The Sango-Ota Area Commander, an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Mr Monday Agbonika, yesterday stated that cultism and cultists continue to thrive in higher institution campuses because policemen are never allowed to enter campuses.
This was even as he stated that cultists use different tricks to initiate young people.
Agbonika spoke at the Police Officers’ Mess, GRA Ikeja, during a one day seminar tagged, “The Nigerian Youth and Cultism Today.”
The seminar, which was organization by Juliana Francis, Crime Editor of the New Telegraph under the umbrella of Youthslens Movement of Nigeria (YLMN), had in attendance secondary students from Fly High Secondary School, Ketu Mile 12 and Covet the Redeemer Secondary School, Akesan, Lasu/Isheri.
Other schools in attendance are Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Abia State University, Yaba College of Education, University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), Lagos State University, Ojo (LASU), amongst others.
The seminar was supported by Lagos State Police Command, United Bank African (UBA) and Nigerian Bottling Company.
Agbonika, who was the keynote speaker at the event, said that cultists always have ways of identifying themselves, especially through their dresses, hairstyles and sign languages.
He said: “One of the reasons cultism continue to thrive in campuses is because policemen are not allowed to enter university for operation, except they are called. We commend the convener of the seminar, Mrs. Juliana Francis. This is the only way to cat them young and check cultism. We must talk about parents. Parents should do their best. In Lagos Island, it is difficult to separate cultists from area boys. There is a connection between crime and people living where crime are being perpetrated.”
Enumerating how youths could be initiated, the ACP mentioned peer pressure. He noted others to include, “revenge over issues can cause youths to join, and emotional instability, family and political thuggery are ways a young person get involved in cultism.”
According to Agbonika, cultism could affect a youth’s academic performance, causes him or her to drop out of school, make them to take to robbery, prostitution and other vices. He urged parents to play important roles in the lives of their children and ensure they prevent them from joining bad gangs.
The Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), a Deputy Superintendent of Police Bala Elkana, who was one of the panelists at the seminar, stated that cultism was a serious issue in the Nigerian society. He stressed that the fact that many young Nigerians were involved in it, makes it a serious issue of concern.
His words: “Parents should live an exemplary life for their kids to emulate. Whatever the kids wish to become in life can only be by themselves. The most painful thing to me as PPRO is to parade young persons, who are supposed to be leaders of tomorrow as cultists or criminal. It is not about taking cultists to court, but addressing the root causes of cultism and what is attracting young people into it.”
A former prison chaplain, who is also an activist, Pastor Darlington Ajitemisan said: “Crime doesn’t pay! I have been into crime since I was very young and selling drugs on the streets of Lagos. I cannot talk about prison without talking about what took me to prison. I was trained an assassin, a professional killer. I was a small boy in prison and I was doing all these things because of how I grew up and how I used to see my parents fight.”
He continued: “There are all kinds of things going on in the prison and these are reasons youths should avoid it. There is homexuality and lesbianism. If you think you can go to prison and come out to be a better person, you are lying! The prison will change your thinking, no matter your religion. I have served in four different prisons in the world. I have also been to Kirikiri Prison. I have also been to all different police stations. Whoever that enters prison, will come out as a hardened criminal and other crimes you don’t think you will find yourself in.”
Ajitemisan noted that crimes such as robbery, assassination and other violent crimes were often organised in the prison.
He said: “Prison is supposed to be for reformation and a correctional center, but it’s not. Nigerian Prisons needs proper funding to make it the real correctional center.”