Okija Horror Shrines: 10 Registers of Victims Found

POLICE in Anambra State said they have so far recovered 10 registers from the Okija shrines and may soon publish the names and addresses of victims contained in the documents.

Also, faced with a court threat by lawyer to the custodians of the Ogwugwu Isuala and Akpu shrines over alleged destruction of the worship places raided last week, the state's police spokesman, Mr. Kolapo Shofoluwe yesterday denied that the shrines were destroyed by the police.

He said the police did no such thing, but merely stormed the sites to collect exhibits for possible prosecution of suspects arrested on the spot.

But, secretary-general of apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze, Col. Joe Achuzia (rtd) suggested that the corpses retrieved from the shrines be subjected to autopsy to determine the cause of death.

However, Bishop Ben Oruma of the Abuja Breakthrough Chapel yesterday stated that several pastors go to shrines to get powers for miracles.

Speaking with Daily Champion in his Amawbia office, in Awka, the state capital, Anambra police commissioner, Mr. Felix Ogbaudu, declined to disclose the number of victims in the 10 registers.

According to him, the registers contain names and addresses of the victims who are suspected to be among the corpses or skulls recovered and those yet to be recovered.

"The Special Anti-Robbery squad will continue to raid the area for some time and it is our desire to ensure that all those involved are brought to book; they will have to explain to us what they are doing with all those corpses and skulls. We may also publish the names in the registers that we recovered during the raid for identification," he stated.

The police boss countered the position of the Secretary-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Col. Joe Achuzia (rtd) that the police were portraying Ndigbo in bad light by the Okija raid, saying the scribe is entitled to his opinion.

The commissioner, who hails from Delta State, said: "We have not made Igbo look barbaric, it is only a few people that are staining the name of the Igbo by going into dirty and shameful rituals.

"Igbo are hard working and enterprising people. They have contributed to the socio-economic development of this country and they should not be seen as ritualists or fetish people," he added.

A competent police source yesterday explained that some senior police officers of Igbo extraction in the Anambra State Command adopted several measures to avoid being part of last Thursday's raid of the shrines as they were said to have expressed fear of a spiritual attack by the deities. However, large number of policemen among the rank and file were said to have participated.

The source, also revealed that the shrines treated all sorts of cases, for instance, the matter of a university Vice-Chancellor (VC) (name withheld) who was shortly before the raid summoned to one of the Okija shrines following a charge by a young man who alleged that the VC unjustly rusticated him from the university.

The VC had, according to the source, reported the case to the police which swiftly arrested the young man and later charged the matter to court.

The matter, the source added, is still pending in a magistrate's court in one of the state capitals in the South-East, with efforts by relations of the man to cause the VC to withdraw the case from court, failed repeatedly.

Meanwhile, counsel to the custodians of the Ogwugwu Isuala and Akpu shrines, Mr. Okechukwu Okani hinted of a court action against the police for pulling down the shrines.

The lawyer said it was illegal and improper for the police to play the role of the judiciary in the matter.

Okani who alleged that the police had burnt down the shrines, said since the matter was still being investigated, the police had no right to pronounce punishment on the accused by burning their shrines and property.

He said they are not contesting the arrests of suspects or culpability of the accused, but challenging the alleged defilement of the shrine.

But in a swift reaction, the PPRO, Mr. Shofoluwe denied that the police burnt the property of the priests.

Shofoluwe, who spoke on telephone with Daily Champion, added, "Oh! No. How can we burn the shrine?"

He said the police only collected exhibits from the shrine, adding "anyway, we've not got any summons in that regard."

Achuzia, who spoke to Daily Champion at the weekend, also insisted that the discoveries made in the Okija shrines by policemen last week had tended to portray Ndigbo in negative light, saying the ethnic group should not be highlighted as the only one that possesses shrines.

The police, according to him, should investigate to first find out what killed the persons whose corpses were recovered from the shrines.

"They have to first of all decide what killed the people. Was it by gunshot? Macheting? All these are ingredients of murder, but in this instance, the shrine killed the people.

"I am not saying that the shrine killing somebody is a good thing. Any kind of killing is bad, but from what I heard, the people that died went there on their own volition and decided to take an oath, that they are ready to die, if proved to be wrong," he said.

On the alleged demolition of the shrines by the police, Col. Achuzia stated that while he was not opposed to such, Ndigbo in the process should not be made out as the only tribe that have shrines.

"People demolishing shrines do that at their own risk. I don't care whether they demolish shrines or not; I don't have a shrine, and I am not interested. All I am saying is that they must not portray the Igbo as the only people that have shrines.

"Yorubas have shrines, the Hausa have shrines, the Fulani, Kanuri and Edo, all have shrines, Egbesu is a shrine, so what are they talking about?" he queried.

"I am against tagging the Igbo as the only people that have shrines and whose shrine is the only one that kills. If they must deal with shrines, they must do that within the context of Nigeria; it should be every ethnic group. Igbo should not be treated as scapegoats," he added.

Oruma, in his Sunday sermon, tagged: "Dynamics of the kingdom," decried the level of corruption and said the only way out was for "corruption to be first wiped out in the churches."

Coming down hard on the men of God whom he said are "manipulating and deceiving the people", Oruma warned that they would face God's judgement.

Insisting that true Christianity is about "holiness and absolute dependency on the power of Jesus," Bishop Oruma carpeted pastors said to "be going to shrines and seeking powers for miracles."

Oruma quoted copiously from the Bible and declared that "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Behold, old things are past away and all things are new."

The clergyman warned that unless the said pastors who use extraneous powers other than that of God, repented and stopped deceiving people, "they will burn in hell."

He lamented the spate of corruption in the churches and said there was a need for urgent repentance.

He said stealing, cheating, adultery and fornication are now rampant in the churches, adding that "in fact, more mobile phones are lost in churches than outside and we cover it up. This is the time of repentance."