By Jethro Ibileke
No fewer than 20 persons have been killed in battle between cult gangs in Benin, following the degeneration of the security situation in the Edo State capital.
Three police operatives, including an assistant commissioner of police, who doubles as Benin Area Commander, were also victims of the gun-wielding cult members as they were shot around Upper Sakpoba area of the city while responding to a distress call.
The warring cult groups have literally taken control of about three local government areas, namely, Ikpoba Okha, Egor and Ovia North East, in the southern senatorial district of the state.
Areas such as Upper Sakpoba, 3rd Junction, Three House and St. Saviour, all in Ikpoba Okha local government area are under the control of rival cult groups suspected to be members of Black Axe and Eiye confraternities respectively.
The criminal cult gangs are also said to be in full control of areas like Medical Store Road, Textile Mill Road, and Ogida Quarters in Egor local government area, while Ugbowo, Isiohor and Oluku, in Ovia South local government area were also left out of the turf fight.
Taking advantage of the lax security situation as a result of destruction of police stations and patrol vehicles in the violence that trailed the EndSARs protests, the cult gangs now engaged in free-for-all unhindered fight, using dangerous weapons in broad day light, while residents scampered for safety.
In some occasions, the cult gangs engaged in robbery from one shop to another, following the absence of police operatives who have stayed off the streets since the #EndSARS protests.
It was believed that the security situation was further compounded by the escape of about 2000 inmates from two correctional centres in Benin where there jailbreaks during the violence which followed the EndSARS protest.
The Commissioner of Police in Edo, Johnson Babatunde Kokumo, had attributed the inability of the police to adequately respond to the degenerating security situation to the burning down of three police stations located along Sokponba Road many patrol vehicles in several other parts of the state capital in the violence.
He, however, said that his men were making frantic efforts to restore normalcy to the state.