The Cross River State House of Assembly has commenced activities to amend the anti-cultism act which was passed into law on 12th April, 2002 during the then administration of Mr. Donald Duke.
Christened Cross River State Public Order Prohibition Of Secret Cult And Offensive Weapons Bill 2019, the Members of the House today deliberated on several amendments to be made and chiefly amongst all was a death penalty for anyone convicted of cultism.
Sponsored by Rt. Hon. Joseph Bassey of Calabar South II and Deputy Speaker of the Assembly, the Bill which seeks to, not just define who is a member of a secret cult but to actually explain who is a cultist by, especially a way of conduct, also looks at stopping the countless killings of young Cross Riverians on campuses by cultists, as Rt. Hon. Joseph noted that cultism has become a top killer factor in the state, even more deadly than HIV/AIDS.
Contributing to the Bill, Hon. Elvert Ekom of Ikom II State Constituency who argued that it was not enough for the bill to sentence cult culprits to few years imprisonment opined that a death penalty on one or two persons would deter the rest from the crime.
According to Hon. Ekom, the crimes of kidnapping, robbery and cultism have the same endpoint; that is, taking human life and as such, if one of it goes with a death penalty, then, the rest should also go with same.
Hon. Ekom went further to argue that when kidnappers seize a victim and a ransom is not paid, they often result to killing the victim. He said also that, likewise armed robbers; when they break into a home and there is nothing to rob, they kill the victim(s). Accordingly, Hon. Ekom, said same is applicable to cultists who by the end of the day, also kill.
It was against this backdrop that Hon. Ekom submitted that since kidnapping and robbery attract a death penalty, therefore, cultism should also attract a death penalty.
Contributing to the proposal, Rt. Hon. Efa Esua of Calabar Municipality Constituency held that the amendment should also attempt to decipher between cultism and murder. Efa, who wondered why someone will kill another in broad daylight and then it will be termed cultism submitted that it was outright murder and as such should be handled as such.
Rt. Hon. Okon Ephraim of Calabar South II Constituency, in his contribution said politicians who promote cultism during electioneery periods were part of the cult menance, noting that, for years now he barely stays out of his house beyond 6pm; howthat, he goes to bed quicker than usual because of the cruel activities of these said cultists as he throws his support for the proposed amendment.
Yakurr I Constituency representative, Rt. Hon. Nelson Ofem on his part advised that the new bill should also create an anti-cultism orientation unit where younger Cross Riverians would, on regular basis be spoken to, on why not to subscribe to joining secret cult.
Ofem went on to enjoin his colleagues to take the anti-cultism orientation to their respective constituencies even as he submitted that the new bill should incorporate ministry of health, environment, and others in this re-orientation plan as he affirmed that if many cultists had had good counsel, they might never have joined any cult group.
The Speaker of the Assembly, in his reaction said the bill, if successfully amended will be another milestone for the 9th Assembly, hence, assuring that all necessary efforts will be put in to ensuring the law was successfully amended.
The bill, after its second reading, was sent to the House Committee on Security, to be reported back to the House in three weeks.