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Okija: Anambra may return case file to police

Posted by John Ameh, Onitsha on 2005/07/14 | Views: 289 |

Okija: Anambra may return case file to police


There are strong indications that the Anambra State Government may return the case file on the 40 priests arrested in connection with Okija Shrines saga to the Police.

There are strong indications that the Anambra State Government may return the case file on the 40 priests arrested in connection with Okija Shrines saga to the Police.

Our correspondent gathered on Wednesday in Awka, that the plan was based on the suspicion that the seven-count charge against the priests may not stand up in court.

Highly placed sources in the state’s Ministry of Justice said the state lacked some relevant legal documents to make the suspects’ trial a fruitful exercise.

For this reason, the Commissioner of Justice and Attorney-General, Chief Udechukwu N. Udechukwu, is said to have directed that fresh charges be preferred against the priests.

When contacted by our correspondent, Udechu-kwu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, confirmed the story.

Men of the state Police Command, acting on a petition by a victim, raided the Ogwugwu-Akpu and the Ogwugwu-Isiula shrines in Okija in August 2004.

They recovered 21 human skulls, and 50 decomposing bodies.

By mid-September, 2004 over 85 human bodies had been recovered from the shrines, forcing the Force Headquarters in Abuja to take over the matter.

The arrested priests were consequently taken to Abuja along with eight registers, said to contain the names of the patrons of the shrines.

But in March 2005, the police, on completion of their investigations, granted bail to the suspects and transferred the case file to Udechukwu.

Our sources at the Ministry of Justice said that after studying the file for nearly five months, Udechukwu, came to the conclusion that it would be difficult to sustain the charges in court.

One of the sources said, “We are in a dilemma and there is going to be a serious difficulty sustaining this case on the facts of the charges the police established against the suspects.

“None of the charges can be sustained in court. This is the main problem the AG has been trying to sort out.”

The charges against the priests are:

*conspiring to commit felony by managing an unlawful society;

* assisting in the management of Ogwugwu-Apu and Ogwugwu-Isiula, which are unlawful societies;

*conspiring to be members of the shrines;

*committing trial by ordeal of one Onyeakachi Ikwa which led to his death;

* conducting trial by ordeal;

*offering indignity to 85 human corpses without lawful justification; and

* keeping 20 human skulls in their possession.

Some of the charges, especially counts one to three, are said to have been knocked off by the provisions of Section 98 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code, Laws of Anambra State, 1991.

The section states that the power to declare any association in the state unlawful lies in the hands of the governor of the state. After such a declaration, a government notice affirming that the association or society is illegal must follow it.

A source said, “In the case of Ogwugwu-Apu and Ogwugwu-Isiula, there was no such government statement prior to the raids in 2004. It was the raids that brought out all these revelations.

“If there was no such statement, it cannot be made in retrospect because government wants to prosecute the Okija priests. It is a difficult case”

When contacted Udechukwu, attributed the delay in prosecuting the priests to “inaccuracies and problem of sustaining the facts of the charges in court.”

The Punch, Thursday, July 14, 2005

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.