One of the factors that stand Cross River out among other states is its peaceful atmosphere. It is widely reputed as one of the safest states in the country. But this reputation has come under threat with the growing menace of insecurity in the state, most significant of which is the scourge of clashes between different secret cults, which appears to be getting out of control.
In every two to three months, the clashes rear their ugly heads, leading to many deaths between rival groups while innocent citizens are also caught in the crossfire. The latest clash, which occurred about two weeks ago, claimed about 10 lives.
Investigation revealed that the clash between two rival cult group—Vikings Confraternity and Black Axe—was a reprisal over an attack on a member of one of the groups in March this year. The renewed fracas started penultimate Sunday but was put under control. However, residents are apprehensive about the likelihood of another outbreak of violent confrontation.
The brutal killings that attended the recent clash have led residents to believe that it might be the worst the state has ever experienced.
Many businesses, particularly those that operate mainly in the evenings, count their losses each time there is a clash of cults as the streets are virtually deserted in the evenings, especially in Calabar-South where the problem is more intense.
Traders in the various markets like Watt, Mbukpa and Atakpa start closing shops as early as 3 pm, as sporadic shooting and violent killings often occur during the clashes.
A resident who did not want to be named said: “Whenever these boys start killing themselves in the name of cult clash, no day passes that you would not hear someone was killed. The cultists just walk on the streets armed with guns, axes and machetes, looking for their rivals in order to In the process, they rob people and vandalize vehicles. We no longer feel safe.
“They kill very brutally also. It is usually a massacre. Most of the pictures we see show how they hack and shoot their rivals in the most gruesome manner. They spill brains and blood as if they are nothing. They chop off body parts and even behead their rivals as if it is nothing. It is a terrible situation.”
A resident of Calabar South, who identified herself simply as Faith, said she was traumatised by the experience she had when cultists killed her neighbour suspected to be one of them.
She said: “The young man was always looking quiet, but some boys just came into our compound, shot him dead and cut him into pieces with their axes. There was blood everywhere. It was so horrible. I have not slept in my house since then.
“I had to beg a friend to squat with her in another part of town. I have not been able to sleep again. I cannot believe that young man is gone just like that. Somebody I just saw and the next thing, they killed him like an insect. It has affected me so badly. I hope I would recover from this experience.”
Another resident, Mr Effiom, urged that something be done urgently about the situation before it gets out of hand.
“The situation is not good at all. We are supposed to be the safest in the country. investors, this is not good at all. We call on Governor Ben Ayade and all the security agencies in the state to do something about the situation which appears to be getting out of hand,” he said.
Chinedu, another resident, also complained that “whenever these cult clashes happen and we don’t know when the next one will occur, we always live in fear. We are very worried the way these cultists operate freely when they start fighting. They kill brutally on the streets in the glare of everyone, including children. You can imagine how this would affect the psyche of witnesses, especially children.
“I beg that the issue of security should supersede everything else at this moment in the state. The government should urgently do something. This is not the Calabar we used to know.”
An elderly citizen, Chief Essien Effiom, urged the youth in the state to rather invest their time in fruitful ventures instead of killing themselves in what he described as unnecessary clashes.
Effiom said repeated killing of young people in cult clashes had become a source of worry and should be given top attention by the government and security agencies.
He said: “No doubt, security is everybody’s responsibility. But the security operatives in the state must sit up and be proactive to ensure that this menace is addressed.
“For the young men, I have just one question for them: what is really the benefit they get from joining these cult gangs? If you say it is for security, then it is ironic and laughable, because whenever they clashes begin, they are always the ones with targets on their backs. They need to rethink and set their priorities right.”
However, the Cross River State Police Command has assured residents that they will continue to ensure that the activities of cultists in the state are checked.
Source: The Nation