Ritualists’ den: Police arrest 10 suspects, say morgue operator not licensed, building not certified
Edo gives mortuary operators September 30 deadline for registration
Edo State Police Command has arrested and interrogated 10 suspects in connection with the discovery of ritualists’ den along Ekenwan Road axis of Benin City.
The state’s Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Investigations, Olawore Oluwole, disclosed this yesterday during a media briefing organised by Edo State government and the state’s Police Command, to provide an update on the latest development on alleged ritual activities in the state.
Oluwole said investigation by the Command to unravel the true situation of the matter revealed that the morgue operator, Gabriel Chukwu Otu, was not a certified mortician.
He noted that during the investigation, the police interfaced with medical personnel, lawyers, members of the public, representatives of Benin Traditional Council (BTC), families of those who deposited corpses and pathologists.
The DCP said the situation was a case of alleged ritual act practice, adding: “The prime suspect Gabriel Chukwu Otu is with the police and has made a statement. Investigations revealed that Otu did not acquire formal training but only worked at different mortuaries as a mortuary attendant.
“Otu had no certificate to practise as a mortician or any certification from the traditional board, as well as the ministries of health and environment. The building used is not certified by the Ministry of Health or Environment.
“In the course of investigations, two suspects, Yusuf Lawal and Victor Obeche were discovered to be scavengers and passers-by. 23 mummified bodies and one dismembered body without a skull suggested an unlawful possession.
“A person said his mother was among the mummified bodies while another said his mother and child were reported missing in February this year, and would like to see the corpses to lay claim to them.
“In the course of our investigation, no fresh corpse was found, but some shrines were found at the premises of the alleged ritual den. The shrine with the dismembered body at the site connotes a message.”
Calling for calm among residents, Oluwole said: “I want to appeal to Edo people to remain calm while investigation into the incident continues.”
On her part, the Edo State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Obehi Akoria, said: “The Edo State Ministry of Health is using this opportunity to reach out to all persons who own or operate mortuaries or embalmment homes to come to the Directorate of Regulation and Monitoring at the Ministry of Health with evidence of due registration latest by September 30, 2022, if they are duly registered.
“However, for those who are not duly registered, we are giving them till the close of business on September 9, 2022, to come to the Ministry to get from us the basic requirements for the operation of mortuaries and embalmment homes in the state.”