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INSPECTOR-GENERAL of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun, on a fact-finding visit to the Ogwugwu Idigo shrine in Okija, Anambra State yesterday, said he could not believe what he saw, and vowed that the police would not allow any "barbaric deity" in this age.
AWKA- INSPECTOR-GENERAL of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun, on a fact-finding visit to the Ogwugwu Idigo shrine in Okija, Anambra State yesterday, said he could not believe what he saw, and vowed that the police would not allow any "barbaric deity" in this age.
But the chief priest of Ogwugwu Akpu, Okonkwo Chukwuleta, said he would continue to worship at the shrine, while the Okija community in Lagos tasked the police to publish immediately the names of the patrons of the shrine contained in the registers recovered by the police.
Mr. Balogun, speaking on his visit to the shrine, said: "I am particularly disturbed. I could not believe my eyes that this kind of thing still happens after 44 years of independence. But the good thing is that our laws have taken care of it. Sections 207 and 208 of the criminal code take care of possessing dead bodies. People who do this are members of secret cults. There are so many areas to criminalise the perpetrators. We have got a lot of registers. We will look into them and invite those involved. We will involve our forensic officers to see if there is anything that suggests the pattern of killing. Something terrible has happened. We will not only make the contents of the registers public, we will also make the report public after we have submitted the report to the government. Before, I did not believe but I have come and I have believed," Balogun said, at Ogwugwu Idigo shrine.
The Inspector-General also said the old chief priests of the shrines who were not arrested would not be spared if they were found culpable. "If the old men are involved, the long arm of the law does not respect age, but if they are innocent, the laws will protect them. Any system that kills human beings, any deity that authorises the killing of human beings is barbaric, to me the deities are barbaric. Therefore, any culture that kills is barbaric. We are not limiting our investigation to Okija. It is the concept that we are investigating and the concept will take us round. We will not allow any barbaric deity at this age. The perpetrators must face the law," Balogun said while thanking the complainant who gave the police information on the Okija shrines.
He asked public to volunteer more information to the police. "I must thank the informant for the information. I am particularly satisfied. I think that Nigerian government is doing everything to make sure that Nigeria does not belong to the third world. This is one of the steps," Balogun said.
Balogun visited three shrines- Ogwugwu Isiula, Ogwugwu Akpu and Ogwugwu Idigo- as well as the two thick forests littered with dead bodies. He expressed shock at the gory sight and vowed that the laws of the land must be visited on the perpetrators.
Meanwhile, the chief priest of Ogwugwu Akpu, Okonkwo Chukwuleta, vowed to continue to worship his shrine despite the raids on it. He said his shrine had never killed any person unjustly. He insisted that only those who went against the shrines were killed by the shrines. He claimed that those corpses at the forest were killed by the shrines including the wealthy Ihiala man, Ezego, but he said he could not say if Ezegoís body was deposited at the shrine.
The I-G was accompanied by a team of over 500 policemen including police commissioners, mobile policemen, members of the anti-robbery squad (SARS) and regular policemen. He had an audience with some Okija natives who gave their impression about the police raid. Balogunís visit attracted hundreds of Okija natives who came out to hail the police and their courage to uproot their dreaded shrines. Before the IGís arrival, the villages appeared deserted, but soon after the police team got there the people started coming out when they saw the police visiting the shrines. Some of the arrested suspects came with the police team.
Publish names of patrons -Okija community
Meanwhile, the Okija community in Lagos has asked the police to immediately publish the names of the patrons of the shrines, following police discovery of registers allegedly containing names of Nigerians who have patronised the shrines without delay.
Okija In-House Club, an organisation of prominent Okija natives, made the call during a visit to Vanguard Newspapers yesterday, noting that publishing the names in the registers would go a long way in resolving the matter.
Mr. I. Iheabunike, spokesperson for the organisation during the visit said: "We do not in any way condone the discovery in the shrines. We condemn the act without equivocation. The incident has put the entire town and its honest, respected, hardworking and law-abiding indigenes at home and in diaspora in a very bad light.
"We support a thorough investigation of all activities relating to and arising from these shrines so as to expose and punish all criminal acts therefrom without fear and favour. The police should, however, publish, without delay, all the registers found in these shrines unedited. This will help unearth the facts regarding who and where the actual patrons and promoters of these inglorious acts are," he said.
According to him, "we support governmentís proposal to acquire the lands harbouring these shrines in the hope that beneficial projects will quickly be sited there. What we see, however, is that a few criminal minded persons got themselves together because of the kind of business they do. Because their deals are illegal and they would not go to the police or the normal court, if there is a breach, so they resort to all this criminal activities.
"Okija is a predominantly Christian community, which also is home to a university and a seminary. But it does not mean that we do not have pockets of idol worshippers, just as we have them in other communities. Afer all, it is an African society. What has happened is not that we are idol worshippers, but that bad people took advantage of the whole thing to make money. It is an extension of 419. These people use religion to perpetuate their crime.
"If anyone in the guise of practising religion offends the laws of the land, he should be punished. It is the system that has encouraged that kind of thing, otherwise, how would you excuse that young people who should be using their mind for positive things are resorting to these kind of acts. It is the system that should be blamed, but it does not in any way mean that we support the act. We donít in any way," he added.