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Background of Study: Cultism is one of the major sources of violence and causes of death among youths in the Niger Delta region, Nigeria. Youths join different cult groups to have more influence and power than their peers. Supremacy of a particular cult group in a community gives its members edge to take control of proceeds and royalties accruing from crude oil production in the area. As a result, many cult groups are at conflict to assume dominance and control. This rivalry among them triggered inter and intra cult violence such as assassination, abduction, clashes, and destruction of properties as well as insecurity and upsurge in criminal activities.
Methods and Materials: This study examines the vulnerability of youths to community cultism in the Niger Delta. It looks at reasons joining cultism, crimes committed by cultists and extent of cult attacks and fatalities in the area. Adopting cross sectional research design, this study was conducted in the 20 Local Government Areas (LGAs) where amnesty was offered to cultists by government in 2016. The study population was the entire population of the repentant cultists (cultists who embraced the amnesty package) and Taro Yamene’s formula was used in selecting the sample size of 400. Snowball sampling technique was employed in selecting repentant cultists. Data relied on primary and secondary sources, and were analyzed using descriptive statistics such as frequencies, percentages, weighted means and choropleth maps.
Results: The highest reason youths engage in cultism in communities was for protection. Also, quest for influence/power, money and peer group were other reasons. Fun and desire for political connection were the least reasons. The major crimes committed by cultists were murder/killing, intimidation, kidnapping and political thuggery. Cult attacks were highest in 2018 with 109 cases and least in 2010 with 33 cases while fatalities peaked in 2017 with 92 deaths and lowered in 2010 with 13 deaths.
Conclusion: Youths are vulnerable to joining cult gangs for protection and to exert influence/power over their peers. Re-orientation and sensitization programs are recommended to disabuse their minds and discourage them from engaging in anti-social behaviors.
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