Posted by By GEOFFREY ANYANWU, Awka. on
An Ihiala Magistrate Court Tuesday dismissed the allegations of ritual killings brought against 38 Priests of Ogwugwu Okija Shrines, when it discharged and acquitted them for lack of sufficient evidence.
An Ihiala Magistrate Court Tuesday dismissed the allegations of ritual killings brought against 38 Priests of Ogwugwu Okija Shrines, when it discharged and acquitted them for lack of sufficient evidence. The 38 priests, with two others now deceased, were arrested exactly a year ago, when the police raided the dreaded shrines over allegations that ritual killings were taking place in the various shrines.
One Mr. Obed Igwe from Ubahu Okija had last August approached the police with information that the priests of the shrines were involved in ritual killings, leading to the Police Commissioner, Mr. Felix Ogbaudu, storming the place with his men, led by the then Commander of the Special Anti-Riot Squad, (SARS), Mr. Gabriel Haruna.
Igwe, who is also known as Lord Symbad, had last month raised another alarm that fresh corpses have again flooded the shrines.
But when the 38 priests were called up before Chief Magistrate, Lady Justina Anaukwu-Ohanehi, she read a letter from the State Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), stating that there was no sufficient evidence to prosecute the accused.
The letter dated August 4, 2005 with reference number DPP/AN/5/Vol.vi/79, stated that pursuant to the relevant sections of the Criminal Procedure Laws of Anambra State, the DPP could not find any section under which she could try the accused.
Signed by the DPP herself, Mrs. Ada Unobuagha, the letter reads, “In pursuant to Section 252 of the Criminal Procedure laws Cap. 37 Revised Laws of Anambra State of 1991, I am directed to inform you that the records of the proofs of evidence in respect of the above mentioned case does not in the opinion of the Honourable Attorney-General disclose sufficient evidence to sustain the charge of murder against all the accused persons mentioned on charge No: MIH/10C/2005”.
Chief Magistrate Anaukwu-Ohanehi, based on the letter, there and then discharged and acquitted the 38 suspects, who instantly beamed with smiles, and praised their God, while their relations ignited the entire court room with shouts of joy.
It would be recalled that the former Inspector-General of police, , Mr. Tarfa Balogun, had visited the Ogwugwu shrines at the heat of the discovery of dead bodies in the two major shrines of Ogwugwu, Isi Ula and a and promised to prosecute the priests of the shrines for murder.
Reacting to the development, counsel to the accused persons, Chief Emmanuel Egbunonu told journalists that the court’s decision was a triumph of truth, stressing “today is a day of rule of law, a day of justice over injustice”, adding that “the DPP actually told the whole world that there is nothing to sustain any prove of murder and now they are discharged.
“We are relived that at least there is rule of law. At least somebody can write an opinion. The magnitude of relief is unquantified”.
The lawyer however said he might encourage his clients to seek damages from the Federal Government for the destruction of their shrines.
In his own reaction, one of the freed accused persons, and Chief Priest of one of the shrines, Chief Osita Ndukwu thanked God and the government for finding them innocent of all the allegations.
Two of the suspects that died were the Chief Priest of Ogwugwu Isi Ula, Octogenarian Chief Edinmuo Ndukwu and Mr. Samuel Ebuodinma they died shortly after their release from detention in Abuja
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