DEATH PENALTY AS A MEANS OF CURBING CULTISM IN NIGERIA
Background of the Study
In defining cultism, Azelama, Alude and Imhonda (2000) noted that “cult is an assemblage of people united by certain ideals, or symbols and whose rites and ceremonies of veneration are unique and shrouded in mysteries with a secrecy that cannot be broken.” Maxey (2004) traces the meaning of cult from the Latin word ‘cultus’ which means ‘to worship or give reverence to a deity.’ Thus, in its original usage, it was simply applied to a religious worshipful group of people regardless of the object or person they venerated.
Furthermore, Rotimi (2005) cites the anthropological definition of ‘cult’ by Oxford Concise Dictionary of Sociology (1996) as ‘a set of practices and beliefs of a group in relation to a local god.’ The same dictionary gives a sociological definition of a cult as ‘a small group of religious activists whose beliefs are typically secret, esoteric and individualistic.’ Aguda (1997), Ogunbameru (1997) and the Free Encyclopedia (2006) define cult in a similar manner. Langone (1988) indicated that cult leaders have absolute control over the members of the movement and as such they use force to subdue them under their command. The author concluded that because cults tend to be leader centred, exploitative and harmful, they come into conflict with and threatened by the rational open and benevolent system of members’ families and society at large and that it is an exploitatively manipulative and abusive group in which members are induced to serve the group leader(s). From these accounts, it can be deduced that cults and cultism have certain elements in common. They are esoteric, shrouded in secrecy, usually made up of a small group of people with a charismatic leader, and may or may not be religious in nature. Section 318 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria defines a secret cult as any association, group or body of persons (whether registered or not) that uses secret signs, oaths, rite or symbols and which is formed to promote a course, the purpose or part of which is to foster, the interest of its members and to aid one another under any regard without due regard to merit, fairness or justice; whose oaths of secrecy and, the names and activities are held in secret.