Twelve suspected kingpins of some cult groups operating in Edo state were among the 98 suspects arraigned before the Special Magistrate Court that sat Tuesday in Benin Edo state capital.
The Special Magistrate court it was gathered was set up by the Chief Judge of the state, Justice Cromwell Idahosa, to
prosecute them following the apparent congestions in various prisons and police detention cells in the state.
Besides, 129 of the suspects nabbed by combined police special squad from Delta, Anambra and Federal SAARS, Abuja, deployed to the state by the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, between June 2 and 3rd this month had earlier been arraigned before the court, bringing to total number to 227 of suspects standing trial for various charges.
The state commissioner of police, Mr. Samuel Adegbuyi said after the March 2015 general elections, especially, the Presidential elections, the command had challenges in crime wave including cultism, armed robbery, murder, and other social vices.
He said “All these challenges became worrisome. I had no choice than to call the Inspector General of Police who swiftly drafted more personnel from Delta state, Anambra state and Federal SAARS”.
The police boss disclosed that on completion of investigations 129 were arraigned on 2nd and 3rd of June while today 98 suspects were equally arraigned in court in connection with the offences mentioned.
Adegbuyi added that the command recovered several dangerous weapons and other items bearing the marks of some of the cult members including two locally made pistols, four cut to size guns, four double barrel guns, eight single barrel guns, four AK47 riffles, three pump action guns, 146 live cartridges, eight cutlasses, two battle axes, one teargas, one short sword with cult symbol, plague, two neo black movement regalia and one shocking baton.
The proceedings of the court presided over by Magistrate Adiaken were shifted to the premises of the State Police command while journalists were barred from the proceedings held amid tight security by operatives of the command.
The relocation exercise, however, may not be unconnected with the over five months old strike action by Edo state chapter of the Judicial Service Workers Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) whose activities have crippled the courts in the process.
The suspects were arrested by police in parts of the state for offences ranging from being members of rival secret cults, murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, unlawful possession of firearms and other social vices.
Among the suspects are four aides of Governor Adams Oshiomhole and eight others standing trial on 13 count charges.
The case is between the Commissioner of Police and the accused in the suit number CR/01/C/2015.
They include David Olukoga (36 years), Salako Adebowale (43), Osunde Aigbedo (48), Ahunwa-ID Orlando (39), Uche Chukwuka (36) and Adebo Eguaoja (46).
Others are Totti Omonuwa (42), Ernest Adadasu (49), Isabor Larry (34), Felix .O. Evbodi (34), Joshua Ehiabahi (36) and Bright Nosakhare (32) respectively.
They were said to have variously participated in the activities of the rival secret cult groups that unleashed terror in the past one month which led to the killing of over 25 victims.
Part of the charge read to the accused stated that “You…between 1st February 2015 and 12 May, 2015 at Benin City in the Oredo magisterial district being public officers and professionals in the Edo state civil service system did conspire amongst yourselves and others now at large to engage in Black Axe, Marphites, Eiye, Aiye, Jurist, Vickins, Norsemen secret cults initiations and illicit cult activities in Edo state and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 4 (b) of the Edo state secret cult (prohibition) law 2000.”
Both the twelve suspects and others were remanded in prison even as the magistrate ordered that their case files be referred to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) for advice following an application before the court for bail by counsel to the twelve defendants/accused, Barr. Anthony A. Orunkoya.
The case was adjourned to September 9, this year for hearing.
One of the accused, Mr. Ernest Amadasu had told newsmen his group, the Neo Black Movement was not a cult organization but a duly registered body that had been assisting the Police in the maintenance of peace and order in parts of the state.