A clash between traditional Oro worshipers and worshipers at the Truth and Spirit Prophetic Church has resulted in the death of a tailor, Akeem Adebisi, in the Oko-Oba area of Lagos State.
PUNCH Metro gathered that Akeem was performing the sacrament along with other Oro worshipers when they learned that church members were holding a vigil.
The Oro worshipers, upon approaching the prophetess, Mercy Okocha, and her church members, reportedly ordered them to stop the vigil, but they disagreed.
It was learned that the disagreement sparked an argument that escalated into a clash between the Oro traditionalists and church members who stood their ground on Tuesday.
During the clash, church members are said to have stoned Akeem to death, as several other individuals involved in the fight suffered varying degrees of injuries.
Our correspondent who visited the scene on Wednesday found that the church was deserted.
Property including fans, chairs and instruments in the church were dispersed.
Speaking to our correspondent, a resident, who referred to her name simply as Alhaja Sariyu, said that an announcement had been made for the Oro procession.
She said: “After the announcement, we went in very early only to wake up the next day to find there was anxiety everywhere.
“The Oro procession has been going on for years. So no one expected this particular one to be gory. Actually, the church has been there for almost five years.”
A trader in the area, who declined to give her name for security reasons, said the church led by Okocha liked to hold a vigil every day, adding that this “must be the reason why the confrontation took place”.
An eyewitness, Jamiu Issa, who took part in the procession, claimed that members of the church started a gang action against his colleagues on the way back.
Issa said: “We have our procession every August 22. Before we started our procession that evening, we saw some members of the church outside around 10 PM, and Akeem went to the woman (prophetess) to suspend their program and instruct its members to enter.
“So when we started at midnight, we saw them again and chased them into the church. Around 1am on the way back we saw them again and they started throwing rocks, bottles and coconuts at us.
“The prophetess asked her female members to enter, while she and the male members attacked us. They slapped a coconut on Akeem’s face; he collapsed and started bleeding on the spot.
“We rushed him to about three hospitals, but he was rejected. We were told that he had lost a lot of blood. He died around 4 a.m. on his way to Lagos University Teaching Hospital.”
Our correspondent also visited Akeem’s father, Wasiu Adebisi, who was distraught over his son’s death, said he learned of the attack at midnight.
The 62-year-old said: “Akeem is my first male child. He is the one who always announces the preparation of the Oro festival in the city. When the incident happened, his colleagues rushed to call me in the middle of the night, and when I got there I was told that they had hit his head with a coconut.
“Had they thrown it at him from a distance, the impact wouldn’t have been so great. It looked like they were holding him and breaking the coconut on his head. I couldn’t bear the sight of him when I got there, I came just got home while his colleagues took him to the hospital, it was in the morning they told me he died.”
The Baale of Gbirinmi, Oko Oba, Razaq Alawode condemned the attack but demanded justice for the deceased victim and added that the police had been invited to restore normalcy in the community.
“Even when the police came to arrest her, they were afraid to enter the church. I was the one who led them into the church where we found strange spiritual objects. We want the police to ensure that justice is served,” Alawode said.
Attempts by our correspondents to speak to a member of the Church failed.
State police public relations officer SP Benjamin Hundeyin said the prophetess was arrested along with nine members of the Church in connection with Akeem’s death.
“The prophetess, Mercy Okocha, 50, and nine other members of the Church have been arrested. The body was deposited in a morgue for autopsy. An investigation is underway,” Hundeyin said.
However, in his comment, Professor Kabiru Paramole, professor in the Religion and Peace Studies Department of Lagos State University, told one of our correspondents that the incident was avoidable.
He regretted that the clash took place even though both religious groups were pursuing a common good for society.
Paramole said, “Religiously, what they believed the Oro people were doing was nothing but religion. They were religious because they wanted to fortify their city against various calamities, pains and negativity in the society.
“The Christians also kept a vigil to achieve the same goal as the Oro worshippers. I am sure that before an Oro comes out, especially in Lagos State, the news is always everywhere; everyone should stay indoors.
“I don’t know if the same kind of news was going around the city this time. If the news really got around and the Christians were still keeping their vigils, for me as a scholar of religious studies, that’s a wrong step the Christians took because they knew people could come to where they were keeping the vigils. In cases like this, a collision would be expected.”
However, Paramole said the clash would have been avoided if Oro worshipers and church members had explored the option of peaceful engagement.