Authorities in Rivers are said to have taken measures to curtail the heightening cult violence in higher institutions in the state. Negative consequences of secret cult activities have taken a heavy toll on institutions in the state with several students abandoning classes consequent upon ensuing vicious rivalry clashes.
Apart from violence, rival cultists engage in criminal activities, illicit drugs abuse and more often than not, use power imbalance to intimidate, control or deceive gullible students into unlawful activities and even recruit them as members.
Cult violence recently claimed the lives of two students of Rivers State University in less than one week.
Rivers State Governor and Visitor to the university, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, on August 3, 2019 sacked the vice chancellor and deputy vice chancellor, administration, of the university.
Governor Wike has also suspended the ongoing employment exercise at the university and instituted a committee to investigate the exercise and report to him in two weeks.
Pundits said the move may not be unconnected to the recent upsurge in cult-related activities where students were killed.
Barely 48 hours after Governor Wike launched a new security outfit in the state called Operation Sting, two gun-wielding men suspected to be cultists on July 29, shot dead a final year student in the Faculty of Agriculture.
The deceased, who was identified as Prince Tuaka Barisua, was reportedly killed at the university campus a few hours after his final year exams.
Witness accounts had it that the deceased was accosted by two men, near the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) female hostel of the university where he was celebrating with his fellow final year students on the completion of his final examination, who shot him at close range.
The shooting caused pandemonium in the university as students and workers scampered for safety.
A source, however, alleged the deceased had links with a cult group.
Not long after that, a 300-Level Marine Engineering student, nicknamed ‘Montana Million’, was attacked by suspected cultists in Port Harcourt on July 31, while on his way to school. He was attacked with machete before bleeding to death after several bullets allegedly fired at him could not penetrate his body.
The recent upsurge in cultism comes as a surprise to many because the university has not witnessed any cult-related incident in the last five years due to robust security measures put in place. Thus, the alleged attacks by cultists have caused fear among students in tertiary institutions in the state.
As students are left jittery over the negative effects of the renewed cult clashes on the academic atmosphere in the state, some higher institutions have put in place strong security measures to forestall any spillover of the incidents to their various environments.
A student of the university, Joy Okeh, said recent cult attacks have led students into a state of panic.
“There has been peace in the institution in the last five years because of security measures adopted by the management to checkmate the menace of cultism but the recent killing of two students by suspected cultists has sent jitters down my spine.
“When cultists invade a university and start killing people, the psychological impact is very wide. Students will be afraid to move freely within the campus. Most of us that like to go out at night to read in classrooms are afraid for fear of being hacked to death by these violent groups,” she said.
She called on the management to enhance its security architecture and protect the lives of students.
Another student, Matthew Ola, said students are living in fear because of renewed cult clashes in the university.
Ola, an engineering student said students are afraid to move around freely especially at night because they are afraid of cultists.
“We now live in fear because of the renewed cult clashes which have claimed two lives in the university. Before now, we moved around even at night to read in lecture rooms but fear and anxiety have pervaded the entire university community.
“Students live in fear and anguish because nobody knows who will be the next victim. We want the university authorities to do something urgent about this,” he said.
In the meantime, the recent cult attacks have forced some of the higher institutions in the state to boost security in their campuses.
At the University of Port Harcourt, sources told our correspondent that the management is collaborating with security agencies to ensure that students continue to enjoy a peaceful atmosphere.
A source, who pleaded anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the security arrangement, said the university has taken serious steps to enhance its safety measures and ensure that students give attention to their academic activities without any distraction.
At Rivers State University, the former vice chancellor, Professor Blessing Didia, had shortly before the termination of his appointment, said the management had installed CCTV cameras in and around the campuses to enhance surveillance.
Professor Didia, who spoke when the leadership of Zone B, Nigerian Students Union visited him, said he had directed the ICT department to use the CCTV cameras installed in the campuses of the university to track down criminals and the killers of the final year student.
He said the footages from the camera would help the police in their investigation.
Similarly, the Deputy Provost, Rivers State School of Health Science and Technology, Chino Onugbum, said security has been beefed-up in the institution to protect the students and staff.
Onugbum, who was speaking on a radio station in Port Harcourt, said the institution is not taking security issues lightly and will ensure that students are protected.
Meanwhile, Rivers State Police Command has said that two persons have been arrested in connection with a cult clash and that the suspects are cooperating with it in its investigation.
The police command spokesman, Nnamdi Omoni, said one Elechi Chibuzor and another, Nnamdi Chibundu, were arrested in connection with the killing of Prince Barisua.
The PPRO disclosed that the investigation was at an advanced stage.
“Commissioner of Police Mustapha Dandaura is still appealing to the public to help us serve you better by sharing credible information that can assist us in our determined efforts to tackle these hoodlums,” Omoni said.