Anambra government suspends Imoka Festival as Awka lunar year begins
Anambra State government, Sunday, announced the suspension of the most popular cultural festival of people of Awka, Anambra State capital, for this year, citing prevailing Federal Government’s curfew order, state government order on public gatherings, World Health Organisation (WHO) and Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) guidelines on preventing the spread of Covid-19.
The Secretary to the State Government, Professor Solo Chukwulobelu, in a statement also noted that, apart from the suspension of 2020 Egwu Imo Awka Cultural Festival, every other cultural festival in the state is affected.
Chukwulobelu, a professor, said: “The public, traditional rulers, presidents-general, custodians and organisers of such festivals are hereby put on notice that they will be held responsible should the festivals go ahead.
While saying “members of the public are hereby advised not to attend such festivals, and to stay at home, or go about their business observing Covid-19 guidelines previously issued by the Federal and state governments,” he directed security agencies to strictly enforce the suspension order.
The suspension of Imoka Festival came two weeks after the Awka community sighted the moon on April 28, this year, as a prelude to the commencement of the New Lunar Year Calendar (Iguaro), which begins with the Imoka Festival.
The event to mark the announcement of the New lunar Year Calendar held on Oye Market day, April 18, this year when the Chief Priest of the Earth deity, Chief Patrick Nkwokie Nweke, the Akadiana-Awka from Okperi Village, Awka, exercised, in the presence of traditionalists and select members of the community, the prerogative of performing the rituals pertaining to moon and fixing April 28, this year, when to sight the new moon that would herald New lunar year.
Nweke told The Guardian that it is during the Iguaro that Awka determines its 13 months and fixes matching feasts/festivals, observing that, “December is the last of the year in the Gregorian or English Calendar while the last Awka lunar month falls in April.”He explained the new moon counting method, saying: “Counting of the lunar moon is so easy for the chief priest.
“Each moon phase lasts 27 or 28 days or seven lunar weeks in a cycle before you get a new moon (new month). “The appearance of the moon on April 27 or 28, this year heralds the coming of the feast or festival of Imoka, which is the first lunar moon in Awka lunar Calendar.”
Investigation by The Guardian showed that the announcement by the government came in the wake of cane-wielding Awka youths who harassed and intimidated motorists and passers-by, forcing them to part with money or get flogged.