We live in terrifying times for parents and families. Cultism ensures that is the case. With more children and young people slipping into its cringe-worthy claws with the resultant deleterious effects on the morals and safety of the society, the society faces a grave challenge indeed.
All over the country, children pushed by poverty, insecurity, peer pressure and weak parental control are easy preys to cultism. When its lure strikes ,they become pawns in its chess game of many vices.
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Cultists band together and perpetrate many horrific which often include rape defined by section 357 of the Criminal Code Act and punishable with life imprisonment under section 358, criminal intimidation, assault punishable with a one year prison term under section 351 of the Criminal Code Act and in extreme cases, culpable homicide punishable by death under section 319 of the Criminal Code Act.
It has become so widespread that it has seeped from neighbourhoods into schools like a cancerous pus; not just higher institutions, but secondary schools and even primary schools.
It is as much a psychological issue as it is a social one because one of the underlying reasons teenagers become members of such groups is fear: they fear the world if they do not belong so they crave the power that comes from belonging. Atimes, children and young people are coerced into belonging.
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The Law frowns heavily on all forms of cultism
Make no mistake about it.The law frowns heavily on all forms of cultism. The law exists to guarantee and ensure the peaceful existence of all people and by extension, the very survival of the society.
Cultism foundationally and conceptually threatens the very survival of the Nigerian society. This is because, if left unchecked ,it has the within its darkest resources the means of plunging Nigeria into chaos.
Recognizing this all too visible danger manifest everyday in the mayhem cultists unleash when they fight themselves or attack innocent Nigerians, the law proscribes and forbids all manner of cultism. Failure to heed this proscription is met with the severest penalties the law can prudently peddle.
Broadly, cultism can be defined as the practice of dark fraternity and solidarity by persons who come together to promote and practice extreme views and ideals which are often violent. At the very core of the kind of cultism the law frowns at is violence and the belief in it.
Cultism can also be defined as the practice or activities of a group of people who have extreme religious beliefs that are considered severe.
It is a social crime which is rampant within the school system. Cult groups are everywhere within the larger society.
At the very heart of cultism lies a violent repudiation of constituted authority and peace.
The Criminal Code Act, Nigeria`s premier criminal legislation does not expressly mention cultism. However, it loudly and resonantly criminalises unlawful societies.
At this juncture, it is important to point out that Nigeria`s apex legislation, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999(As Amended) vigorously protects the right to freedom of association and assembly inalienable from each Nigerian. Section 40 of the Constitution provides thus:
“Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests….
The constitution clearly guarantees the rights of Nigerians to freely associate and form associations. In other words, it protects the right to peaceful assembly, associations or societies.
So, the law does not frown at peaceful association or assembly. What it finds reprehensible is any unlawful assembly, association or society.
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Section 62 of the Criminal Code Act defines “Society and unlawful society” thus:
a. A society includes any combination of ten or more persons whether the society be known by any name or not.
b. A society is an unlawful society –
c. If formed for any of the following purposes –
d. Levying war or encouraging or assisting any person to levy war on the Government or the inhabitants of any part of Nigeria; or
e. Killing or injuring or encouraging the killing or injuring of any person; or
f. Destroying or injuring or encouraging the destruction or injuring of any property ;or
g. Subverting or promoting the subversion of the Government or of its officials ;or
h. Committing or inciting to acts of violence or intimidation
i. Interfering with, or resisting, or encouraging interference with or resistance to the administration of the law; or
j. Disturbing or encouraging the disturbance of peace and order in any part of Nigeria; or
k. If declared by an order of the President to be a society dangerous to the good government of Nigeria or of any part thereof
Section 64 of the Criminal Code Act provides that:
Any person who
a. A member of an unlawful society; or
b. Knowingly allows a meeting of an unlawful society, or of members of an unlawful society, to be held in any house ,building, or place belonging to, or occupied by, him or over which he has control is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for three.
There it is: 3 years. That is the punishment for cultism under the Criminal Code Act.
Not to be outdone, the Penal Code Act which covers the entire northern Nigeria considers what an unlawful society is in Sections 97A and 97B:
Section 97A defines an unlawful society thus:
“A society is an unlawful society if declared by an order of the President to be a society dangerous to the good government of the Federation of any part thereof.
Section 97B provides that:
“Whoever manages or is a member of an unlawful society shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years or with a fine or both.”
Thus, while the Criminal Code Act penalizes cultism with 3 years, the Penal Code Act slaps a seven-year jail term on cultism.
However, it is important to remember that when cultism spawns other crimes like it is always wont to, the law would punish those crimes with the requisite punishment.
For example, when a cultism related activity results in culpable homicide, the culprits will be punished with death as prescribed by Section 319 of the Criminal Code Act.
When cultism results in rape, the law would punish it with life imprisonment under Section 358 of the Criminal Code Act.
When cultism results in stealing, the law would punish it with three years imprisonment under Section 390 of the Criminal Code Act.
When cultism results in stealing with violence which would then be robbery or armed robbery as the circumstances will dictate, the law would either impose a sentence of death for armed robbery and a prison sentence of not less than 14 years for robbery.
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