Anambra: 4 Fresh Bodies, 10 More Skulls Found

Four fresh corpses and 10 more human skulls were discovered yesterday in the Okija shrine, Anam-bra State, where 50 corpses, 20 skulls were earlier discovered during a police raid on Wednesday.

Police sources who disclosed this last night also hinted that fresh raids would be conducted today in other shrines in the town located in Ihiala local government area of the state.

Nigerians were shocked yesterday with news of the discovery of 50 corpses in various stages of decomposition in a forest near Okija in a case reminiscent of the infamous Otokoto saga in Owerri, Imo State in 1996.

Police sources told THISDAY yesterday that residents of Okija community have started fleeing the village even as the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun, has directed that those who gave information that led to the discovery should be given money and necessary protection.

Thirty priests were arrested in the police raid according to the Anambra State Police Commis-sioner, Mr Felix Ogbaudu, who briefed journalists on the shock find.

Ogbaudu said he had on Monday received information that some kind of ritual killings were going on somewhere in Okija.

Based on that, he said he asked the officer in charge of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in the state, Mr Gabriel Haruna, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), to raise a team and storm the place.

But on Tuesday Ogbaudu said two gentlemen came with a complaint of alleged threat to their lives and that when he went through their protests, it revealed that they were from Okija and related to the same allegation of some idol worshippers allegedly engaged in ritual killings.

Then, the commissioner said on Wednesday, he and his men including the Assistant Com-missioner, Operations, Chief Superintendent Gabriel Haruna, and more than 80 other mobile policemen stormed the location of the deities in Okija.

The sight, he said, was very sordid and the revelation shocking; adding that 20 human skulls, 50 corpses at various stages of decomposition were found in the thick forest known as the Ogwugwu deity which he described as frightening and horrific.

Besides, about 10 registers of the dead who were thrown into the forest were recovered from the house of the 90 year old Chief Priest of the Ogwu-gwu Isiala, and Ogwugwu Akpu deities, Pa Charles Okolie Ndukwu.

The 20 skulls and one fairly decomposing body in a white coffin were displayed to newsmen at the command Wednesday. Mr Ogbaudu said the over 50 corpses he could count in the evil forest, some of which had either shrunk or had become mere skeletons were still there.

He said his investigations showed that idol worship had been with the people of Okija for ages and that the deities had existed among them for hundreds of years. He added that even if the intentions of their progenitors who founded the idols could be culturally noble, their successors are now abusing the process.

In Okija and environs, the commissioner said it was usually their belief that two quarreling camps go before the deity for arbitration and at the end the one presumed guilty dies within a period of one year. Then, the family of the dead invites the chief priests of the deities to come and remove the body of the dead to the evil forest.

He said the age-long practice which deferred to a local cult for arbitration in a dispute is being abused by their priests who now use it to kill, instil fear in the minds of the victims and extort money from them under the guise of performing the ritual of cleansing after death. He added that it is possible people were taken to the shrine and hypnotised.

While also harping on the need to mount public enlightenment and educate people on other ways of settling disputes in court instead of patronising the deities, Ogbaudu said the police would investigate the incident purely as a case of murder.

"From what we saw, it seems these people were killed, and if the priests of the deities were found culpable, they would be charged for murder. The priests kept registers of those who were brought there and if possible, they would be identified for the families to take them home.

"But the fear is that the families would not be willing to come. There will be a problem of identifying them, and there is also this problem of the fear already instilled in the people that the gods killed them. From what I saw at the locations, it is established in the customs of the people," he said.

One of the complainants who petitioned the police, Mr Chukwumezie Igwe, from Umuhu village in Okija told newsmen at the police command that the whole idea of the deities killing people is a ruse.

According to him, what the chief priests do is to prepare a charm called isusu which they mix with the name of a victim already written in a piece of paper and shoot a gun at it, a symbolism known as killing the spirit of the person they want to kill.

Thereafter, he said, their agents take the isusu and rob it either on the person's car or house door and if the person touches it, he dies within three months.

"No shrine kills, but human beings kill each other," he said. He disclosed that he decided to expose the repugnant practice because he was averse to the evil being a vegetarian and a member of the Hari Krishna sect. Today, he said, the chief priests and their followers use the deity to frighten people, defraud them of millions of naira, especially the rich and build magnificent mansions. He said the priests perpetrate their nefarious activities successfully by telling members of the victim's family that there was need for cleansing so that the deity will not wipe the entire family away, after which large sums of money is extorted for the alleged cleansing. THISDAY found that the corpse of a big time businessman from the state, Chief Victor Okafor a.k.a. Ezego who died about two years ago was deposited in the deity's forest with a name tag.