They are relatively young and fall within the bracket of ages 12 and 15 but despite their innocent and fragile looks, they belong to a cult group known as the “koboko squad”, notorious for harassing residents of Makurdi town.
Their arrest goes to show the level cultism and occultic practices are rooted in parts of Benue state.
The eight leaders of this group among whom is a teenage girl referred to as “koboko queen” were within the week nabbed by men of the Benue State Police Command at Nyongun village in Wadata area of the Benue State capital at the peak of the initiation ceremony of new members into the gang.
According to the Benue State Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Assistant Superintendent of Police Ejike Alaribe, the group had also planned a reprisal attack on a rival cult group after the initiation ceremony.
But the timely intervention of the Police averted what would have amounted to another bloody clash few days after a similar attack led to the death of some persons at Aliade in Gwer local government area of the state.
The arrest of these youngsters some of whom are primary school pupils with a few others in Junior Secondary classes is a pointer to the level evil and anti social practices have virtually taken root in Benue society thereby threatening the peace and safety of inhabitants of a state that prides itself as the most peaceful in northern Nigeria.
There is no gainsaying that the arrest of these gangsters has opened a new vista in the fight against violent crime and all forms of criminality in Benue state.
The Police and security agencies in the state must now come to terms with the fact that it’s searchlight must be beamed even to those innocent looking kids who outwardly can hardly hurt a fly but become deadly after congregating under oath and ingestion of concoctions that catapults them beyond the ordinary.
The story of these youngsters as narrated by them is indeed soul touching and heart rendering considering their ages and their obvious drift.
Narrating the history and modus operandi to journalists at the Benue State Police Command Headquaters, leader of the group and 14 year old Itsa Emmanuel, disclosed that they were motivated to form the gang in Wadata, known as haven for cultists, by a yet to be identified young man who he said also drew up a guideline and modus operandi for members of the gang.
According to him, membership of the cult group is drawn from youngsters who must be of primary and junior secondary school ages.
He said the initiation of new members into the “koboko cult” entails the consumption of a concoction prepared from hard spirit and alcohol and some other materials and the pouring of libation.
Itsa said members also consume the stuff at their gathering to enable them feel high and become bold enough to undertake any assignment.
He disclosed that they gather each day at their meeting points to gyrate after which they move into the streets ready for any action and sometimes for a showdown with rival groups or gang that they have scores to settle with.
He disclosed that they’ve over the time initiated new members into the cult but lamented that it was their quest to gain relevance in their neighborhood and the society that forced them into establishing the cult group to counter various others that exist in the Wadata area of the town.
When asked if their parents were aware of their membership of the group and their nefarious activities in the town, he said their parents were unaware stressing that the rules of the group stipulates punishment for anyone caught divulging the activities of the group.
He pleaded for leniency on the premise that they would quit the cult group and also ensure its disbandment.
It is pertinent to state here that the arrest of these young teenagers has prompted the outgoing Commissioner of Police in Benue State, Mr. Haruna John to solicite the cooperation of royal fathers and opinion leaders in parts of the state to ensure that the menace of cultism and dangers posed to innocent lives by the swelling number of gangs operating in parts of the state are effectively checked.
Speaking at the Palace of the paramount ruler of the Tiv nation, the Tor Tiv, Ochivere Akawe Torkula, the Commissioner of Police acknowledged that in the last few weeks, the Command recorded several clashes between rival cult groups in parts of the state resulting in four deaths and arrest of many by the police.
The Police Commissioner said, “cultism is taking a very dangerous dimension across Benue state because it has spread so fast across the state and one begins to wonder how and why it has gotten to the level that it is today”
He sued for the cooperation of traditional rulers across the state to effectively check the activities of cultists and the eventual arrest of their sponsors, adding, “cultism is a satanic alliance that must be stopped, because anything short of that, the peace of Benue will definitely be disturbed and it will not be in anyone’s interest”.
Haruna implored the traditional institution to sensitize their subjects on the dangers of the reverberating dangerous phenomenon if the renewed onslaught against the sponsors and members of these nefarious groups is to record desired results.
He vowed to sustain the onslaught against all forms of criminality and violent crimes in the state, in fulfillment of the promises he made to the people of the state upon assumption of office as Commissioner of Police.
In his remarks, the Tor Tiv, Ochivere Dr. Alfred Torkula lament the killings and devastations various communities in the state had to contend with as a result of the activities of cult groups in parts of the state.
The royal father said, “when this thing started way back, we thought that it was something that was confined to the universities. Nobody thought that it would spread to secondary schools and even primary schools, and today their activity is threatening the peace of the society and destroying the future of the young ones”.
While acknowledging that cultism has become a major security challenge in the country, he charged parents to live up to their responsibilities of close monitoring of the activities of their children.
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