Nigeria’s Cults and their Role in the Niger Delta Insurgency

Eternal Fraternal Order of the Legion Consortium, National Association of Air Lords, others wage chaos

By Bestman Wellington

In Nigeria’s delta region, various militant groups continue to attack multinational energy interests by blowing up infrastructure, siphoning oil and gas from pipelines and kidnapping expatriate energy staff. Additionally, these groups often attack Nigerian security services. The origin of the militant groups in the delta today can partially be explained by the evolution of Nigeria’s cult groups, more generally known as confraternities. Nigerian confraternities were largely the precursor to many of the militant groups in the delta. While confraternities began in the country’s universities, these gangs eventually spread to the streets and creeks of the energy-rich delta region.

Most reports claim that the first manifestation of a campus confraternity (or campus cult) was in 1952. At that time, Wole Soyinka, Olumyiwa Awe, Raph Okpara, Aig-Imokhuede, Ben Egbuchie, Nathaniel Oyelola and Pius Oleghe (who were known as the “Magnificent Seven”) formed the Pyrates Confraternity at the University of Ibadan. The purpose of the confraternity was to combat societal ills and conformist degradation, which were being exhibited not only by students, but by society at large. According to the Pyrates, the first graduates of the University of Ibadan were elitist, as they were highly privileged since they were the first graduating class of Nigeria’s first university [1. Most of the university students adopted elitist behavior, imitating the dress of the colonialists and mimicking their culture. Wole Soyinka, who was code-named “Captain Blood,” together with his colleagues felt that the pretenses should be stopped. A notable incident that further provoked the Pyrates occurred after many privileged students organized a demonstration against the construction of a rail-line that was to be built across a road leading to their campus. The students were afraid that improved transportation access to the university would reduce its exclusivity. The Pyrates decided to fight what they believed to be elitist nonsense. They succeeded not only in ridiculing the students’ argument, but also accomplished the construction of the rail-line [2.

Membership in the Pyrates Confraternity was offered to intellectually promising men with no discrimination as to race, color or tribe. The majority of those who applied to join the Pyrates were not accepted. The activity of members was rigidly controlled and the group promoted non-violent dispute resolution. From 1953 to 1972, the Pyrates was the only confraternity on Nigerian campuses [3.The Emergence of Pseudo-Confraternities

In the early 1970s, several confraternities emerged. In 1972, a member of the Pyrates Confraternity, Dr. Bolaji Carew (code-named “Late Ahoy Rica Ricardo”), and other members were accused of not following the teachings of the confraternity and were unexpectedly expelled. As a result of this incident and other problems, the Pyrates pulled out of Nigeria’s universities. They then registered themselves in Nigeria under the name of the National Association of Seadogs (NAS). Carew later founded the Buccaneers Confraternity (also called the National Associations of Sea Lords). In the formation of the new confraternity, Carew took with him many elements of the Pyrates, including similar attire and symbols of the cult as well as its highly regimented and hierarchical structure (The Midweek Telegraph, August 10-16, 2005). The origin of confraternity violence dates back to Carew’s 1972 saga and the birth of the Buccaneers (The Midweek Telegraph, August 10-16, 2005).

After the Buccaneers, the Neo-Black Movement of Africa, also called Black Axe, was founded at the University of Benin in Edo state. After its creation, another confraternity, called the Supreme Eiye Confraternity, also known as the National Association of Air Lords, broke away from Black Axe. During this time, the splintered cult groups introduced a new dimension into confraternity tradition: before carrying out any activities, they would practice voodoo rituals.

Several notorious cult groups also came into being under the military rule of General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida. In 1983, the Eternal Fraternal Order of the Legion Consortium, also called the Klansmen Konfraternity (KK), was started by five students at the University of Calabar in Cross River state. In 1984, the Supreme Vikings Confraternity (SVC), also called the Adventurers or the De Norsemen Club of Nigeria, was founded by a former member of the Buccaneers [4.