Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital is the grip of cult-driven violence, rising consumption of illicit drugs and armed robbery. Osa Okhomina examines the issues and fears within and outside the state’s security apparatus.
When the commissioner of police, Asuquo Mba submitted in one of his monthly briefings that the dominant crimes in Bayelsa State is cultism-related killings and attacks, many took the report lightly believing the security agencies are equal to the crimes which are associated with youths .
But five months after, the fear of cultists is now the beginning of wisdom in the state due to the increase cases of violent attacks and unhindered killings of residents who stand on their way in the state.
Cult-related violence is now a frequent occurrence in the state despite the efforts of the Nigeria Police under commissioner Mba to arrest it. Twice in the last two weeks, cultists struck in Yenagoa and send chills down the spine of the residents.
Samuel Collins, 31 years, and a third party security operative of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board(NCDMB), undergoing a training programme in Port Harcourt, Rivers State was shot in the head while struggling with the suspected cultists that snatched his phone.
A military cadet, Enok Saviour, 22-years, was shot dead by suspected cultists while trying to rescue a victim of armed robbery attack in the area. Saviour, was a resident of the Ovom area and reported to be on holiday in Yenagoa from the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA).
Mr. Roland Elekele, a staff of the state-owned television station, Niger Delta Television, confirmed that in June, he fell victim to some of Bayelsa dare-devil cultists along Osiri Road area of Kpansia in the state capital. After being dispossessed of his ipad, his right arm was nearly severed by the cutlass wielding teenage boys.
Scores of angry women had to take to the streets of Ovom, a suburb of the Yenagoa, over the killing of the 23-year-old military cadet by suspected cultists.
The women, resident in Ovom and other parts of Down Yenagoa suburb protested and called on the Nigeria Police and the state government to save them from incessant cases of violent attacks, rape, armed robbery and killings by youths suspected to be members of dangerous cult groups in the state capital.
Encouraged by police authority’s drive in community policing, the residents took the bull by the horn and set up vigilante groups in some parts of the state, but they have been unable to match the force of the invading cult groups.
The Mba-led Bayelsa State Police Command, in its bid to achieve increased results in checking cultism and other crimes, hosted other security agencies in the state to brainstorm on ways to prevent crime.
Present at the meeting held at the Police Officers Mess were heads of the Air force, Operation Delta Safe, Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, Nigeria Immigration Service,NIS, Nigeria Prison Service, NPS, and Department of State Security, DSS.
Speaking at the meeting, the state police commissioner, called on security outfits in the state to work as a team to reduce crime and consolidate on the gain so far recorded in the state.
Mba, while noting the worrisome rise in cult-related crimes and armed robbery in the state, declared that “ it was due to the high rate of involvement of cultists in cases of crime and criminality in the State.”
In one of the special security operation, the police in the state arrested and paraded a 13-years-old boy, Master Fear God Oweipade along with 31 other suspected cultists and armed robbery gangs terrorizing the various parts of the state.
According to Mba, the teenage suspected cultist is a junior secondary school pupil arrested as a member of the notorious Greenlander cult group.
Asuquo, while parading the suspects confirmed that suspects cut across various cult groups existing in the state,”12 are Greenlander, 11 are Icelanders, six were Bobos, three are Bargers and two were Vikings.”
He said the suspects were arrested within two weeks of a special security operations launched at the height of noticeable increase in crime and criminality in the State. “A month ago, we noticed an increase in crime rate and after the visit of the deputy inspector general of police (DIG), the Bayelsa command re-strategized and reduced it. With community security participation, we have achieved successes.
“We also discovered that the issues of cultism in the state go along with armed robbery. It also led the command to believe that cultism is close offence to armed robbery. But we warn that Bayelsa state was not created for cultism and we are out to smoke them out.”
Mba commended the various community vigilante groups for assisting the state police command in policing the state. He also announced the arrest of four suspected armed robbers in the killing of two policemen and attack on a cameraman working with the Nigerian Television Authority, Oladele Olatunji at Ebis Junction area of the state.
According to him,”On the 7th of April at about 11am, the NTA cameraman was robbed at Ebis Junction by three armed men who used a tricycle with the Ministry of Transport registration number 1517 and carted away a Intel Phone valued at N19,000 and a sum of N50,000 cash.
“Two of the suspected robbers, Emmanuel Francis and Faith Francis were arrested at the popular filling station known as Sobaz.”
In Another operation, operatives of the police in the state arrested one Precious Joseph, a notorious cultist and killer of the 43-year-old female mobile phone recharge card seller along Green Villa Road area of Yenagoa local government council of the state.
Joseph, 22 year, from the Kpansia community of Yenagoa local government, has been under the radar of security operatives in the state over alleged involvement in alleged murder, serial armed robbery and cultism. He is also known to be a notorious member of the GreenLander cult group in the state.
Mba, confirmed that the suspect is a known notorious criminal who was wanted for various cases including the killing of the 43-year-old woman on the February 10, this year. The deceased was shot dead at close range while struggling with the suspect and his gang members.
According to Mba “On the 11th of Febuary, 2017 at about 4pm,one Ifeanyi attacked one Solomon Preye at gun point. The Special Anti-Robbery Squad detective, who were close by swiftly rescued the situation and gave the robbers a hot chase and Precious Joseph who is the gunman threw away the pistol which was recovered.
“On the 27th of FebRuary, 2017, at about 3.30am, the special anti-robbery squad operatives sighted Precious Joseph at Tombia Roundabout and arrested him. He led the police to recover another locally made pistol. Precious Joseph is a member of the GreenLander secret cult.”
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Bayelsa State Command, has however, given an insight into what may have led to the increased involvement of cult groups in crimes and criminality along the streets of Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital.
In six months, the NDLEA has confirmed the arrest of over 300 suspected drug peddlers in the state with huge haulage of illicit drugs. In one operation, 123 suspected drug traffickers were arrested with the seizure of illicit drug weighing 81.95 kilogrammes.
The state commander, NDLEA, Mr. Abdullahi Abdul, said the arrests and seizures were carried out between January and June this year, added that those arrested were 85 males and 38 females.
According to the state commander, a breakdown of the seizures indicated that cannabis was 74.615 kg, cocaine 0.011kg, heroin 0.059kg, and psychotropic drug, 7.265kg.
He said during the period under review, the command was able to convict three drug suspects, one male and two females with various prison terms ranging from 18 to 20 months.
He stated that another seven suspects, two females and five males were being remanded in prison custody for various drug trafficking offences.
Abdul said, “In Bayelsa State, the major thing that worries us here is the use of psychotropic substances which are mostly abused by youths. We are trying our best to curtail the usage of these substances and within the last six months, we were able to arrest 123 suspects.
“We were able to counsel a total of 41 suspects, while five chronic drug users were completely rehabilitated by the Drug Demand Addiction Unit of the command. In the process of the counseling, we involved medical doctors and other medical personnel to ensure full rehabilitation.’’
To stem the situation, the Bayelsa Police Command has launched a campaign against cultism and violent crimes in secondary and postsecondary schools in the state, saying it will tackle the rising spread of the menace amongst teenagers.
The Assistant Commissioner of Police, (ACP) Bayelsa Command, Mr Mike Vigara, who flagged off the campaign titled “why young people must shun crime and cultism” in Yenagoa, urged young people to shun crime and cultism in the society.
Vigara, who gave the advice during a campaign visit to Billari International School along Tombia- Imiringi Road in the outskirts of Yenagoa, implored the youths to be courageous in life, and shun any act which will put them into criminality to warrant their arrest.
According to him, “Once a person goes into crime it is always difficult to come out of it. Crime is evil and wicked; it does not pay anyone but destroys society and the future of the person committing it. Take the massage home to your friends and families that crime can destroy, if the person is caught, will be arrested by the police for prosecution,” he said.
The principal of the school, Mr. Benjamin Osei-Tutu commended, the police in the state for the campaign to shun crime amongst young people. He urged the police to sustain the campaign and take it to other private and public schools in the state.
The senior prefect of the school, Miss Filomina Anzewei, expressed satisfaction with the sensitization campaign.
She described the advice as one which will shape their future, and the way they will be doing things going forward.
The Bayelsa State governor, Henry Seriake Dickson on his part has announced a renewed security strategy against cult related crimes and criminality in the existing eight local government areas of the state with the donation of patrol vehicles to the state-owned security outfit, “Operation Doo Akpo” to enhance their operations, towards improving on the prevailing peace and stability.
Governor Dickson, who addressed operatives of the security outfit during a ‘Show of Force’ in Yenagoa, urged them to intensify efforts at flushing out criminals in the state, noting that, the demonstration was to put on notice those involved in all forms of criminal activities to turn a new leaf or quit the state.
According to him, the donation of the vehicles signaled his administration’s commitment to its policy of zero-tolerance to crime and criminality and continued support to the security agencies to promote every effort geared towards the maintenance of law and order.
The governor, who charged the security operatives to exhibit a high sense of professionalism, said the patrol vehicles, which are meant to strengthen the existing security architecture would be launched at a later date in the state.
He said, “Today, we are here to support the security officials; the military team that is working very hard to support civil authorities. We encourage all of you to show presence on the streets of Yenagoa from today. We are aware of reports of the rise of some petty crimes in the state capital. Let me also use this opportunity to also commiserate with the Armed Forces on account of the loss of lives that unfortunately occurred in in a few days back in Delta State but in a boundary community.
“Our government condemns any unwarranted attack on any uniformed officer. We condemn it in totality. There is no justification for that; I want to call for proper investigation and call for support so that we identify and isolate and apprehend and deal with those kinds of cowardly criminals. I want to thank you all for what you are doing and I want to say that, to whom much is given, much is also expected.”