BY EMMANUEL MGBEAHURUIKE

Recently some members of the dreaded Neo Black Movement of Africa Confraternity, known as Black Axe Confraternity for short ran out of luck as officers of the Imo State Police Command swooped on them inside a bush in the middle of their initiation rites. EMMANUEL MGBEAHURUIKE writes

It was a day of reckoning for secret cult members, operating in Imo State communities few days ago. Sixteen of them who confessed to be members of Neo Black Movement of Africa Confraternity, better known in campuses of Nigerian tertiary institutions as Black Axe were nicked by officers of Imo State Police Command, while performing initiation rituals in a bush, near Owerri, the Imo State capital.
The haul of the cultists were made possible following the renewed efforts of the state’s police command to rid the once peaceful state of anti-social elements.
Arrested were: Oluwoke Hepto (24), the leader of the Neo Black Movement of Africa Confraternity, Onyegbule Chukwunenye Chibueze Okpara (17), Uzoma Kingsley (25), Chisom Nwosu (23), Ojinaka Oscar (25), Ejekeme Ebuka, Ehum Uchenna, Ejekeme Christian and Anyanwu Lucky.
Others are: Okoro Uche, Chinecherem Okeke, Igbokwe Micheal, Agugua Chima Osondu, Victor Egbu and Nelson Isiugozo – all male.
Briefing journalists at the Command Headquarters, Owerri, the state commissioner of police, CP Chris Ezike explained that the suspects were arrested in a bush at Ihiagwa in Owerri West local government area of the state. He confirmed that they were members of the Neo Black Movement of Africa confraternity.
Ezike, during the briefing disclosed that the arrested 16 suspects have been charged to court.
According to CP. Ezike “They were arrested while they were doing their initiation in the bush. They were apprehended by the Eagle Eye Operatives of the command following a tip-off. The group has been charged to court accordingly.”
Weapons recovered from the suspects by the police include three live cartridges and expended SMG ammunition.
The Imo State commissioner of police solicited for a more robust synergy among security agencies in the state so as to stem the tide of criminal activities in the state.
He identified cultism as a huge security threat and called for all hands to be on deck to put a stop to the unholy activities of cultists in the state.
He disclosed that the command was willing to welcome with open arms any cultist who renounced his membership, while at same time, warned that all those who still indulge in cult related activities will not be spared by the long arm of the law.
Imo State which is one of the nine states of the oil bearing Niger Delta region has been dominated by  crimes,  ranging from armed robbery, wanton murder and assassination, kidnap and abduction of well-to-innocent individuals.
Following the unrelenting wave of crime in the state, the state government went beyond logistical assistance to security agencies in the state to the floating of a number of security outfits such as Imo Security Network and sundry vigilance groups, and helped the police step up community policing.
Prominent among the hoodlum groups, unleashing mayhem and terror in the state are militants operating in the oil producing communities in Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta local government areas who unleash mayhem on both the oil companies operating in these areas and their host communities.
Series of appeals, consultations and persuasions put in place by the government and troubleshooting agents for the militants to lay down their arms proved ineffectual.
Not too long ago, the government of Governor Rochas Okorocha had to grant amnesty to over 5000 of these militants. The government doled out a number of mouth-watering packages to assuage the militant  youths who thereafter surrendered their arms and ammunition to the state government at a colourful ceremony held at the premises of the government House Owerri.
The amnesty can be said to have so far yielded the desired result, given that the air of uncertainty and insecurity which had before then, enveloped the oil producing communities has virtually disappeared. Hostage taking of foreign chief executives of the oil companies by the militants is no longer the story in these areas.
Additionally, incessant blocking of roads, and violent confrontations between the oil producing communities and the oil giants operating in the areas have interestingly subsided, paving way for the much desired dialogue and compromise between the communities and the state government.
The deputy chief of staff, Government House, Engineer Kingsley Uju who has consistently played a crucial role in the restoration of peace and tranquility in the volatile areas told our correspondent, that the amnesty programme of the state government was working according to expectation and gave an assurance that the state government would  keep its own side of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) which it entered with the former militants.

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