By Evelyn Usman
Standing among forty other suspects arrested over various crimes ranging from robbery, rape, impersonation and cultism, at the Lagos State Police Command headquarters, Ikeja , Wednesday, was an under-aged boy whose appearance struck this reporter. Judging from his fragile frame to his malnourished looks, coupled with an expression of fear on his light skinned face, nothing would have passed him for any of the offences listed against him.
But during an interaction with Crime Guard, 16-year-old Babajide Akiola, as he later identified him, confirmed that facial looks could be deceptive, following his admittance to belonging to a dreaded cult group that has been terrorising Satellite Town, in Amuwo Odofin local government area of Lagos.
He further opened a can of worms on activities of members of various cult groups in the area. Most startling was the revelation that children as young as ten years old are initiated into the various cult groups in Satellite Town. By the way, Sattelitte Town was set up by the Lagos State government in early 1960 to help low income earners own their own houses, with some of the areas allocated to oil workers and private buyers .
Along the line, illegal structures were built in the area, which unfortunately have turned the area which was once known to be an estate into a slum, with the prevalent activities of cultists holding sway. In this interaction with Akiola, a Secondary School Certificate holder, he revealed that , primary school pupils and secondary school students , including artisans in the area were forced into cultism. Attempt by anyone approached to put up resistance according to him, meant the out right relocation of the child’s parent from the area.
He further disclosed that children between 10 and 13 years who were initiated into major confraternity groups such as Arrow Baga popularly known as Arrow, were sent as spies on their rivals. The children as gathered were also sent to survey places like the massive Navy barracks before their ‘masters’ would strike.
How I was forced into Eiye confraternity
Giving an instance with his case, he revealed that he was approached right from the age of 10 to join the Eiye confraternity group. According to him “ When the pressure was too much, I had no choice than to give in . My father was an okada rider (motorcyclist). He was never at home. There was no one I could approach when the pressure to join Eiye was much on me . Even if I had approached my father, he would not have done anything because everyone is afraid of the cult guys. He would be forced to pack out of the area and he didn’t have the financial strength to do so.
In one of the occasions, one of them, Samuel seized my phone and my shoe. I went home barefooted. As if that was not enough, I was beaten to a pulp by members of the cult group, for committing no offence. I eventually joined Eiye confraternity in 2013, shortly after I finished my secondary school eduction.
After my secondary school education , my father said I should go and work as an apprentice under a vulcanizer. On the day of the initiation, I was taken to a lonely area around waterside,where I was blindfolded. Thereafter, they beat me and poured alcohol in my eyes . My position in the group is called ‘Tender’ . This is the least position. My job is to spy on rival group members, particularly during fight and give their location to our members before they would strike. At first, no one knew I was a cultist because I was not moving with the known members. But later, my boss got to know and dismissed me”.
Graduated to robbery
Along the line, I lost my father. By the way , my mother was separated from my late dad. She abandoned me and my two siblings with my father. When my father died, I travelled to the village in Ondo state to see my mother but she never welcomed me as a mother would welcome a child she had not seen for long. Rather, she called me names and sent me away, saying it was impossible for me to stay with her because she had remarried
Thereafter, I went to my grandmother who told me to join my two other siblings with her to farm. But I refused because of the hardship there. She gave me N3000 to rent an apartment in Lagos . When I returned to Lagos, I went to stay with a friend who is also member of same cult.
Most robbery cases in Satellite Town and its environs were carried out by cultists. I only participated in the morning raids ,where those leaving for their respective business places are attacked and dispossessed of their cash, phones and other valuables. At the end of each operation, I usually got between N1500 and N3000. I have never handled a gun because I am only a ‘Tender’ .
Killings enhance promotion
Akiola , further disclosed that series of fight in the area were caused by rival cultists. He gave names of some of two major volatile cult groups in the area as
Eiye and Arrow .
“We usually had problems with the Arrow boys, over supremacy . So many persons have died during such clashes in both camps.
Our hit men are refereed to as flyers and Adaba . To graduate from the position of ‘Tender’ to ‘Flyer’ or ‘Adaba’ , it requires human blood. Anyone that can kill three persons at a go during fight with rival cult groups automatically becomes a ‘flyer ‘ or an ‘Adaba’. But I don’t have the mind to kill. The day I was tempted to ask what else can be done to graduate to the next level was when I saw a 10 year-old boy who was already an ‘Adaba ‘ . He came to where I was standing with other members and cleared me off from the ground simply because I did not pay him homage . He ordered me to lie flat and used my back as a leg rest. That was to show me that he was senior to me in rank”.Asked what the name of the 10 year-old boy was, he said he never dared to ask him.
Continuing he said “I was told that the alternative way to rise to the next level was to undergo another round of initiation which involved payment of N15,000. Aside that , I was told that a herbalist would be invited , who would mix cassava flakes otherwise known as garri with rice and would ask me to sort out the rice like a bird. Thereafter, I would be taken to Ibasa, a river bank where the real initiation which include severe beating would be done. I was told that several persons did not pass that stage as they died in the process and their bodies thrown inside the river.
I decided to remain in my position as a ‘Tender ‘ because I didn’t have N15,000 to pay and I was also not ready for another round of beating”. He revealed that areas prone to cult activities included Tambolo village, Ibasa, across the river, Bale, Ijegun, Egba, waterside, Fire Service around barracks,among other places.
Akiola further stated that members of his confraternity group usually attended parties whether invited or not, adding that on their way back, they would accost unsuspecting persons who were going to their respective places of work. Luck however ran against them on December 29, 2015 , following the arrest of four suspected members, while operating at Chemist bus-stop.
Akiola said “ Bolaji was with weere((gun ) on that day. He used it to scare our victims. But we did not know that policemen were around. I regret joining a confraternity group. In fact, I feel like dying because I am not prepared to go to jail . If I am let off the hook, I will return to my grand-mother in the village and join my siblings in farming. Crime Guard gathered that some leaders of the cult groups were killed by policemen during shoot-out while operating.
The suspects, according to the Commissioner of Police , Mr Fatai Owoseni would be charged to court.