway safer for travellers as there have been complaints about robbers terrorising travellers on the Abini/Adim axis of the highway where he was shot dead by a police patrol team during a gun duel. A suspected member of the gang, Ogar Terants Effa, was among those paraded.
Bala Auwolu, one of the two suspects who allegedly robbed Eze Ejiofor Eze along Bedwell Street, Calabar at gunpoint on 19th March, was also paraded. The victim lost N284,000 and a Nokia3 phone valued at N41,000 which was allegedly recovered from Bala.
There was also a case of impersonation involving Michael Enang Eteng of Nko Community Yakurr LGA. He was arrested by Navy personnel at Ikot Ansa in Calabar for posing as a naval officer and lying to Lebo Patrick that he had 10 slots for recruitment into Naval Basic Training. He also allegedly collected N50,000 from a civil defence officer and used his motorcycle as collateral.
A six-man robbery gang was also smashed by the police at Ikot Omin after they allegedly robbed Chiwucko Sunday's residence at NEPA quarters, Ikot Omin, Calabar.