The cold blooded murder of 16 years old Miss Seiyefa Fred last week by a suspected secret cult group, while trying to snatch her mobile phone, has thrown open arguments over the level of insecurity in the state. OSA OKHOMINA (Yenagoa) looks at the issues of rising cult attacks and security fears in Bayelsa State.
When 16 years old Seiyefa Fred was asked by her mother to buy her some pieces of Suya (a locally roasted cow meat delicacy) across the street, she never knew that death was lurking at their Amarata suburb of Yenagoa.
She happily left the presence of her family, after being promised the full support of her mother when she resumed school for her year one study at the state owned Varsity, the Niger Delta University in Ammassoma, Southern Ijaw area of the state.
Miss Seifa, pretty and full of life, stepped outside the gate of the house into the hands of four dangerous and armed looking youths. They collected her android mobile phone and shot her while trying to raise the alarm for help.
According to eyewitnesses, “The incident happened at about 8pm beside Zenith Bank in Amarata area. The suspected street cultists, who were on the prowl, shot her and ran away with her phone leaving her for dead on the ground.”
Residents of the area came out and rushed her to the hospital, but she later died of her gunshot injuries. She was currently at the mortuary as at press time.
At the moment, Yenagoa and its environs are fast becoming a theatre of armed attacks, blood and killings unleashed by no other group than youths involved in indiscriminate, illicit drug intake and cultism, some residents claimed.
Recent revelations show that, over 123 cult groups have been identified to exist in the state with the Icelanders, Greenlanders, Bobos and many others competing for space and attention. Not to be left out are female cult groups initiated and groomed as armourer for the male counterparts.
The rampaging cults have continued to unleash terror on the residents despite the increased efforts by the police, the state government and the civil society groups’ synergies to nip their activities in the bud.
On the last count, a corps member, a divisional police station in Southern Ijaw and hundreds of residents have fallen victims to the reign of terror of cult groups.
Already, most of the residents of the Bayelsa State capital blamed the state government and the state command of the Nigerian Police for the poor security arrangement that allowed cultists to roam free around town, killing and injuring residents.
A check showed that the red spots in the state, where suspected cultists hold sway, include the Obele, Abor Road, Saint Peters area, Amarata, Kpansia, Opolo and Tombia area of the state capital.
While many claimed the killings and violent crimes are as a result of the frosty relationship between the governor, Seriake Dickson and the Bayelsa Police command over choice of state police commissioner,
others claim the state police command is due to have a special shake up due to the rising alleged corruption among the rank and file of the command. Most arrested notorious cultists are often released allegedly with amount such as N400, 000 or N800, 000 exchanging hands with the director of public prosecution and allegedly recommending no case submission.
It would be recalled that when the residents took laws into their hands and embarked on mass jungle justice for cultists and criminals, some known former cultists and leaders of the various cult gangs in the state became worried and mounted mass campaign against the actions.
Some stakeholders on the Facebook page of deceased Niger Delta University Student, Seiyefa, called for a proper review of the state security system and that a special security outfit such as Famou Tamgbe, a security outfit initiated during the administration of the former governor, Chief Timipre Sylva, is brought back.
They blamed the governor Seriake Dickson administration of frustrating the police security arrangement on the platter of politics. They accused him of having penchant for raising the alarm whenever a police commissioner is replaced from police headquarters.
Governor Dickson recently accused the newly deployed commissioner of police of being loyal to the All Progressives Congress (APC). At the last count, over seven police commissioners have been posted to Bayelsa State in the last few months.
The version of the police on the incident was not different, the authorities of the Bayelsa State Police command, confirmed that, “On 8 November, 2018, at about 2030hours, unknown suspected cultists at Amarata, Yenagoa, shot one Seiyefa Fred ‘f’ 16years, while trying to dispossess her of her mobile phone. The victim was immediately rushed to the hospital, where she was confirmed dead.”
The Bayelsa State Command in a statement issued by its spokesperson, DSP AsImin Butswat stated that, “The Police have swung into action and are working on a promising lead on the identity of the suspects and efforts have been intensified to arrest them.
“The command has embarked on community engagement meetings with relevant youth bodies in a bid to stem the tide of cult-related activities. Members of the public should continue to assist the police with useful information to combat crime in Bayelsa State.”
The state police command immediately commenced Community Engagement Meeting with youth presidents, community development committee chairmen and vigilante groups.
According to the statement issued by the police public relations officer (PPRO), DSP Asinim Butswat, the community engagement started following reported cases of cultism and armed robbery in Yenagoa metropolis and its attendant consequences on public safety.
According to the statement, the commissioner of police, Bayelsa State Command, CP Joseph Mukan, who chaired the community engagement was told by youths that cultism, armed robbery and rape are the serious crimes affecting their communities and assured the police of their readiness to partner and assist the command in fighting crime.
The CP assured the youths that information shared with the police would be treated with utmost confidentiality. Flash points, illicit drugs joint and other criminal hideouts were identified and will be raided accordingly.
The command commends all security stakeholders for their resilience and commitment to fighting crime, as the police are poised in ensuring the safety of lives and property in Bayelsa State.
As the news of the death of the teenage student filled the air, the entire state was gripped with anger and outrage. Registered vigilante groups in Bayelsa State joined the men of the state police command in the search for the cultists involved in the gruesome murder.
The vigilante groups, identified as the Bayelsa State Vigilante Service, headed by the chairman, Evangelist Parkins Ikede, vice chairman, Chief Enifie Ide and secretary, Comrade Ari Fekorigha, said they have offered and deployed the Urban Surveillance Unit and some special squad to the scene of crime, with a view of trailing the culprits.
The Bayelsa State Vigilante Service, in a statement at the weekend, issued by the chief press secretary to the chairman, Mr Favour Waribo-Bekewari, said though they joined well meaning Nigerians in condemning the gruesome murder of the 16-year-old Miss Seiyefa Fred, describing the killing as unwarranted, crude and barbaric.
According to them, “They noted with dismay that the assailants came with discreet intention to maim and to kill their target, with a view of portraying the state in bad light before the international community in order to secure their inordinate ambition.”
According to the vigilante chiefs, those behind the dastardly act are working out a script from their paymasters in Lagos and Abuja, who are hell bent on causing security confusion in the polity, stressing that the sledgehammer of government will not spare anyone found wanting of the dastardly acts.
“The Urban Surveillance Unit and some key special squad who have been drafted to the scene of crime, with the aim of trailing the culprits to face the full music of the law, used the medium to warn Bayelsans, especially the youths to be wary of their actions and inactions.
“We assure the government and the bereaved family that those behind the heinous crime would be fished out to face prosecution, the statement urged Bayelsans to give useful information that would aid the arrest of the fleeing suspects.”
The Bayelsa State Commissioner for Education, Hon Jonathan Obuebite, has said that those who cut short the life of one of his students, Miss Seiyafa Fred, at a very young age, will not go unpunished.
Obuebite described the incident as annoying, barbaric, demonic, unnecessary, and a sin that God frowns at and condemns in its totality.
“Bayelsa State has recorded success in the area of security, but it is obvious that some unscrupulous elements who are enemies of a peaceful environment are out to rubbish all that the state government is doing, and we cannot fold our hands and let it continue.
“As the education commissioner, every child in school, private or government owned is my child and my responsibility, so I am more bitter, because one of my own- Miss Seiyefa Fred has been denied the right to live and the government will not keep calm about this,” the commissioner assured.
Obuebite, on behalf of the State Education Team, permanent secretary, directors and staff of the Ministry of Education, condoled with the parents, siblings, the Niger Delta University community and friends of the deceased and prayed God to give them the fortitude to bear this painful and irreparable loss.
The commissioner, who frowned at the very frequent change of commissioners of police in the state, used the opportunity to call on all Bayelsans to join hands with security operatives to fish out persons involved in criminal activities irrespective of whose axe is gored.
Traditional rulers and chiefs from various communities of the state also met over the rising cases of cult attacks and violent crimes in some parts of the state.
The meeting, which was conveyed by the Institute for Niger Delta Studies in collaboration with the Association of Rural Chiefs Peace and Development Initiative and sponsored by the Nengi James Foundation, is expected to deliberate on increased sale of illicit drugs to underage youths, misuse of such illicit drugs and control, human rights abuses, hiring of youths for violence during election and cult killings in the state.
After the meeting of the traditional rulers and other stakeholders at the one-day dialogue for security, peace and election matters, they called for the productive engagement of unemployed youths by deliberate and direct employment or skills acquisition by both government and multinational oil companies to stem the tide of criminality in the state.
The one-day dialogue, which was convened by the Bayelsa State Conflict Management Alliance (BCMA) in association with Institute for Niger Delta Studies (INDS), Niger Delta University (NDU), and the Association for Rural Chiefs Peace and Development Initiative (ARCODI), also called for the establishment of a Peace and Non-Violence Institute to cater for issues of friction in the polity.
The meeting, which was chaired by the chairman of State Council of Traditional Rulers, and Amanyanabo of Twon Brass, His Royal Majesty King Alfred Diette-Spiff, was also attended by traditional rulers, heads of security agencies, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the academia and civil society organisations.
In a communique issued after the meeting and read by the director, Institute for Niger Delta Studies, Niger Delta University, Prof Ambily Etekpe, the forum observed that, “uncontrolled peddling and excessive use of dangerous substances by youths is a contributory factor to crime, criminality and insecurity.
“That the large armies of unemployed youths lend themselves to electoral violence because they are readily available for engagement by the political parties during elections.
“Communities should provide relevant information about crime and criminality to the relevant security agencies in the state,” and also called for “the establishment of Non-violence Institutes to train people on values, skills and techniques of peace building.”
The Bayelsa State government also condemned in strong terms, the murder of Miss Seiyefa Fred in the state.
The state commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Daniel Iworiso-Markson, described the murder of Seiyefa as shocking, reprehensible and unacceptable.
He said that the government would do everything to ensure that those who perpetrated the dastardly act are fished out and brought to justice. The commissioner said that the government was elected primarily to bring peace, security development and stability to the state and would not condone the murder of innocent people.
Iworiso-Markson urged the people of the state to be united as the government intensifies efforts to rid Bayelsa of cultists and criminal elements who place no value on human life.
He said that the government was in touch with the police authorities in the state whose men had commenced immediate investigation to unravel those behind the heinous act.
The government’s spokesman also called on the people to volunteer relevant information to the police and relevant bodies on the activities of the miscreants involved in all manner of criminalities in the state.