Mohammed DanMallam, the Edo Commissioner of Police (CP) has said that the command never authorised the arrest of the Chief Priest of Okhuaihe Shrine, Osarodion Usuanlele, the Ohen Nu Koni Evbuekoi of the Benin kingdom.
DanMallam made the clarification in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Benin.
NAN reports that the priest was arrested and detained in Benin by operatives of the police anti-cultism unit following a petition by a member of the banned Community Development Association (CDA).
The detention of the priest in Benin is viewed in the kingdom as a taboo, because it broke an age long tradition which prevented the Ohen N’ UKoni from entering Benin, the abode of the Oba.
The tradition was started in the 15th century by Oba Ewuare the Great.
The Okhuaihe Shrine is located at Evbuekoi in Uhunwode Local Government Area, and as part of the Oba’s coronation rites, the Chief Priest must have a symbolic wrestling with the Crown Prince.
After the wrestling match both of them would go opposite ways, never to see each other again once the Crown Prince becomes the Oba.
Uhunmwonde, where the chief priest resides, is more than 60 kilometres from Benin City.
Three dogs were said to have been slaughtered and other sacrifices carried out near the police headquarters before the Ohen N’ Ukoni was released. Other sacrifices are to follow later.
DanMallam said that it was a sad development that the indigenous people who were conversant with the traditions were the same people who tried to mess it up.
He noted that there was no justification for anyone to bring a man who had said that traditionally he was not expected to enter Benin City.
“Firstly, I did not authorise the arrest of the chief priest and nobody informed me until the traditional offence had been committed.
“Benin kingdom is one of the oldest kingdoms and we have high regards for the kingdom and will not allow anybody to come and mess the tradition up,” he said.
He said the command was looking into the matter, adding that he would ensure that those involved in the arrest of the chief priest do everything required to cleanse the land and appease the gods of the kingdom.
The CP said that the arrest must have been done by some “overzealous officers” in connivance with some members of the chief priest’s community to humiliate him.
He said that the police had no problem with the Benin kingdom, as the command holds the kingdom and the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, in high esteem.