AWKA— It was a gory sight yesterday in Awka after the Anambra State Police Command raided some shrines in Okija in Ihiala local government area where they recovered 20 human skulls and one fresh dead body in a coffin. Thirty suspects were also arrested including the priests of two of the shrines.
The raided shrines included the dreaded Ogwugwu Isiula. The State Police Commissioner, Mr Felix Ogbaudu, who personally visited some of the shrines located in thick forests, said he counted about 50 corpses, some still fresh and headless. Displaying the 20 skulls and the dead body as well as the arrested suspects, Ogbaudu described what he saw as “a sorry sight,” saying he never believed that such a thing could happen in the 21st century.
Vanguard learnt that the chief priest of the dreaded shrine (Ogwugwu Isiula) (name withheld), whose son is one of the prime suspects, was not arrested on account of age.
He is said to be over 100 years old. The state Police headquarters was besieged by hundreds of people who went to catch a glimpse of the human skulls and the fresh dead body as well as the 30 suspects. The operation led by the Commander of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in the state, Mr. Gabriel Haruna, began on Monday.
Though the priest of one of the shrines claimed that the skulls and the dead bodies were deposited by their owners because they were killed by the shrine by which name they swore to an oath, a native of Okija who tipped off the police, said the people were actually killed by the priests. He alleged that the priests killed their victims through what he called isusu and then ate them. He said the practice had existed for years but nobody was courageous enough to expose the perpetrators. He said he, however, took an oath with one of the priests for him to be able to penetrate the cult and have a first hand knowledge of their mode of operation.
Briefing journalists after parading the suspects, Police Commissioner Ogbaudu said what he and his men saw at the shrines was shocking. He said: “On Monday this week, I had information that some ritual killings were going on in Okija. Based on that information, the SARS raided the place. Later onMonday, two gentlemen came to my office with a letter from the office of Inspector-General of Police.
“The letter was a complaint about the ritual killings. The complainant was a native of Okija. I told him that I had planned to raid the place. Yesterday (Tuesday), they (his men) left with the man where they raided a number of shrines. The revelation was shocking. Over 20 human skulls, some fresh were discovered.
They also said that a number of the corpses were fresh. That caught my interest. I then decided to go and see things for myself. We left with my men in 10 vehicles. What I saw was a sorry sight. I did not believe that such a thing still happen in the 21st century.
We saw over 50 corpses in different stages of decomposition. People dying under questionable circumstances, they throw them into what I call evil forest. Some of the bodies did not decompose, they kept shrinking. We are all aware that Okija is notorious for this kind of evil shrines in Igboland.
“I went there today (yesterday) with my officers. Some could not go close for fear of what would happen to them. We saw all sorts of things, an extremely gory sight of human skulls and fresh dead bodies in different stages of decomposition.
What worries me is what will they be doing with human skulls even the fresh ones? We believe that some of the people declared missing maybe there. It may be a market for human parts. Thirty suspects were arrested, including two priests. The place is very big, the place is over- grown with thick forest. It is a set-up which has been bastardised. Over 50 corpses were seen. Many others could still be lying there because it is a thick forest and very difficult to penetrate.
“Our investigation has just started. It is going to be on-going because of the magnitude of our preliminary findings. Our investigation is murder. From what we saw there, it was evident that those people were killed,” the police commissioner said. The SARS commander also said that they had a register of those bodies. Meanwhile, the man who reported the matter to the police alleged that the body of the wealthy Ihiala businessman, Chief Victor Okafor alias Ezego, who died about four years ago was deposited in one of the shrines. He did not elaborate.