By Tayo ABIOLA
Indigenes and residents of Ojah community in Akoko-Edo Local Government Area of Edo State are living in fear over the act of arson by youths in the area.
Irate youths burnt down the residence of the state Commissioner for Social Development and Gender, Christabel Ekwu, and attacked the palace of Olojah of Ojah, His Royal Highness, Oba D. S. Lawani over an age-long burial practice called the ‘sky burial’ which is said to be prescribed by a particular shrine in the community.
A resident, who pleaded anonymity, on Thursday disclosed that the burial involved corpses being left at the shrine or thrown into the hills around the community.
The resident stated that trouble started on Monday when a woman died and “after some findings, it was said that she was killed by the shrine, so the community wanted to give the woman the sky burial.
The source added, “However, the traditional ruler and the commissioner, who had called for the phasing out of this practice, were alleged to have invited security agencies to stop the sky burial for the woman.
“In the process, the youths clashed with the security agencies, attacked them with stones and the security agencies left.
In their anger, the youths attacked the palace of the traditional ruler, vandalized it and burnt his SUV parked in the compound while the residence of the commissioner was completely razed down.
“I wonder what would have happened if the security agencies did not leave the scene. There would have been bloodshed no doubt. No one knows what will happen as we are currently living in fear over the act of arson carried out by the youths.”
The Okpameri Traditional Rulers Association, in a statement, condemned the arson and called for peace, while a leader from the area and House of Assembly aspirant, Joy Akpaida, also urged the youths to sheath their swords.
The OKPATRA statement, signed by its Chairman and Secretary, His Royal Highness, Oba Sule Idaiye and Victor Arogunyo respectively reads, “The leadership of Okpameri Traditional Rulers Association condemned in its entirety the wanton destruction of the palace of the Olojah of Ojah, Oba Lawani and the burning down of his vehicle as a result of internal disagreement in the community that is easily reconcilable.’’
“In the same breath, we condemn the total burning down of the residence of the honourable Commissioner for Social Development and Gender Issues, Mrs Christabel Ekwu.
“While appreciating the proactive role and intervention of the Executive Chairman of Akoko-Edo Local Government, Tajudeen Alade, and the Chairman of Okpameri Descendant Union, Dr Kingsley Ekundayo, and his team for their respective peace moves, we crave the indulgence and understanding of all critical stakeholders of Ojah community to continue to maintain peace and harmony, while OKPATRA consults with the relevant stakeholders in the local government, including the Akoko-Edo Traditional Rulers Council to resolve all the contending issues with a view to finding a lasting solution as soon as it is practicable.”
When contacted on Thursday, the commissioner said she could only talk at a particular time while efforts to talk to the royal father yielded no result.