No fewer than five persons have been killed in a violent clash between members of two rival cult groups and residents of the Owo community in the Owo Local Government Areas of Ondo State.
The two rival cult groups, Eiye and Aiye, had been attacking residents in the Owo Local Government Area of the State since Tuesday afternoon.
Sources in the community told a SaharaReporters correspondent that the rival cult groups are fighting what appears to be a “supremacy battle.”
The source said that the battle also led to extended attacks and ambushes on innocent friends and families of the rival cult group members in the community.
Eyewitness Adelabu Akinseyi revealed to SaharaReporters that innocent people were attacked with machetes and dangerously wounded by cult members in house-to-house attacks that began on Tuesday.
Mr. Akinseyi said the victims were murdered in “cold blood,” leaving residents living in fear of another attach.
“Since Tuesday afternoon, the blood of innocent residents has been flowing on the streets of Owo. There is no day in the community that we won't record death under the killings of these hoodlums calling themselves cultists,” Mr. Akinseyi said.
“They killed one of their victims around the First Bank area in Owo while he was trying to use the ATM, and dragged him to a nearby shop by the roadside before they ran away into the second street for another attack.”
Other community residents that spoke with SaharaReporters explained that the cultists left behind trails of blood as a sign of the attack on the innocent victims.
Iyabo Obafemi, a trader in the community, told SaharaReporters that residents of the community trooped out today in massive protest on Saturday and besieged the traditional palace of the Olowo of Owo, Oba Victor Folagbade Olateru-Olagbegi, demanding a thorough investigation into the murders innocent citizens.
“People of the community came out en-mass today (Saturday) and marched around Olowo's palace to protest, chanting solidarity songs and asking for protection and investigation into these killings,” the trader said.
“The women among the protestors traded curses on the perpetrators of the dastardly killings and told the king to incite the traditional rites of the community on members of cult groups terrorizing the residents.”
She added that the monarch and his chiefs would be inviting landlords and heads of security agencies in the community to an expansive meeting next week Tuesday with a view to finding solution to the recurrent attacks on innocent residents.
SaharaReporters’ undercover investigation in the community on Saturday revealed that security operatives are trying to be swift in their response to prevent the crisis from spilling over to other neighboring communities and the tertiary institutions in the local government.
A security source in the A Division Police Station in Owo told our correspondent that a security clampdown has commenced in the community.
The security source added that a considerable number of suspected cult members have been arrested and detained at the police cell.
“We have arrested some of the suspects with charms and ammunition. They are now in the custody of police headquarters along Igbatoro road in Akure, the State capital, for further interrogation,” the source disclosed.
“One of the herbalists, whose name I can't remember now, was arrested. He was one of the people initiating the violence and selling charms for these boys who caused trouble all around the streets of Owo.”
SaharaReporters reached out to Femi Joseph, Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Ondo State Police Command for comment but he refused to speak.
However, a police officer in the State command who was not granted official permission to address the press confirmed the attack on Owo residents to SaharaReporters and noted that a strategy has been put in place in the community.
“Our officers from the State anti-cultism squad have been deployed to the volatile community of the Owo Local Government Area and have declared a clampdown on the erring members of the cult groups.”
“We have also arrested some of the suspects with their herbalists and declared their main leaders wanted. We learned from an intelligence report that two leaders of the groups have absconded the community, but we are trailing them,” the officer said.