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Initiation by duress

• How cult groups unleash terror, coercion on innocent teenagers, force them to become members

On March 16, 15-year-old Steve was sent to Ikotun market in Lagos to run a quick errand for his mother. Three hours later, no one saw or heard from him. His parents panicked but waited, hoping to eventually get news about his whereabouts.

At exactly 10.30pm, he came back panting, with bloodstained clothes and visible incisions on his back. The marks, he later told his parents, were inflicted on him by a group of young men he never knew from Adam. “Mama, they forced me to take an oath that I would be a member of Aiye confraternity,” he told his bewildered mother, as he sobbed, and later his equally puzzled father. “They grabbed me and dragged me into an incomplete building.”

It was at that point that his parents knew what had kept him so long. Their son had passed through what can be best described as mini-hell while going through forced initiation! Recounting what transpired between him and the cultists to Saturday Sun, Steve who was immediately moved out of that area for fear of suffering worse fate said that he took a bus at about 5pm to Ikotun market. He did so from Ejigbo where his family currently resides.

How a victim was initiated against his will

“There was so much traffic that by the time I got to the market it was 6pm. I quickly bought all the things that my mother asked me to buy and boarded a Keke Marwa (commercial tricycle). They were two boys seated inside the vehicle before I entered. Suddenly one of them brought out a knife and told me to shut up or he would stab me. I kept quiet. But before I knew what was happening they diverted into another route and drove into a corner. I was blindfolded and dragged along. By the time I opened my eyes, I found myself surrounded by about eight boys and it was already dark. They started beating me and gave me a mixture of concoction, which I was forced to drink. I was afraid to die, so I took the oath. They warned me that I would be hunted down and killed if I divulged their secret. I told my mother because she warned me severally and will always check my back every night.”

Steve’s mother, a petty trader, who corroborated Steve’s narrative said that she was dumbfounded when her son who was sent to buy some stuffs for her came back with the stranger-than-fiction tale. So scared was she by his narrow escape that she put pressure on her husband to have the boy sent away from the vicinity, to go and live with acquaintances where his life would be safe and secured.

“He is 15 and I believe that we tried our best in training him,” she said. “There are so many cult boys in our area and he is aware how we feel about him joining any cult group. I confided in a policeman at Ejigbo area and he was the one who advised me to move my son away from this area. He told me as that as long as we cannot show them who is responsible, they would not believe our story.”

Abandoned children, most vulnerable

Like young Steve, a lot of young men and women are being conscripted into cults these days and the number keeps increasing everyday. Saturday Sun gathered that such occurrence is common in densely populated areas like Oshodi, Mushin, Ikorodu and Igando in Lagos. While some parents relocate their children, others resign themselves to fate for fear of losing them completely.

Mama Seyi, a mango seller at Mafoluku area of Oshodi said that it was such abandonment by their father that made two of his sons to go into cultism.

“Their father abandoned us because of them,” she said. “He now lives in Sango with his new wife. I cannot abandon my children because they are bad. I live in fear that one day they would get killed but Seyi kept assuring me that he is a political thug. I doubt if there is any young man in this area that is not a cultist.”

Cultists’ confession

Most of the suspects recently paraded by the Lagos State Police Command claimed that one of the rules of cultism is ensuring that you bring more members. They alleged that the most fertile ground is secondary school where their members are students.

According to one of them called Segun Adewale, there is pressure on them by members of their cults to ensure that their numbers continue to increase. “I am a member of Eiye confraternity and as you are going up in the cult, you are expected to form a gang made up of members.

“The election is around the corner, so we need a lot of men to be able to negotiate with politicians. This was how I became a member in 2014. I just came back from school after I completed my diploma at Kwara State Polytechnic. I decided to hang out with my friends and they asked me to join them to attend another party. It was a normal party till around 11pm, when some of the ladies started leaving. I was still enjoying myself when some boys surrounded me and switched off the light. They put on a candle while the DJ was still playing music aloud. They started beating me and forced me to take an oath. They told me that I am now a member of their cult and if I attempt to expose them, I will die. I was scared and at the end of everything, my friend who lured me to that party said that I should not worry. This was how I became a member and gradually the reality dawned on me. I started attending meetings and was forced during the election time to follow others to cause trouble wherever the need arises. I rose quickly in rank because I was able to bring in many boys.”

On the new trend of grabbing young boys and girls and forcing them into cult membership, much against their will, Segun explained the reason. “We have so many members in secondary schools and that is the easiest place to recruit them, especially government community secondary schools in highly populated area,” he said. “Recently we lost some of our members and because election is fast approaching, we were asked to try and increase our population. I believe that those that have resorted into dragging people are desperate.”

On how he was arrested, he fingered some of his neighbours as the ones who submitted his name. “Almost everyone in that our area knows that I am a cultist but the truth is that I am a peacemaker and on the day of the fight, I was not among them. I only heard about the fight in which three members of our rival cult, Aiye confraternity, were killed. I was surprised when the police came to the hotel where I was lodged to arrest me. I was not among them.”

Another suspect, Nduka, who claimed to have been initiated while in Senior Secondary 2, admitted to luring at least 20 other young men into the cult since he was initiated six years ago. “It is normally during the election period that we are under pressure to bring more members. We were told that the more we are, the easier it is to win fights.”

On how he got initiated, Nduka who hails from Ebonyi State claimed that it was his “school father” that got him enrolled as a member of the cult. He narrated: “My school father who was in his final year invited me for a party after school. It was during the party that I was initiated. We were expelled from school after one fight with a rival cult. Thereafter, I was sent to learn carpentry. Despite that, I still attend meetings at Oshodi area. It is easy to lure these young boys because most of them live in areas where there are no good accommodations. They must converge with boys in their areas.”

Watch your kids, police advise parents

Spokesman of Lagos State Police Command, Muyiwa Adejobi, a Chief Superintendent of Police, has urged anyone with useful information that could help police curb the excesses of cultists to come forward with it. “If the individual with such claim is old enough, he or she should go to the nearest division and request to see the DPO (Divisional Police Officer),” he said. “It is illegal and no one should coerce anybody into committing such an offence. If it is the case the person should report. You can as well come to the PRO’s office and lodge a complaint.

On the trend of luring teenagers, especially in secondary schools into cults, Adejobi advised parents to be weary of the kind of friends their children keep.

“The question should be: what are teenagers doing in their midst? They cannot come to one’s house and take him to the initiation ground. They don’t initiate people on the streets. It is because they mingle with bad boys; that is why it is easy to initiate them. Parents should monitor the friends their children keep to avoid such.”

  • The Sun

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