Okija: Chief Priests Invoke Spirits Against Raiders - Ngige Denies Involvement

Chief priests of various shrines in the South-East said yesterday morning that those who raided the Ogwugwu Okija shrines should appease the deity or suffer impending doom.

They also kicked off a seven-day fast and one-hour a day incantation to protest the defilement of the Ogwugwu enclaves in Ihiala council area of Anambra State.

Also, the state government has denied claims that Gov. Chris Ngige was behind the raid on the shrines to cover up an alleged past involvement there, saying it was false.

The government instead said it is awaiting a police report at the end of its investigation.

Spokesman of the Anambra State chapter of the League of Chief Priests in the South-East, Chief Onuchukwu James Clark, told newsmen in Awka, that shrines are no hide-outs for evildoers, but places of worship of traditional religion, saying the present controversy over the Okija shrines was unnecessary.

The fasting and incantations would be simultaneous in all the shrines in the South-East, Clark said.

He alleged that Mr. Chukwuemezie Obed Igwe, who petitioned the police over the Okija shrines, runs the "Lord Symbad Temple at Amuwo-Odofin in Lagos State.

"He has a shrine in Lagos where he allegedly does all manner of things, yet, it doesn't mean that shrines are hide-out for evil doers; it's a place of peace and worship. If the police invite me, I will take them to his (Igwe's) house, he is not a born-again, he also worships Ogwugwu shrine," he alleged.

The chief priest said "let the police go to Lord Symbad Temple at Amuwo-Odofin in Lagos State and find out what he does there."

He urged those involved in the Ogwugwu Okija raid to immediately appease the goddess of Ogwugwu to avert impending doom.

Clark listed other shrines in Anambra State as Iyioji Odekpe of Ogbaru, Habba of Agulu, Ogwugwu Akpo Ozubulu, Edo Nnewi, saying that across the country such shrines exist even in greater abundance.

He said the shrines are altars where believers of the deities invoke spirits to fight for them.

Clark noted that traditional religion is not unconstitutional, contending that destruction of the Okija shrines is in breach of the freedom of worship by those who believe in the deities; but pointed out that ritual killing is not part of traditional religious practice.

Another Chief Priest, Chief Donatus Obiogbolu Abajui of Iheneri-Umuhu-Ihe shrine in Okija, told Daily Champion on telephone that his hands are clean of ritual accusations.

"My hands are clean and I must tell you that what the police did was injustice. Mine shrine is for the protection of the less privileged in the society. I stand for justice and that is all," he said.

Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the Anambra Governor, Mr. Fred Chukwuelobe, told Daily Champion that those behind the rumour that Gov. Ngige instigated the raid on the shrines were lying.

"We are aware that some enemies of the governor can go to any length to tarnish his image, including dragging his name into the Okija shrine debacle," Chukwuelobe said.

"But the governor is not bothered. He has made it clear that he never went into that shrine. When as an aspirant they forced him to go there, he refused to enter, he stayed in his car with his Bible and holy water in his hand," the aide stated.

He noted that "even as we speak, the governor doesn't know how the shrine looks like, all that they are saying is false, malicious and a calculated attempt to tarnish is good image."

"The governor is a Christian and had never and will never have anything to do with shrine. So, he didn't pay anybody to give information to the police regarding the shrine," he added.

On the feeling of the state government over such development in its domain, he stated that "the government is watching; the police is operating within the armpits of law. So, what government is expecting is report that will arise from the police investigation."