For about a month, cult groups and robbery gangs held sway in the once peaceful Calabar, the capital of Cross River State and its environs.
They disrupted the peace of residents of Calabar metropolis for some weeks. Those mainly affected were residents of Calabar South who were constantly traumatised as a result of the activities of cult groups and armed robbery gangs that held sway before the security agencies stepped in.
Calabar is noted for its serenity and has been adjudged the country’s tourism destination. The city is not only peaceful, it is also clean and green with rich culture and cuisines.
The issue revolved around two cult groups which were out to prove their supremacy, but instead of going for the rival members as cult groups are known to do, they turned the streets, especially Watt Market, Goldie, Nelson Mandela, Bedwell, Harcourt and other adjoining streets within the Calabar South area — into theatre of war, shooting sporadically to ward off intruders, looting and destroying property.
The activities of the suspected cultists got to a peak three weeks ago when they forced residents of Calabar South into self-imposed curfew for three days.
The cultists, said to be cadet members of two rival cult groups, who are mainly secondary school dropouts; and were also said to have been groomed by politicians in 1999 at the inception of the Fourth Republic to deal with political opponents but were not disarmed after the elections.
But the state government rose to the occasion when, after three days, it deployed personnel from the State Emergency Response Centre, Quick Intervention Squad and the military joint security outfit, Operation Messa to check the situation.
Areas suspected to be the hideouts of the cultists were raided and random arrests made.
Displaying some of the items recovered from the cultists, the Commissioner of Police, in the state, Mr. Osita Ezechukwu, noted that the last few weeks had been challenging, as cultists tried to create panic in Calabar.
Although he was not specific on the number of arrests made, he said over 30 cultists had been charged to court for various offences.
He also stated that five armed robbers in a gang of eight were earlier arrested in Boki Local Government Area on May 20 about 6.00pm after a robbery operation.