Nigeria's campus cults: Buccaneers, Black Axe and other feared groups

Illustration with axe, machete, beret and calabash insignia of a Nigerian cult

Roland* used to be a first-year scholar when he joined the Buccaneers, a secret, unlawful scholar society in Nigeria. A brutal initiation ritual used to be held overdue at night time within the wooded area.

Older participants, making a song, dancing and consuming, shaped a hoop round him and different blindfolded initiates, beating them significantly till the early hours of the morning.

The ritual used to be supposedly to purge the initiates of weaknesses and instil bravery in them.

“The instant you pass in there and are available out, you’re a other individual,” Roland instructed the BBC.

Those societies, additionally known as confraternities and campus cults, have names like Vikings, Black Awl, Eiye (a phrase within the native Yoruba language for fowl), and the Buccaneers.

They have got a series of command very similar to defense force teams, use code phrases and feature insignia bearing the favorite weapon of the cult, along side its color.

Individuals are promised coverage from rival gangs, however it’s most commonly about energy and recognition.

Those secret societies are banned in Nigeria and loads of participants had been arrested and prosecuted over time. However, they proceed to function, particularly on college campuses, the place they nonetheless draw in new participants.

‘Pretend information’ about gangster assaults

Those cults had been accused of being at the back of severe violence, together with killings, at universities around the nation and once in a while harassing teachers for just right grades.

In some circumstances, scholars are lured with guarantees of networking alternatives.

Maximum societies now function off campus as neatly, frequently with participants who by no means went to school. They have got more and more resorted to crime.

BBC

Brutal Nigerian campus killings

  • 14 shot useless at College of Nigeria in 2002

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  • five hackedto demise at Rivers State College in 2006

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  • 2 killed whilst sound asleep at College of Jos in 2002

  • 1 killed at Institute of Generation, Enugu, in 1997

Supply: BBC

In puts like the economic capital Lagos and oil hub Port Harcourt, cults had been recognized to recruit youngsters into side road gangs that function a coaching flooring for club in the event that they get to school.

In April, citizens of Lagos and neighbouring Ogun state resorted to forming vigilante teams as stories unfold that loads of gangsters belonging to One Million Boys and Awawa Boys have been attacking some neighbourhoods.

There used to be a lockdown within the state to halt the unfold of the coronavirus and a few citizens mentioned the gangs had develop into extra bold and have been robbing houses.

Quickly there have been extra stories, particularly on social media, of gangs attacking other folks in different communities in what seemed like large coordinated assaults.

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Police say messages like this have been used to frighten the general public

The police denied there have been common robberies within the state, describing the stories as “pretend information” unfold by means of the gangsters to purpose panic as a prelude to launching assaults.

Police, however, showed that they had arrested greater than 200 suspected cultists for being enthusiastic about a gang battle that broke out after the demise of a cult chief in a battle.

  • The thriller of Nigeria’s pretend gangster assaults

Why Roland changed into a Buccaneer

Roland made up our minds to sign up for a cult to get coverage at his college in japanese Nigeria.

A pal of his used to be robbed by means of a confraternity member leading to a feud. Roland were given dragged into the feud, and used to be assaulted on two events.

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The Buccaneers have a name for dwelling the great existence

He reported the assaults to school government, however campus safety guards may do little.

Those unarmed non-public guards have been – and stay – no fit for the cultists, who raise weapons and different fatal guns.

Roland’s seek for the “least violent fraternity” led him to the Buccaneers after he declined a call for participation to sign up for the infamous Black Awl.

However as soon as within he lived in worry of rival teams.

Nobel laureate’s position in formation of societies

The confraternity device in Nigeria used to be now not at all times so violent.

It used to be began long ago in 1952, all over the remaining years of British colonial rule, by means of a suite of younger idealistic males.

They incorporated Nobel literature laureate Wole Soyinka at Nigeria’s prestigious College of Ibadan in Oyo State in south-western Nigeria.

Wole Soyinka

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“At no time did I believe that anything else may degenerate”

The scholars named their confraternity the Nationwide Affiliation of Seadogs, or Pyrates, to revolt in opposition to notions of elitism by means of middle-class Nigerians.

The unique founders, referred to as the Magnificent Seven, have been dedicated to the pirate theme. They used to even fake to be pirates, dressed in bandanas and sporting cutlasses.

“We have been having amusing with a social orientation,” Soyinka instructed the BBC.

He described the existing confraternities as “vile, evil teams”.

“I by no means imagined that any university-based workforce may if truth be told undertake a mafia taste, which concerned manhood checks like raping, theft, hands, homicide, kidnapping.

“At no time did I believe that anything else may degenerate. And why did it degenerate? As an alternative of those children being handled because the criminals they have been, they have been being secure by means of their oldsters and their members of the family,” he mentioned.

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A tender Wole Soyinka as a lecturer on the College of Ibadan within the 1960s

The Pyrates, of which Soyinka remains to be a member, now exist as a gaggle devoted to “humanitarian and charitable endeavours”.

It now not recruits scholars, and its management took it off campuses in 1984 with a view to distance the Pyrates from violence.

How the societies changed into violent

A cut up within the Pyrates within the overdue 1960s had ended in breakaway scholars beginning the Buccaneers, and different societies.

Petty rivalries evolved between them as they jostled for status, energy, girls and get right of entry to to deprave politicians who started hiring cult participants to unharness violence in opposition to warring parties.

Some teams are extra violent than others and now not all participants are enthusiastic about crime. However, all of them strike worry within the hearts of Nigerians.


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The Black Awl are a number of the maximum infamous. They emerged within the 1970s and have been at the beginning referred to as the Neo Black Motion. Its founders mentioned the gang’s intention used to be to “unencumber” the black race.

However at universities, the gang now not appears to be pushed by means of any political ideology.

As an alternative, Black Awl participants are accused of a large number of killings and sexual assaults.

Army accused of investment cults

In 1999 they killed 5 participants of the coed union at Obafemi Awolowo College within the historic town of Ile-Ife in Osun State.

Black Awl participants have additionally been sufferers of brutal violence.

On the College of Port Harcourt within the mid-1990s, a cult chief used to be decapitated and his bloodied head used to be held on a pole on the college’s front as an indication of triumph.

Cult violence on campuses has lowered in recent times. It used to be at its worse within the 1980s and 1990s when Nigeria witnessed a large number of coups.

The army used to be again and again accused of investment and arming confraternities to assault and suppress the coed protest motion challenging democracy.

Omoyele Sowore

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They stabbed me within the head, left the knife there and stripped me bare”

Journalist Omoyele Sowore is aware of the teams neatly from that technology, when he used to be a scholar on the College in Lagos.

Cults have been inflicting havoc on campus and as president of the coed union he made up our minds to take them on.

It will turn out pricey.

“I virtually misplaced my existence,” Sowore instructed the BBC.

In March 1994, he used to be held at gunpoint and injected with an unknown substance.

“A number of of them pounced on me. They stabbed me within the head and left the knife there and stripped me bare,” Sowore mentioned.

He used to be later rescued by means of different scholars and brought to sanatorium.

  • Pay attention to Omoyele Sowore’s complete interview

Cults, medication and other folks trafficking

The actions of a few of these teams aren’t limited to Nigeria. The Eiye cult is accused of prison actions as a ways away as Europe.

Its participants have been amongst a gaggle of 23 arrested by means of police the Spanish area of Catalonia in 2015 for being a part of a global syndicate accused of trafficking other folks and narcotics (cocaine and marijuana) and forging passports.

The gang used to be additionally accused of facilitating the delivery of stolen crude oil into Europe.

  • The arena of Nigeria’s sex-trafficking ‘Air Lords’

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Gangsters recognized in the neighborhood as house boys function in maximum bus-stops and flyovers in Lagos

Hardly ever do participants depart a cult whilst nonetheless in college – those that dare to take action are assaulted or, in some circumstances, killed.

Some scholars have hand over their research to flee the grip of the cults.

Others stay lifelong participants in their cult. It supplies them with networking alternatives to get just right jobs and to get right of entry to energy.

In addition they fund the cults, whose participants in flip act as pimps. They hook them up with feminine scholars, once in a while for intercourse orgies involving politicians and businessmen.

Roland believes the cults be offering a false sense of safety, status and tool. Individuals are at all times at the edge, now not figuring out when a rival workforce will assault.

“Part the time you possibly can be afraid. It doesn’t matter what they [members] say, they’re at all times afraid,” he mentioned.

*Roland’s title has been modified for his personal coverage

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