3rd October, 2012
After a lull in the activities of cultists in Nigerian tertiary institutions and even outside them, the death of over 30 students of the Federal Polytechnic, Mubi, Adamawa State, has once again thrown up the question: How do we stop this wanton waste of lives?
A few months ago in Enugu, traders at the Artisan Market scampered for safety when three men suspected to be cultists opened fire on a man believed to be a student of Enugu State University of Technology. In that short war between rival cult groups in the school, seven students lost their lives, throwing their parents into unnecessary sorrow.
The Monday night massacre in Adamawa State by unidentified gunmen may be the beginning of another orgy of violence among cult groups all over the country, as they have been known to support each other, travelling to other states to unleash violence on real or perceived rivals in other higher institutions and returning safely to their campuses.
When the school authorities realised that the disagreement between two rival groups may snowball into violence, they were compelled to invite armed policemen from Mubi Divisional Police Headquarters to maintain the peace. Though violence was averted in the school premises, the reverse was the case at a students’ hostel outside the campus where many students were slaughtered.
We believe these deaths could have been reduced or even averted considering the precarious situation in northern Nigeria, especially in Adamawa which shares a border with Borno State, one of the havens of Boko Haram, the violent Islamic sect.
Agreed, cultism in higher institutions cannot be wished away but a situation where 40 students lost their lives in a violent clash is unacceptable. The fact that the student lived off-campus is no excuse to allow them kill one another in such gruesome manner.
For many years, school authorities, non-government organisations and governments at all levels, have tried to stem this tide of violence and discourage students from joining violent cults on our campuses but instead cultism seems to be trickling down the education ladder as secondary and even primary school students are being recruited into various cult groups by youth corps members.
President Goodluck Jonathan’s call to the National Assembly to enact tougher laws against cultists is a good move but like every other thing in this part of the world, would it be implemented? It is time to devise new ways of fighting cultism in our higher institutions. We all have to discourage the cover-ups that occur whenever some cultists are about to be brought to book, because many a time cultists found guilty of heinous crimes are children of affluent people in the society and the culprits are let off the hook.
To allow young people to engage in violent activities that include illegal possession of firearms, drug abuse, violent crimes, killing of innocent students, rape, arson, extortion, blackmail and a host of other crimes, and get away with these crimes portrays us as a society that has refused to grow despite all efforts to the contrary. We should not wait for more deaths and violence before enacting more drastic laws to discourage cultism in our schools.
Many times, arrested cult members get away with a slap on the wrist because they are connected to influential members of the society. We need to discourage this. We need to discourage a situation where criminals hide under the guise of an unregistered organisation to perpetrate evil and commit crimes, afterall, how many of these cult groups are registered in schools where they operate?
Better legislation, tougher laws and the will to enforce them may help reduce the lawlessness of these young individuals, many of who are promising and brilliant, though misguided. We need to do something before we witness more deaths in higher institutions where these groups operate. A stitch in time saves nine.