How Cult clashes claim 180 lives in Edo State
Cult clashes and gun violence have caused over 180 fatalities in the Edo State between January 2021 and December 2023, a report by the Partnerships Initiatives in the Niger Delta has revealed.
The P4P Peace Map, in its weekly update, showed an increase in cult-related deaths in the state.
The tally showed that Benin City had the highest number of deaths with 97 people, followed by Ogbegbe with 31; Ewu-Esan LGA with over 13 persons; Egbeta with three deaths; and Ekpoma with two deaths. Other 34 deaths are spread across several other local government areas in the state.
Recent incidents indicate a resurgence of killings by cult gangs.
In December 2023, for instance, over 30 persons were reportedly killed in clashes between rival cult gangs in the State.
During the period, a woman was allegedly killed by a gang of cultists at Ogiso quarters in Benin City, the state capital.
Also, three persons including a journalist and the leader of a local vigilante were allegedly killed during clashes between rival cult gangs at different locations in Oredo LGA.
More recently, on December 31, 2023, the head of a vigilante group was allegedly killed by a gang of cultists at a motor park in Ekosodin community, Ovia North East LGA.
PIND noted that gang violence is a major cause of insecurity in the state, mainly driven by the struggle for supremacy and territorial control among rival cult gangs as well as vigilante violence, conflict over the collection of illegal levies, and general criminality.
According to data made available on the conflict tracker page, gang violence was responsible for over 180 fatalities in the state in two years.
The Heat Map shows the geographical concentration of fatalities caused by gang violence in Edo State in the period under review.
The report added, “The recent wave of killings by cult gangs has the potential to escalate in ways that could negatively impact the dynamics of conflict and insecurity in the State.
“It could trigger a cycle of reprisal violence that could degenerate into extended battles for supremacy among the numerous cult gangs in the State.
“This could take on various criminal, communal and political dimensions, especially in the context of rising tensions in the lead-up to the September 2024 governorship election in the state. This could bring about serious socio-economic, and political disruptions in the State.
The recent wave of killings by cult gangs could significantly impact the dynamics of conflict and insecurity in the State. It could set off a cycle of reprisal killing and criminality.”
“Peace actors should collaborate with the State government and community leaders to address the underlying drivers of the current wave of killings.”