“THE ILLS OF CULTISM AND THE LAWS AGAINST ITS PERPETRATORS IN NIGERIA” BEING A LECTURE PRESENTATION BY AIG ADELEYE OYEBADE, mni AT A STUDENTS’ SENSITIZATION PROGRAMME ON CULTISM ORGANISED BY THE REDEEMER’S UNIVERSITY, EDE, OSUN STATE ON 27TH NOVEMBER, 2019.
Definition of Cultism
Cultism is defined as the activities or practices of a group of people with one common spiritual, religious or philosophical belief.
The group of individuals involved in these practices is known as a cult. In general sociological studies, the term cult has been subjected to a whole lot of divergent definitions. But most cults are referred to as secret cults. They are so called because their activities are hidden from the public and non-members.
Members of secret cults often swear an oath of allegiance or go into covenant with each other. They are meant to defend their beliefs and practices down to their last breath.
1. Origin Of Cultism In Nigeria
Cultism in Nigeria began as far back as 1952. It started as fraternities and they were confined within universities campuses with the motive of maintaining law and order on campuses. It was not until the 1990s that they began to spread to the streets and creeks. The first fraternity in Nigeria was the pirates confraternity at the university college, Ibadan. The pirates confraternity was started by seven students among which was the popular Nigerian Nobel Laurette, Wole Soyinka. They called themselves the ‘Magnificent Seven’ the confraternity was founded because the university then was filled with wealthy students backed by colonial powers.
The few poor students were doing everything they could in dressing and manner to blend in with the advantaged students. They also noticed that social life was determined and based on tribalism. All these prompted the Magnificent Seven to form the pirates confraternity and their goal was to differentiate themselves from the conventional establishments and also to support social justice and human rights in Nigeria.
The pirates confraternity activities were non-violent dispute resolutions and fighting against elitist oppression and social injustice. For almost twenty years, the pirates confraternity was the only fraternity in most Nigerian Universities. By the early 1970s, other fraternities like the Buccaneers, the Supreme Eye confraternity, the Neo-Black Movement of Africa a.k.a Black Axe, Legion Consortium began to spring up as a result of leadership tussle among member of pirates fraternity.
During the period of 1980s-1990s, under the military rule of General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, these cults groups became notorious. The cult groups began to equip themselves with weapons of violence which they were eventually using in deadly inter-confraternities rivalries. In the early 1990s, activities of the confraternities expanded to the streets and creeks. Different confraternities were involved in bloody battles of supremacy. It was around this time that the family confraternity also known as the Mafia of Campus emerged.
The cult groups have moved their meetings and other practices to neighbourhoods and streets around their campuses. Cult groups in Nigeria have been involved in a lot of criminal activities and deaths. They have been involved in different kidnappings and beating of innocent students and lecturers who crossed their paths.
2. Factors Responsible For Cultism On University Campus
A lot of students today join cults in Nigeria tertiary institutions due to following reasons:
• Desire for power and sense of belonging
• Oppression from cult groups (some are targeted for various reasons so that they can become members)
• Pressure from friends who are members
• Some join for security.
Consequences of Cultism
The following are personal consequences of cultism:
• Loss of respect and regard for lives and properties
• Loss of moral values and character
• Premature death due to inter-fraternities violence
• Risk of being expelled from school is very high
• Living in fear is also something that happens to cult members
The general consequences of cultism on campuses are as follows:
• Exam malpractices
• Intimidation and oppression of students and lecturers
• Sexual assault on female students.
4. Legislative reaction to the spate of cultism in Nigeria.
Section 62 of the criminal code criminalises cultism as unlawful societies. Section 63 punishes involvement in cultism with term of seven years imprisonment. In the same vein, the Senate is currently discussing Ant-cultism Bill to be promulgated into an Act to prohibit cult groupings.
Since activities of cult groups involve the use of weapons of violence, when their members are arrested and weapons are found in their possession, the police can charge them with various offences ranging from Unlawful Possession of Firearms, Kidnapping, Grievous Bodily Harm, Murder, depending on the degree of violence/harm done to their victims.
The only way to avoid the wrath of law, the frown of the universities management and the unpalatable reactions from the society at large, is for students to stay away from cultism.