Bisi Olaniyi, Southsouth Bureau Chief
THE death toll from the rival cult war that seized Benin and its environs in Edo State on Friday has risen from 18 to 28.
Among the 10 new casualties was the Assistant Commissioner of Police (name withheld), who was shot during the exchange of gunfire between the rival cult groups.
The Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) died on Saturday at the intensive care unit of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH).
Two other policemen, both Inspectors, who were shot along with the ACP were still receiving treatment at UBTH. But hospital sources said they were on danger list.
The three policemen were said to have run into an ambush mounted by Aiye and Vikings cult groups while on a rescue mission in Upper Sokponba and Murtala Mohammed Way axes of Benin.
The death of the ACP was confirmed in confidence on the telephone yesterday evening by a senior police officer in the Edo Command.
The casualties of the cult war were said to have included innocent residents who were going about their normal business.
Our reporter gathered that policemen in the command were now receiving threat calls and messages from many of the fleeing 1,993 inmates who escaped on October 19 from the Maximum Correctional Centre (White House) on Sapele Road and the Mèdium Correctional Centre on Airport Road, both in Benin, during the #EndSARS protests that were hijacked by hoodlums.
The threat calls and messages were mostly for policemen who investigated and prosecuted the convictions of the escapees.
It was also learnt that the sudden increase in the volume of illegal arms and ammunition in the state was as a result of the looting and razing of seven police stations on October 19, with large cache of arms and ammunition now in the hands of criminals, mostly the fleeing suspects in the cells of the burnt police stations and the escapees of the two correctional centres who immediately returned to crime.
Yesterday, a medical practitioner, Dr. Maxwell Orosanye, who was attached to the Edo State Government-owned Central Hospital, Benin, was shot by gunmen suspected to be cultists.
He was still receiving treatment in an undisclosed hospital in Edo at press time.
Orosanye was shot near Mobil filling station on Siluko Road, Benin, while his Toyota Corolla saloon car was snatched at gunpoint.
Visits made to the hotspots of the cult war in Benin, especially Upper Sokponba, Siluko, Ibivwe, Uselu, Isihor, Iguosa and Ugbowo which hosts the Federal Government-owned University of Benin (UNIBEN) yesterday evening revealed that the residents were living in fear.
Read Also: ENDSARS protest: Group urges rapid police reform
They mostly remained indoors for fear that they could be hit by stray bullets.
Many of the cult members were said to have embarked on house to house search for their rivals without any challenge, in spite of the heavy deployment of soldiers in Benin and its environs.
Etinosa Osifo, father of one of the killed youths, said in an interview yesterday that two boys came to his house on Friday and invited his son for a brief discussion only to shoot him at close range and vanish from the scene.
Many of the cultists were still openly brandishing AK-47 rifles, machetes, battle axes, broken bottles, clubs and other dangerous weapons in broad daylight, shooting sporadically throughout the night and heightening tension in Benin and its environs.
Speaking on the telephone on Saturday, the Edo State Commissioner of Police, Babatunde Kokumo, said that officers and men of the command were working within existing limitations to restore normalcy to the state.
He assured that all the criminals would soon be arrested and prosecuted to serve as a deterrent to others.
Kokumo said: “Just imagine what it means that three police stations along Sokponba Road, Benin were destroyed and burnt, patrol vehicles were destroyed in many other parts of Edo State.
“All the officers and men in the burnt police stations now operate from the state police headquarters (in Government Reservation Area, GRA, Benin).
“The peaceful #EndSARS protests were hijacked by hoodlums. The protests took a violent turn in Edo State with inmates of the two correctional centres in Benin City set free. So, what do you expect?”