Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State has signed the Secret (Cult), Societies and Similar Activities Prohibition Amendment Law 2018 as part of the policies to stem cult activities in the state.
The new law makes it mandatory for offenders to be jailed upon conviction for not less than 20 years, without any option of fine.
Appending his signature on the amended law in Government House , Dickson noted with serious concern the rise in cult and other related activities in the state, especially in Yenagoa and its environs.
He said that with the amendment, the law enforcement agencies have been empowered to deal decisively with suspected cult members and their sponsors.
He explained that the amendment to the law, which had existed since May, 2012, was necessitated by the urgent need to check the rise in cult activities among youths.
He said the amendment was necessary to give the law enforcement agencies more powers to proactively protect lives and property as well as safeguard the future of the state.
The law also empowers the Police and other law enforcement agencies to conduct search on the homes of suspected cultists and sponsors, even without warrant; while buildings and premises used for cult activities, initiations as well as the storage of arms and dangerous weapons will be forfeited to the government.
The law also empowers the state government to destroy such buildings and premises without any compensation to owners.
The governor called on landlords and property owners not to allow criminals and cultists to turn their property into centres of crime and criminality.
He urged Bayelsans to report all suspicious and cult-related activities to the appropriate authorities.
Other provisions of the law stipulate that the Police can arrest any person they suspect of involvement in cult and other related activities without a warrant, conduct stop-and-search on motor vehicles, tricycle, boat or any place suspected to be used for cult and its related activities.
It also allows for the arrest of the occupier of the house or where cult activities are suspected to have taken place or about to be held.
Dickson said, “As a government, we cannot allow this ugly trend of events to continue unabated.
“A situation where children below 15, 16, 17 and a majority of our youth population are members of one dangerous cult group or society, where they carry guns and other dangerous weapons and shoot, maim, kill and create insecurity in parts of the state is totally unacceptable.
“As a responsible government, we must put an end to this and it has to be now.’’
Responding, the Bayelsa State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Don Awunah, said the new law put the state on the front line in the fight against cultism and cult-related activities in the country.
With the amendments, Awunah said, the Police now have the comprehensive powers to confront crime and criminality head-on, stressing that most crimes in the state are cult-related.