Femi Ogbonnikan in Abeokuta

In a landmark judgement, an Ogun State High Court has declared an imposition of curfew on the people of Ipokia Local Government Area communities for observing Oro festival at day time, declaring it as illegal.

The court sitting in Ipokia, in Ipokia Local Government Area also ruled that Oro festival or ritual could only be celebrated between 12 a.m. and 4 a.m. in subject to the approval of the state government and an undertaking to maintain peace and orderliness.

In his verdict on the suit filed by Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Muslim community in Ipokia against Oro worshippers, Justice Sikiru Owodunni ruled that Oro festival worshippers have no constitutional authority to impose curfew on residents of the communities within the purview of Ipokia Local Government Area-Ipokia, Idi-Iroko, Ihunbo, Ifonyintedo, Ogosa, Koko, Ilashe, Ibatefin, Agosasa, Oniru, Mede and Ajegunle and other villages in the area.

However, counsel to the applicants, Kayode Samson and David Folalu, had told the court that the respondents performed their Oro festival in the bush and in midnight, claiming that women and men who do not belong to the cult are not permitted to see the Oro deity.

The counsel further averred that the respondents began to extend the Oro celebration into the main part of the communities, therefore, declaring and imposing a daytime curfew.

“When the Oro festival is on, women and men who do not belong to the cult sect are compelled to stay indoors, while business centres, churches, mosques, MDAs, schools and other public places are also compelled to shut down, thereby depriving the applicants of their freedom of movements and lawful assembly,” Samson said.

In his verdict, the judge ordered a perpetual injunction, restraining the respondents, their privies, agents and cohorts from declaring or imposing a daytime curfew or in any other manner interfering with the fundamental human rights of the applicants to freedom of movements.

“It is hereby declared that Oro festival or ritual can only be celebrated in Ipokia, Idi-Iroko, Ihunbo, Ifonyintedo, Ogosa, Koko, Ilashe, Ibatefin, Agosasa, Oniru, Mede and Ajegunle and other villages between the hours of 12 midnight and 4 a.m. subject to the government’s approval and undertaking to maintain peace,” Justice Owodunni declared.