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Osun Osogbo Festival: Devotees ignore state govt’s warning on contaminated river, fill jars with water for healing therapies

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From Shakirudeen Bankole, Osogbo

CONTRARY to instruction from the Osun State Government advising people not to drink the contaminated water of Osun River, thousands of worshippers, priests, and devotees of the Osun Osogbo Sacred Deity were seen scooping the water into various containers for use during Friday’s finale of the annual festival.

The directive not to drink the water, according to the Osun State Governor, Gboyega Oyetola, was part of preventive measures adopted to prevent possible deaths or ill health from ingesting the contaminated water from the river, which Osun worshippers believe had magical healing properties.
Speaking to newsmen in Osogbo on Thursday, the state Commissioner for Health, Dr Rafiu Isamotu confessed that the water has been contaminated by mining activities. He said the government is taking several efforts to prevent outbreak of health maladies as a result of the contamination.
In December last year, a civil society organisation, Urban Alert, had alerted the world over the sacrilegious soiling of the UNESCO world Heritage Site by the activities of the Gold Miners scattered across Osogbo.

In its disclosure, the organisation said it had conducted an independent laboratory test on the water and it’s result revealed containment of mercury, lead, cyanide and other injurious elements that are poisonous to human health.

Speaking with CityVoice in Osogbo, the Executive Director of Urban Alert, Anthony Adejuwon, said: “Osun State and Nigeria is dealing with a possible mortality of over 100,000 people in the next five years if urgent steps are not taken.
“Besides discovering the contamination, we have also traced the source of the pollution to mining sites across Osogbo, particularly those large scale activities by the Chinese.”

Eight months after the shocking disclosure, the Osun state Government finally admitted the development, saying it is taking measures to avert the tragedy.

Isamotu said though the government cannot stop the grant finale of the international festival, the warning is important and must be adhered to.

“ We have approved Radio Jingles to sensitise the populace on the health hazard of drinking water from the Osun River due to contamination…” the commissioner said.

However, contrary to the instructions, Cityvoice Reporter who is covering the event, saw worshippers fetching the water in gallons and tanks for usage and for the benefit of other seekers of healing from the water.
Some of them who spoke with our reporter insisted that “the water at this time has transformed to a healing concoction, which would not harm but heal the devotees and worshipers.
“We are not afraid of the water. Our mother, Yeye Osun has been using this water to heal us. She will protect us as she has always done. So, we are not afraid,” one of the devotees, who identified herself as Ifayemi, said at the Grove.
Her sentiment was also re-echoed by the Baba Osa of Osogboland, Prince Osunyemi Ifarinu, who said “there is nothing to be afraid of when using the water.”