NINTY-eight persons arrested by the Special Squad deployed to Edo State by Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, for alleged cultism, were, yesterday, arraigned before a Special Magistrate’s Court in Benin.
The court, it was learned, was set up by the Chief Judge of the state, Justice Cromwell Idahosa, due to the ongoing strike by judicial workers in the state.
Besides, 129 of the suspects were earlier arraigned last week, bringing to 227 the number of suspects standing trial over cult-related offences.
State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Samuel Adegbuyi,said cult-related activities in the state became worrisome so he sought the assistance of the IG.
He said on completion of investigations, 129 were arraigned on June 2 and 3, while today (yesterday) “98 suspects were equally arraigned in connection with the offences mentioned.”
He added that the command recovered several dangerous weapons and other items bearing the marks of some of the cult members.
Two locally-made pistols, four cut-to-size guns, four double-barrelled guns, eight single-barrelled guns, four AK-47 rifles, three pump action guns, 146 live cartridges, eight cutlasses, two battle axes, one tear gas canister, one short sword with cult symbol, plague, two neo-black movement regalia and one baton were recovered from the suspects.
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 amidst tight security.
The court was relocated to the state Police Command due to the four-month-old industrial action embarked upon by judicial workers in the state.
The suspects were said to have variously participated in the activities of rival secret cult groups that unleashed terror in the state, leading to the death of over 20 persons.
Part of the charge preferred against the accused read: “Between February 1 and May 12 in Benin 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.”
The suspects were remanded in prison, while the magistrate ordered that their case files be referred to the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, for advice following an application by counsel to the defendants/accused, Mr Anthony Orunkoya.
The case was adjourned to September 9 for hearing.