Secret Cults: Secondary schools as new theatre of war

The recent clash between rival secret cults which left a student of Government Secondary School, Karu dead, has resurrected the fear that secret cults are now shifting base from tertiary institutions to secondary schools as SAMSON BENJAMIN examines in this report.

Before now, the delinquent behavior was confined to tertiary institutions and when it even started, secret cults were like a fraternity and not a gang of criminals that are killing, maiming and unleashing violence at will. Right now, secret cults have permeated secondary schools in Nigeria with alarming consequences. This disturbing trend has left all stakeholders in the education sector, especially school administrators, teachers, parents and students in a quandary. In recent times, the cultists have struck in several secondary schools within and around the Federal Capital Territory(FCT), leaving sorrow, tears and blood in their wake.

On Friday February 16th, Government Secondary School, Korouduma, in Karu local government of Nasarawa State, located about 5 kilometers from the FCT, was thrown into confusion, fear and mourning, following a cult clash which resulted to the death of Auwal Mohammed, a Senior Secondary School(SS2) Student.

Cause of the crisis

Although the root cause of the violent cult clash that led to Auwal’s death is unknown, Blueprint Weekend found a few clues. Specifically, Miss Faith Lazarus, a fellow student attributed it to a clash of supremacy between to rival cult groups. According to her, “ trouble started during the 10 am break period when some boys from Maraba invaded our school and engaged some boys in our school in a fight. As result, our school was thrown into confusion, then our teachers asked us to go home”.

Another student of the school, Musa Abdullahi gave his own account. According to him, “I was with my friends during break time eating akara (cake beans), when I heard students screaming and running helter skelter. The entire school environment became rowdy and tensed, as a result, the school authorities immediately asked us to go home and resume on Monday. It was later that we heard that there was another fight in the bush which led to the death of one of our students”.

However, the principal of the school, Ali Ahmed Mai-Alewa, who admitted that he was out on an official assignment during the morning fight, told Blueprint Weekend that Auwal Mohammed, was not murdered during school hours. According to him “ l was out on an official assignment when I received a call about a fight in my school. I immediately rushed down and put the situation under control. And subsequently instructed the students to go home at about 10:30 am”.

He continued that ‘’from the information I gathered, after we dispersed the students in the morning, some of them regrouped in the afternoon and engaged the boys from Maraba in a fight which eventually led to the death of Auwal. And from my record, the boy in question (Auwal) was never a regular student. He is one of those boys that have their name in the register but never come to school. As a matter of fact, my record showed that he was absent from school on that fateful day “.

Police arrest suspects

The Divisional Crime Officer, New Nyanya Police station, where the crime was reported, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), Luka Daneji, confirmed the incident and said that some suspects have been arrested and ‘’one of whom confessed to the crime”. Daneji further said that the division is still investigating the case and more arrest would be made. ‘’But in the meantime, we have transferred the suspects to the state command for further investigation and prosecution. Because as a division, we don’t have the power to handle cases of culpable homicides “, the DPO told our correspondent.

Motives and influences

The media in recent time, have been awash with reports of similar cult clashes in Gwarimpa, Kubwa and Nyanya areas within the FCT. Mrs Aishatu Kande, a staff of the Career Guidance and Counseling Unit of Government Secondary School, Nyanya, profeered reasons why youngsters join cult groups. She listed peer pressure, the urge to seek protection and revenge as the main reasons why students join secret cults. According to her, “they join cult mostly to terrorise either innocent people or as a pay back to retaliate whoever has offended them either in the past or present. At secondary school level, they fight with sharp cutlasses and iron, inflicting injuries on themselves.’’ Mrs Kande added that “some join cult because they just want protection either in the school environment or the environment they find themselves, they just need what we call back up”.

Similarly, Ismail Omieza, a Peer Educator with Society for Family Health has a different perspective. According to him, “some students just want to instill fear into their fellow colleagues, they want to be seen as big boys and girls”. Omeiza added that some students also join because of peer pressure. “ We must understand that the period of peer pressure is a very critical period whereby there is increased reliance on friends than family. And they long to belong to that which their friends belong. And they would do everything possible to be members of that clique”, he clarified. The Peer Educator pointed out that cultists ‘’ hardly stay in class to study and are fond of moving aimlessly trying to recruit new students or trying to disturb the peace of the class and also disturb the students who refuse to join”.

According to him, ‘’they also don’t obey laws and orders that have been laid down by the school authorities. If it is a mixed school, they are fond of toasting girls and any who refuses would be beaten seriously”.

Failure of society

According to Dr. Ladi Usman of the department of Education Foundations, College of Education, Zuba, FCT, the involvement of secondary school pupils in secret cultism “tells you the level of debasement in our society today”. She said that the last two decades have witnessed secret cult violence in higher institution in Nigeria. And this has spilled over to the secondary schools leaving in its trail, bloodletting and waste of human lives. “As a people, we have lost it. We have failed to do the needful as parents. We have also failed to do the needful as government. If all parents have been able to look after their children, teach them the right values, we won’t have the incidence of cultism in our secondary schools “.

Similarly, a child Psychologist and a counselor with Save the Future Initiative, an NGO based in Abuja, Mr Nnanna Okorie agrees with Dr. Usman, According to him, parents have abdicated their roles as parents. “Parents are not checking or monitoring their children or don’t have time for their children as they should have. Some are delegating or abdicating their responsibilities to others. Those who still want to keep the values are probably getting fewer and fewer”.

As a way of reversing the rise of secret cult in secondary schools, Dr Usman advocated for a “sensitisation campaign to various schools in the state to enlighten the students on the need to shun cultism”. She warned that if something is not done promptly to check the trend, society stands the risk of being saddled with the burden of a substantial dysfunctional youth population.

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