The Edo Civil Society Organisations (EDOCSO) has described as a false alarm, Edo State Police Command’s announcement that it has uncovered a ritual killers’ den in the state and recovered 20 bodies, including those of women and children.

The group, in a statement signed by its Interim Public Relations Officer, Leftist Aliyu Unweni, said: “It is now convenient to state that, the insinuation by the police that it is a ritualists’ den is hereby debunked and dismissed as a false alarm and an attempt to paint the good people of Edo in a bad light. This is not to say that the morgue may not be an illegal one or does not have the requisite permits to operate, which should be subjected to a thorough investigation by the police.”

According to the group, following the breaking of the news of the discovery by the police on social media, it had become worried, recalling that issue of ritualism was not known among Edo State citizens.

Wondering why the police did not carry out a proper investigation before rushing to the media to raise a false alarm, the group said: “Immediately the news got to us, we quickly dispatched a team of investigators to unravel the true situation of the matter and report accordingly for a follow-up.”

The group’s preliminary investigation discovered that: “The said building where the mummified corpses were found is not a ritualists’ den but a newly built morgue to house evacuated corpses from an old facility because the operator had been given a quit notice there. The operational name of the morgue is St. Gabriel Funeral Home with other offices at No. 24, Ist Federal Road, Benin City. It has branches in Anambra state, Ebonyi state, Murtala Mohammed way, and Ist East Circular Road where the corpses were moved from. The shrine discovered was said to be a traditional form of worship by the proprietor as spiritual protection for himself and the business.”

The group further stated: “The police didn’t investigate before addressing the media thereby raising an alarm of a ritualists’ shrine. At the time of putting this report together, the police had not visited other branches of the morgue in different parts of the city. The videos of corpses in circulation revealed that some of the corpses had name tags and medical equipment was visible as well in the building. Further interview with one of the morgue personnel in another of their branch office revealed that there is a register of all the corpses in the facility and that some of the owners have started to call to take away their deposited corpses. Our team of investigators was denied access to the morgue by members of the vigilance group that have been stationed there.”

The group maintained that the incident should a clarion call to journalists, to launch an investigation into issues by engaging the proprietor and the arrested workers to ascertain the true position before broadcasting, rather than taking everything the police said, hook, line, and sinker.

“This falls below what is expected of investigative journalism and the doctrine of hearing the other side of a story. How the news hit the airspace would make one believe it is a case of who plays the piper dictates the tone. The game needs to be stepped up. This development had shown that Edo State Government lacked its own intelligence gathering mechanism to filter stories as it was seen sharing the same misinformation from the police to the de-marketing of the state and her people to the outside world. Edo state government should have been seen mitigating against the spread of such negative stories from the state, instead, it was a major promoter of it. This is disappointing, to say the least. We want to reiterate again that Edo state is peaceful, loving, and most accommodating in the whole of Nigeria. They are not known for human rituals historically. The state is open for visitation and business opportunities. Citizens can move any time of the day without fear of the unknown. We await the outcome of the police investigation on the subject matter, and we believe it will be bold enough to put the record straight by stating the true position of the issues. Going forward, the police authority should always carry out an investigation before engaging the media. Crimes are not fought with media propaganda,” said the group.

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