As insecurity escalated in Benin City, Edo State, on Friday consequent upon raging cult war and banditry, an Area Commander and two other senior police officers have become the latest victims of the rampaging armed gangs as they were shot in the early hours of the morning when they responded to distress calls from Upper Sokponba, one of the hot spots in the state capital. Since the beginning of the week when the state capital witnessed a surge in cult-related killings, no fewer than 28 persons had been killed while many had lost monies and properties.
A credible source told TELL that at least 15 persons, are receiving treatment at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH following gun attacks between yesterday and today (Friday). On sighting the Area Commander, an assistant commissioner of police, ACP and his team, at the Arbico junction in Upper Sokponba, the suspected cultists were said to have opened fire on them, severely injuring them. They are said to be receiving treatment at an undisclosed hospital. Soldiers have however been drafted to the troubled area to restore order.
Authorities of the Edo State police command have however kept mum over the incident. An attempt to get the reaction of the state Police Public Relations Officer, Chidi Nwabuzor was unsuccessful. He had initially told this reporter to call back in another five minutes but thereafter refused to respond after several calls to his cell phone.
Interestingly, while Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki and his deputy, Philip Shaibu were being sworn in on Thursday for another term of four years at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin City, the state capital, was witnessing an orgy of blood-letting as rival cult groups went on the rampage killing no fewer than five persons. In the absence of law enforcement agents to checkmate their nefarious activities, criminal gangs had seized the public space as two rival cult groups – the Eiye and Aye confraternities – locked horns in a battle for supremacy.
Some of the most dangerous areas are Upper Sokponba, St. Saviour, Ogida, Wire, New Benin Roads, as well as Isihor in Ugbowo axis, Santana Market on Sapele Road, and Ibiwe Street. The cult clashes had spiked following the recent jail break in the two major correctional centres in Benin, the Oko and Sapele Road (prisons) during which hardened criminals serial murderers were released. It was gathered that one of the five persons killed in Thursday’s cult clashes was one of the escapee prisoners.
Some residents of Upper Sokponba Road who gave account of what happened in the area, narrated how for about five hours, there was pandemonium as hoodlums daringly robbed their victims in convoy of buses and tricycles that were snatched from their owners at gun point. Ironically, the siege to the area was taking place at a time a stakeholders’ conference on insecurity jointly organised by Ikpoba Okha Local Government Council and Freedom Ambassadors Organization, was going on not too far from the scene of attacks by Erediauwa junction. The conference, with the theme “Way Forward on Insecurity and Youth Restiveness” was part of effort to address the challenges of insecurity in the area, and had in attendance the local government chairman, Eric Osayande, the head of the local government vigilante group, and host of other dignitaries,. It was however reportedly brought to an abrupt end as a result of the commotion caused by the robbery operations as the hoodlums had a field day robbing market women, shops, a petrol filling station, while schools in the area were forced to shut down, amidst heavy shootings. The intervention of men of the Nigerian Army was said to have brought the situation under control as they engaged the robbers in a gun duel.
Two people were reportedly killed at different locations in Idogbo, headquarters of the local government during the cult war/robbery operation. Another two, including one said to be a father of four, and the other said to be an escapee from one of the prisons, were also killed in another area of Benin near Ogida police barracks, while a fifth person was earlier killed on Wednesday near Costain area in New Benin.
On Wednesday, some gunmen took over Siluko Road near the Ogida barracks, brandishing guns and forced pedestrians to raise up their hands while several motorists quickly made a U-turn. A resident of Upper Sokponba Road told journalists that “We have been living in fear in this area and other parts of the state capital. By 5 to 6 pm, people run into their houses because these boys openly brandish their weapons robbing and harassing people. This morning, (Thursday) two people were killed which we later learnt belong to rival cult groups”.
The killing spree continued this Friday as one suspected cultist was killed at Siluko Road near Igbinaduwa junction in the Ogida area of Benin. The victim was seen in a video in a pool of his blood with the inscription “sold out” on his shirt.
Residents of Benin have been calling on the governor to act fast to arrest the ugly trend amidst apprehension of a worsening situation in days ahead.