More than 100 cult groups in Rivers are fueling violence which has led to the loss of numerous lives, according to a report by SB Morgan (SBM) Intelligence.
SBM said the report is based on four sources: the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, the Council for Foreign Relations’ Nigeria Security Tracker, newspapers, and SBM Intel’s own countrywide network of researchers.
The report traced the origin of cult groups in the state to formation of the Supreme Vikings Confraternity (SVC) also known as the Adventurers or the De Norsemen Club of Nigeria at the University of Port Harcourt in 1984.
It said cult groups have since expanded to different part of the state, causing both destruction to lives and the environment.
“In June 2016, two police officers and five other persons were killed in a cult clash between Icelanders and Greenlanders in Rumuji and Ovogo communities in Emohua local government area. In June 2017, 14 persons were killed in Sime community in Tai local government area of Rivers state in a cult clash between the Icelanders and the Greenlanders,” the report read.
“In April 2017, 12 persons were killed in a cult clash between Icelanders and members of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) in Andoni local government area.
“In January 2018, 7 persons were killed in a cult clash in Ajakaja community in Andoni local government area.
“In February 2018 in Omerelu community in Ikwerre local government area, five people were killed in a clash between rival cult groups, with four of the five beheaded. While in August of same year, a vigilante leader in Rumuolumeni in Obio/Akpor local government area was shot dead by suspected cultists.
“In May 2019, at least 10 persons were killed in an attack by members of the Iceland cult group on Kono-Boue in Khana local government area.
“In March 2020, 2 persons were killed in a cult clash between rival groups in Bera community of Gokana local government area. Also in May 2020, a vegetable seller and two others were killed in a clash between members of Iceland and Deebam in the Mile 3 axis of the state over the collection of levies from traders in the area.”
The study identified two causes of the spread of cult group in Rivers, adding that solution lies in the reversal of “legitimacy” granted to cult operations, as well as a review of the socio-economic impacts.
“However, there are two other crucial ingredients which makes the problem become all permeating and near intractable. First, the involvement of political patronage in gangs. This provides funding, as well as cover for impunity and some degrees of legitimacy for the gang leaders,” it read.
“We have seen this in Rivers state repeatedly as this report has shown. A second is a means of income for these gangs that is independent of the government – in Rivers, this is provided through oil bunkering and kidnapping.
“What is more important getting to the root cause of the problem – the socio-economic issues, the legitimacy issues that make communities turn to gangs in the first place, the justice issues and the myopia of political operatives who prefer to take the shortcut of gang violence to win elections.”
Paulinus Nsirim, the state commissioner for information, neither responded to calls nor replied text messages seeking his reaction to the report.