Confraternity, commonly referred to as cultism in Nigeria, is a pressing concern within schools nationwide, presenting a substantial menace to students’ safety, well-being, and the overall educational milieu.
This phenomenon is marked by a collective of individuals participating in frequently illicit actions, including violent conduct, criminal endeavor’s, and the ‘dangerous’ initiation of new members, all aimed at imposing dominance and control.
These clandestine cults operate covertly, complicating the efforts of school administrators and law enforcement agencies to recognise and mitigate the issue.
Initiation into the cult
Cultism in Nigeria dates back to the pre-colonial era, when a group of individuals gathered together to seek protection from their ancestors and conducted rituals. Initiation into the cult was a normal routine for those who wanted to belong.
Cult groups in tertiary institutions recruit and initiate their new members into the group based on their physique, financial capacity, and family background.
INSTANCES OF CULT ACTIVITIES
There have been several reports of cult-related activities in Nigerian educational institutions in recent times. Some of the instances include:
- In March 2021, the management of the University of Ibadan (UI) in southwestern Nigeria shut down the institution following clashes between rival cult groups on campus. The violence resulted in the death of two people and injuries to several others.
- On May 15, 2023, about 24 students of the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University Lapai in Niger State were withdrawn from the school for engaging in activities that were inimical.
- In January 2021, the police arrested 13 students of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) during a cult initiation ceremony. During the raid, the police recovered arms and ammunition, as well as other items related to cult activities.
- In August 2020, the management of Kogi State University (KSU), located in north-central Nigeria, expelled six students for their involvement in cult-related activities.
“Regrettably, the politician are often accused of enlisting the ‘services’ of cultists, employing them as thugs and bodyguards. This cult activities was widely reported by YIAGA Africa, an election observer group, as part of its pre-election findings. “Between July 6 and July 13,
The observers reported intra-cult clashes precipitated by a power tussle in various cult groups alleged to be affiliated with a political party in Gbemu Area/Isale Osun in Osogbo LGA”.
This entrenched practise hampers efforts to muster the necessary will to combat cultism, thereby condemning the nation to endure this pervasive issue.
In one of the communities housing Nnamdi Azikiwe University students in Awka, Anambra State, residents and students have long lived in fear of cult attacks, with some lamenting, ‘We are under siege”.
On September 26, Sagamu, the headquarters of the Sagamu Local Government Area in Ogun State, witnessed relentless cult rival clashes resulting in the tragic deaths of three siblings and 17 others.
The case of Ilerioluwa Oladimeji Aloba, also known as Mohbad, is another incident that many suspect is linked to cultism and bullying.
Allegedly victimized by his former labelmates, he was said to have endured multiple attacks.
Breakdown of the Family Unit
The most crucial of all these factors is the breakdown of the family unit.
Charity, they say, begins at home, which is the most fundamental unit of any society. When the family gets it wrong, society feels the negative impact.
The Regional Sub-Director of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, Rev. George Ogurie, also maintained that “many parents hardly spend quality time with their kids or even place high value on moral development; the result is exposure of these children to horrible influences outside the home.”
Cultism associated with violence
1. Student Safety: Cultism is associated with various forms of violence, ranging from physical assaults to armed confrontations. Students are not only at risk of harm from other cult members but also face pressure and coercion to join these secret groups.
2. Academic Disturbance: Students involved in cult activities tend to be distracted from their studies, often leading to poor academic performance. Their focus shifts towards participating in cult-related activities, meetings, and initiation rituals, neglecting their educational responsibilities
3. Psychological Impact: Cultism exerts a tremendous psychological toll on students. They may be subjected to intimidation, fear, and harassment by cult members, creating a hostile and fearful atmosphere within the school community. The mental health of students is adversely affected, hindering their growth, self-esteem, and overall well-being.
campaigns against cultism
Radio Nigeria has been at the forefront of campaigns against the menace of cultism through various educational, awareness-raising, and social media content and campaigns.
Kudos to the Nigerian Police for its prompt response and willingness to swing into action against cult-related offences.
The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) is also doing its best in the fight against cultism.
However, there is a need for concerted efforts by all stakeholders to stem the menace of cultism in the country, especially in schools.
strict policies against cultism
1. Awareness and Education: Schools must implement comprehensive programmes to educate students, teachers, and parents about the dangers of cultism. Raising awareness about the signs and consequences of cult activities can equip individuals with the knowledge needed to identify and report any suspicious behaviour.
2. Student counselling and support: Schools should have counselling services readily available to students who may be vulnerable to joining cults or those who have been victims of these groups. Providing a safe space for students to express their concerns and offering guidance can potentially deter them from getting involved in cult activities.
3. Collaborative Efforts: School management, local communities, and law enforcement agencies need to work together to address the issue. Establishing partnerships and sharing information can improve the effectiveness of interventions, investigations, and disciplinary actions.
4. Strict Disciplinary Measures: Schools should have clear and strict policies against cultism, clearly articulating the consequences for involvement. These measures should include expulsion, counselling programmes, and legal consequences, sending a strong message that cult activities will not be tolerated.
Writing by Julian Osamoto; Editing by Saadatu Albashir