By Longtong Ibrahim
Akure (Nigeria) – Ondo State Government says it has unraveled the cause of mysterious death that occurred in the State last week, which killed 28 people.
The State Commissioner for Health, Dayo Adeyanju, disclosed that Ethanol poison was discovered in the systems of the victims after a post-mortem was carried out on them.
Adeyanju added that preliminary report also revealed that the disease was neither epidemic nor contagious, pointing out that, “Our investigations have also revealed that the victims, who were all Okada riders, gathered at some local joints to consume alcoholic substance mixed with roots and some other local herbs on the eve of the outbreak of the disease.
“I can assure you that the disease is in no way contagious. The fact that none of the caregivers has contracted the disease has greatly underscored this point.
“Therefore, the fear of spread does not arise and should be discouraged. We strongly suspect ethanol poison, and in view of this, we have ordered for another toxicology test for surviving victims.”
The commissioner explained that there had been no report of new cases in the last three days, saying that 23 people were affected in all, out of which 18 had lost their lives; adding that five survivors who have gone blind had been referred to the University Teaching Hospital Ibadan for further examination.
Adeyanju who has a mixed feelings with what the traditionalists had said, says his job goes beyond explaining the god’s action as he was expected to back up his claims with available evidence.
He however said that the dead persons would be buried in body bags to curtail the spread of the disease.
Supporting the Commissioner’s claim, the spokesperson of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Gregory Haertl, said pesticide poisoning was the probable cause of the mysterious deaths.
He confirmed that the tests done so far had been negative for viral and bacterial infections; pointing out that the current theory was that the deaths were caused by weedkiller.
He tweeted: “Current hypothesis cause of the event is herbicides” and “Tests done so far are negative for viral and bacterial infection.”
Earlier, a Local Chief, Moses Enimade said the disease came as punishment for the “sacrilege” committed against Molokun, the local deity in the area, debunking the rumour that the deaths were caused by strange disease or Ebola virus.
No fewer than 28 people have died of severe headaches and blindness in the town recently without much explanation of the kind of disease.
In his theory, Enimade explained that some stubborn youth broke into the inner room of the Molokun shrine on April 15, which only the Chief Priest and High Chief Gboguron were qualified to enter – the youth made away with traditional items in a bid to acquire extra-ordinary powers and engage in money ritual.
“They were not qualified to enter the shrine. They had to face the death penalty. Even the Kabiesi himself is not permitted; sacrifice must be performed before they can enter.” he stressed.
He added that, he could not remember the last time Molokun or any other gods stroke in the area pointing out that every community has its own culture and traditions and what the youths faced was the judgment of the gods.
“Because these youths want to be rich at all costs, they entered the sacred place and made away with traditional items and 20 of them have died as a result of their desperate acts. We have to appease the gods or else many will still die and we have to bury them according to tradition. Their corpses belong to the gods and will be exhumed if buried by their families.”
“The death caused by Molokun is characterized by severe headache and blindness. He cited an example in the Bible in Proverbs 29:1 saying: `He that had been reproved and hardened his neck shall suddenly be destroyed without remedy; so youths of nowadays must be careful.”
Residents of the community appealed to the chief priest to make the necessary atonement to avert calamity in the town, saying the news of the deaths had given the town and state a bad image.