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Anambra Govt Reacts, Threatens Arrest, As Masquerades Take Over Awka Roads Ahead of Imo Awka, Harass Residents (Video)



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By Izunna Okafor, Awka

Many roads in Awka, the capital city of Anambra State, have been taken over by masquerades of different sizes and behaviours, who perambulate the city with eager and vigor.

This reporter, Izunna Okafor, who went round some roads in the capital city over the week, observed that some places roads like Zik’s Avenue, Eke Awka Market, Obinagu Road, UNIZIK Junction, and others, were full of masquerades.

It was also observed that, while some of the masquerades were perambulating the streets alone, some others were accompanied by some persons.

This reporter also gathered that both the masquerades and all the people who accompanied them had canes of different lengths and sizes in their hands, with which they were gyrating around and somewhat entertaining the passersby through flogging of themselves.

More notoriously, these masquerades and their followers were seen harassing and intimidating some passer-sby, the market men and women, private and commercial drivers, and other raod users, as they were sighted accosting, stopping, pestering, and aggressively making requests of money from them. At the height of it all, they were seen flogging and harassing anyone who refused to give them money, just for that reason of not giving them money.

This has not only slowed down human and vehicular movements in the said areas of the capital city, but has also caused fear and panic among the road users who are now afraid of passing through those areas, for the fear of being flogged, harassed or intimidated by masquerades or their followers. Even individuals with cane who have no masquerades with them still subject some passer-sby to the same ordeal.

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Further inquiries revealed that the the perambulation of the cane-wielding masquerades and individuals are parts of activities to signify and herald the arrival of the 2024 Imo Awka season, which is one of the major cultural festivals celebrated annually by Awka town, in reverence to their deity, Imo Awka.

When this reporter, Izunna Okafor, contacted him, the Anambra State Commissioner for Culture, Entertainment and Tourism, Mr. Don Onyenji, said it is unlawful for any masquerade to cause gridlock, intimidate or harass people in the cause of celebration or festival, and warned that the masquerades and other people involved in doing such should desist forthwith.

The Commissioner emphasized that the activities of the masquerades must adhere to the rule of law and respect the rights of residents, warning that any form of harassment, intimidation, or unlawful behaviour by the masquerades or their followers won’t be tolerated in the State, as the Governor Chukwuma Soludo’s government is known for upholding the rule of law and has zero tolerance for illegality.

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According to him, while the Soludo Administration acknowledges the preservation of cultural heritages and appreciates the significance of cultural festivals, like Imo Awka and others; such festivals should be conducted in a manner that portrays and showcases the true beauty of Igbo cultural heritage, rather than in a way that portrays it as bad or as an umbrella under which people would hide to harass, intimidate, or cause harm and distress to others.

Commissioner Onyenji, who said the state government is deploying some mechanism to monitor such activities, further warned that any masquerade or individual caught indulging in any such illegal and intolerable acts whether under the guise of cultural festival or not, would be arrested and legally dealt with.

While acknowledging the dignity accorded to masquerades in Igbo land, he also also called on community leaders and stakeholders in every community to step up in monitoring and checkmating the activities of the masquerades and their followers, to ensure they are within the ambits of the law, so that such dignity that goes with Igbo culture is not messed up out of youthful exuberance or by some bad eggs in their community.

Watch the video below:

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