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Sunday, July 7, 2024

Must Know : July 7: What’s 7/7 and why is the day associated with violence?

Must Know : July 7: What’s 7/7 and why is the day associated with violence?

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July 7, or 7/7, as many would like to call it, is a unique date. However, for over two decades, this day has been associated with violence in many parts of Nigeria.

For many citizens, it may just be another day of the year, but for members of the Aiye Cult Group, also known as Black Axe, the day is generally acknowledged as the group’s annual ‘founder’s day’.

But if it were all about celebration, we wouldn’t be writing this explainer. 7/7 has gained notoriety as a day when members of rival cult groups in different parts of Nigeria choose to ‘settle scores’ with attacks and killings of rival members.

Here’s all you need to know about 7/7 and why it is linked to violence

Although details about the origin of the 7/7 celebration are sketchy, it is believed to be in celebration of the day the Black Axe cult group was founded by nine students of the University of Benin.

The Black Axe Confraternity, one of Nigeria’s most notorious and infamous cult groups with a long history of violence dating back more than three decades, was reportedly founded on July 7, 1977, on the UNIBEN campus as the Neo-Black Movement of Africa (NBM), a social organisation with the aim of combating oppression and promoting justice and equality among Nigerian students. However, the present-day NBM has repeatedly denied that the group was founded on July 7, claiming instead to have been registered as an organisation on February 24, 1994.

A report by the BBC ranked Black Axe as one of the world’s most notorious organized crime groups. The group has been indicted in various illegal activities, including cult clashes, armed robbery, drug trafficking, internet fraud, and political thuggery. These actions have resulted in significant social unrest, loss of lives, and a general sense of fear within Nigerian communities.

Over the years, members of the cult group have chosen July 7 as a special day to initiate new members, and there are also multiple reports of violent attacks credited to the group, especially on July 7.

This year, the Nigerian Police Force has alerted residents of different states regarding the planned celebration of AIYE Day or 7/7.

In Rivers State, which tops the list of reported cult activities in Nigeria, Grace Iringe-Koko, a spokesperson for the Rivers State Police Command, alerted higher institutions regarding the planned celebration.

“We estimate that the annual AIYE DAY celebration will likely be held in the cult group’s dens and strongholds, especially in tertiary campuses nationwide. Also, the ceremony may likely avail opportunities for counter-cult activities, inter-cult violence, and other associated violent crimes in and around tertiary institutions within Rivers State,” Iringe-Koko said.

Promising to ensure law and order and protect lives and properties, Iringe-Koko further advised higher institutions “to increase security measures and maintain strict supervision to ensure the safety and well-being of all students.”

Other states, including Anambra and Ekiti, have released similar statements warning residents about the 7/7 celebration.

However, while members of the AIYE group were preparing for this year’s celebration, the NBM leadership, in a statement on July 2, 2024, dissociated itself from the celebration, warning its members to be cautious and keep their distance from any assembly of such people claiming to be NBM members.

“July 7th (7/7) as acclaimed by the enemies of NBM of Africa founding date is false and not recognized by the Pan-Africanist group,” the statement reads in part.

Warning members to be mindful of the celebration, the group stated that “NBM of Africa has no relationship with Black Axe.”

Some Recorded Crimes on 7/7 Celebration in Nigeria

Some of the areas with a history of violence on 7/7 include Ikorodu and Somolu in Lagos, UNIBEN, some parts of Delta State, and Port-Harcourt in Rivers State.

On Thursday, July 6, 2023, three people were reportedly killed in a bloody rival cult war in the Shomolu-Bariga area of Lagos State. The violence has been linked to cult members preparing for the 7/7 celebration.

On July 7, 2021, six people were attacked in Delta State while Black Axe members were celebrating their founder’s day.

On July 7, 2016, eleven people were reportedly killed in Sagamu, Ogun State in an attack by suspected cult members celebrating 7/7.

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