A chief priest in the Okonko cult, Chief Emenike Umogariko, is accused of killing a political science graduate student from Nigeria’s Abia State University and seriously injuring two other persons, according to Nigeria’s Daily Sun newspaper.
The victim, Ekenna Sunday Ugochukwu, died after being attacked with a machete when the chief priest apparently was angered by a judgment that he must sacrifice a goat and serve it to members of his village.
Iheanyichukwu Nwokoro, a friend of the victim, told the Daily Sun. “We rushed him to Tochi Hospital in Uzuakoli, where doctors rejected him, saying that his case was beyond them and referred him to Federal Medical Hospital. But before we could take him to the Federal Medical Centre, he died.”
Two other victims allegedly attacked by the Okonko cult’s chief priest were in the Intensive Care Unit of the Federal Medical Hospital.
The Okonko cult is described as an all-male society that venerates the leopard as a deity. Members are prohibited from talking about the cult to women or non-members who are not initiates.
The alleged incident took place in the village of Umuopara. The Sun reported that in conjunction with an annual feast, the Okonko priest had been found guilty of an unspecified offense for which the fine was a goat.
“The goat must be slaughtered the same night and eaten,” reported the Sun.
Villagers gathered for the midnight ritual at a public meeting hall.
“Little did they know that the chief priest had sneaked out of the hall, gone to his house and taken his cutlass,” reported the Sun:
He hid the weapon under his flowing cult gown and sat in the darkest corner of the hall. He thereafter beckoned on one of those deliberating, but the man refused to go, insisting that if the priest had anything to say, he should come out and say it.”
As the chief priest delayed leaving the dark area, many of those in the hall were already dozing off when, Umogariko allegedly stood up, moved close to where the victim slept.
He drew his cutlass and dealt a deadly blow on Ugochukwu, who shouted and rushed out with the fatal wound.
The chief priest attacked a second person and a third, waving his cutlass and daring anyone to come close. Everyone took to his heels in fear, while he escaped into the bush.
When Daily Sun visited Umuopara village, the female goat which was seized by members of the cult, which probably sparked off the trouble, was still tied inside the Okonko’s house.
The Daily Sun reported that angry youths “razed down the house of the chief priest. They apprehended and dragged him to Uzuakoli Police Station.”
The deceased student’s family members speculated that a cult ritual may have been involved.
The Assistant Commissioner of Police, Micloth Joseph confirmed the incident, the Daily Sun reported. He reported the suspect was in police custody and that an investigation continues.