The Nigerian Navy says it has arrested four suspected members of a notorious cult group, Debam, said to have been robbing sea travellers of their valuables.
Cdr. Ikenna Okoloagu, the Base Operation Officer, Nigerian Navy Ship Pathfinder, Port Harcourt, paraded the four suspected cultists to newsmen on Thursday.
He said the suspects were arrested by a naval patrol team deployed to end killings and other criminal activities in its host community of Rumuolumeni.
Okoloagu said: “This decision to heighten our security patrol follows the recent spate of reported killings in Rumuolumeni community and other forms criminality in the state.
“The patrol team was tasked with the responsibility to ensure a safe, secure and peaceful atmosphere within the state.
“So, in the course of the patrols, on August 8 at about 0845 hours, the base patrol element arrested four suspected sea robbers and members of the dreaded Debam cult group.”
The officer said that the suspects were apprehended at their hideout at Iwofe waterfront with a locally made pistol and four live cartridges found in their possession.
He said: “Additionally, controlled and banned substances such as cannabis (Indian hemp) and tramadol were found in their possession.
“The suspects were immediately brought in for questioning and they later confessed to being members of the Debam cult group.
“They are hereby being handed over to the police.”
Okoloagu said the hand over to the police was done in line with the Harmonised Standard Operating Procedures that spelled out roles for security agencies in combating illegalities in the oil and gas sector.
Speaking, one of the suspects, who admitted to the crime and pleaded for leniency, said that he was recruited into Debam cult by a friend when he was 19 years.
The suspect said: “I joined the group when I was in my Senior Secondary Three level at Community Secondary School, Rumuolumeni, in 2015.
“Immediately, I joined Debam, I started saving money and later bought the gun (locally made pistol) for N15,000 for my protection.
“The gun is mine but I have not shot or killed anybody with it.”
Lekum claimed they worked for an unnamed chairman of the National Union of Iwofe who directed them to collect levies from those engaging in illegal oil bunkering in the area.