The police in Lagos on Monday paraded 202 suspected cultists said to have been terrorising the city in recent times.
It was gathered that the suspects were arrested between February and last weekend, and a handful of them had earlier been charged to court.
Police Commissioner Zubairu Muazu, who paraded the suspects, also launched an operation to flush out cultists and gangsters from the district.
According to him, the operation, codenamed CRUSH, aims at ending cultism and gangsterism in the state.
The police chief said it would be directly under his command and led by area commanders (ACs) and Divisional Police Officers (DPOs).
Muazu advised cultists to renounce their membership of such groups or be routed.
The police chief warned parents to monitor the activities of their wards.
He said the command had painstakingly put in place measures to reclaim the destiny of youths who chose the path of crime by engaging in cult activities.
Muazu said: “When cultism thrives, surely other heinous crimes, like murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping, among others, will thrive too. Defeating cultism will, therefore, mean defeating all heinous crimes in the state, as virtually every major crime recorded in the state has a link to cultism.
“We have recovered 54 assorted weapons. Other successes recorded by the command include the arrest of 105 suspects for armed robbery and seven suspects for kidnapping.
“The command has also successfully foiled 93 armed robbery attempts through prompt response to distress calls from members of the public at different locations in the state.
“We must cleanse our communities of those few criminal elements who have threatened our social and economic well-being.
“Tackling cultism requires a holistic approach. We intend to adopt community policing approach. We will soon embark on sensitisation programmes in collaboration with Police Community Relations Committee (PCRC) and other stakeholders in schools, neighbourhoods and the media.
“We will equally establish Police Students Relations Committee (PSRC), comprising all the Students’ Union Presidents and other student leaders. We will organise town hall meetings in areas mostly affected by cult activities.
“The meetings will discuss extensively the root causes of cultism and gangsterism in the affected areas and the possible solutions.
“The various cult groups and gangs identified within the state include Aiye and Eiye confraternities, One Million Boys at Ajengule, Fadeyi Boys at Fadeyi, Akala Boys at Mushin, Nokia Group at Surulere, Shitta Boys at Bariga, Oworonshoki, Shomolu and Palmgrove, Awawa Boys at Dopemu, Agege, Ogba and Iyana Ipaja.
“We have observed the activities of these cult groups and gangs for the last one month and credible intelligence was gathered. We have reviewed our strategies and have initiated far-reaching approach to totally eradicate this menace.
“We have rejigged our Anti-Cultism Unit to effectively combat those miscreants who have chosen the wrong path of life. We are taking the fight to their door steps; we are all out for them. We will fish them out, isolate them and bring them to justice. We are battle-ready to uproot every cultists’ den and hideout until they are totally defeated.”
One of the paraded suspects, Solomon Olowu, confessed to be a member of the Aiye cult group, claiming he was oppressed into joining.
He said: “I joined the group in 2015 due to oppression and I feel sorry for myself at the moment. I was arrested on Monday during a raid around 8 a.m at Ikorodu after a fight between Aiye and Eiye confraternities.
“My other colleagues were with weapons but I was not with any. The police team came after the clash had ended. I was the only one arrested. I feel very guilty and I promise never to do that again.”