More than twelve people were shot dead in different parts of Awka and its environs in the ongoing cult war between rival cult groups. The sad event started a few minutes before new year’s day at the Ifite district in Awka, the capital of Anambra State, Nigeria.
The residents of the Agbani-Ifite area of the Ifite district converged at the street market called Second-Market, throwing fireworks, drinking, and dancing happily in celebration of the crossover to the year 2023.
A group of cultists arrived at the spot and cut short the new year jubilation, shooting at some pre-identified persons alleged to be members of a rival cult group. The fun seekers ran helter-skelter in different directions to seek refuge at any available corner. Within a few seconds, five young adults were shot dead.
The assailants left the scene immediately and moved upwards to another residential area known as Enu-Ifite, a few kilometers from the scene of the first incident. Hundreds of people were throwing fireworks and partying at the popular First-Market in Enu-ifite. The cultist arrived and shot dead two young adults. Five people were wounded, while others scampered for safety.
One of the people shot at First-Market was said to be an orphan who finished his secondary school education and could not further his education due to lack of capital. He began riding the popular keke-napep (commercial tricycle) on higher purchase to raise money for a living and save for his education.
A resident of the area whom I spoke to said, “many people were at the First-Market, drinking, dancing, burning tires, and throwing fireworks happily because of the new year. A few minutes before midnight some persons arrived unexpectedly and started shooting at some persons. Everywhere was chaotic and people ran in different directions.”
“I am deeply saddened by the death of Uche (pseudo name). He is one of the two persons shot dead in First-Market. Uche is not a cultist, it was a mistaken identity. He was my student, I thought him in secondary school. He is just a poor orphan hustling to earn a living. After his secondary school, he had no money to go to university, he went and learnt how to barb, and worked as an employee in a barbing saloon.”
“Luckily, someone gave him a keke-napep on higher purchase and he has paid almost the hire purchase fee, with the hope of completing the remaining balance of payment very soon. Now he is dead. He is kind, industrious, hardworking, and respectful.”
“Wherever he sees me or any of the teachers in my school, he offers us free ride in his keke-napep – he does not collect any dime from me or any of the teachers that taught him in school.”
“He (Uche) ran away like every other person when the shooting started. He ran into a nearby compound to seek refuge, unaware that the assailants pursued him. They shot him inside that compound.”
Several people were also shot dead that same night at the Zik avenue Akwa around the Eke-Awka market (the largest market in Awka), and in Amansea (another town that shares a border with Awka).
Many cult clashes in the state are not reported in the media, and the security operatives are yet to bring a permanent end to the ugly situation. As of the time of writing this report, these new year incidents are yet to be covered by any media office in the country, and there is no presence of any law enforcement agency to forestall further attacks.
Residents of Ifite are still living in fear of further attacks and reprisal attacks, as has always been.
Cult Menace in Anambra State
Cult war is fast becoming endemic to Anambra State. Over the past three years, Anambra State has witnessed constant cult clashes in different areas of the state, which have left many people dead.
Awka, the state capital, Okpuno, Amansea, Igbariam, and Nkpor have been the major hot spots, with Awka witnessing frequent incidences more than the other places.
This present cult war started around March 2021 and has lingered to this day without any certainty of when it will end. Between March and December 2021, more than thirty persons were shot dead in different parts of the state from cult clashes.
Around August 2021, a video went viral online where a group of cultists was exchanging fire openly with their targets. Many were shot dead, but a particular individual referred to as Chief Executioner, a notorious and very deadly cultist, was shot severally, but bullets could not penetrate his body. The assailants picked logs of wood and hit him severally until he weakened and fell to the ground. Still gasping for breath, his head got severed from his body. The victim is said to have killed many people at different times in different cities and campuses in Nigeria.
Voodoo Bullet Proof
The cultists and other criminal groups operating in Anambra state are now emboldened by the local voodoo bulletproof called Odeshi. Odeshi is a mysterious charm that supposedly makes it difficult for bullets or any metal weapon to affect the person having the dreaded charm, and is believed can even help the person disappear.
On September 2022, a local vigilante group engaged in a shootout with some cultists at the B. Bus Stop area of Ifite-Awka, very close to the popular Second-Market and the Nnamdi Azikiwe University. The face-to-face shootout lasted more than thirty minutes with no casualty. The vigilante men and the cultist had fortified themselves with Odeshi. The local vigilante men managed to apprehend one of them and burnt him alive since their guns and matches could not kill any of the cultists.
Insecurity in Anambra
Insecurity has become a hydra-headed monster plaguing Anambra State. Aside from the heightened cult clashes, Anambra State is grappling with the menace of Unknown Gunmen, armed robbers, and kidnappers.
The Unknown Gunmen have steadily wreaked havoc in the state. A case in point is the killing of an illustrious statesman Dr. Chike Akunyili (the husband of the famous Profesor Dora Akunyili). Dr. Akunyili was killed by The Unknown Gunmen in Nkpor on September 29, 2021, while returning from an event in the Onitsha, where here received a posthumous award for his late wife.
Chief Ifeanyi Uba, the senator representing Anambra South Senatorial Zone at the Federal Upper Legislative House, was attacked by The Unknown Gunmen around Nkwo Market, Enugwu-Ukwu, along the Awka-Onitsha road. He escaped the assassination attempt, but some security operatives in his convoy and civilians in the area died.
The government of Anambra State is working hard in partnership with all the security agencies to end the ugly incident bedeviling the state and affecting its economic development.
Towards the last quarter of 2022, the state government collaborated with the security agencies in a fierce security operation to flush out criminal groups in the state. Some of the native doctors (voodoo priests) involved in preparing different charms and Odeshi for the kidnappers, armed robbers, cultists, and other groups causing insecurity in the state, were arrested.