Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Child witches of Nigeria

Mon, 09/03/2012 - 19:13 -- publisher

One of the myriads of challenges Nigeria is facing is witchcraft. No death occurs without being attributed to witchcraft. Even crimes such as armed robbery are said to be caused by it. People with debilitating terminal diseases, and even common cold would blame their relatives of causing such problems. In the last few years, 1,500 children have been accused in two of Nigerian States of witchcraft. Of these, around 1,000 have been killed, Child Right Campaigners have alleged. Sam Itauma of the Children's Rights Rehabilitation Network said that the most vulnerable of the children are the orphaned, sick and disabled.

One of the myriads of challenges Nigeria is facing is witchcraft.  No death occurs without being attributed to witchcraft. Even crimes such as armed robbery are said to be caused by it. People with debilitating terminal diseases, and even common cold would blame their relatives of causing such problems.  In the last few years, 1,500 children have been accused in two of Nigerian States of witchcraft.  Of these, around 1,000 have been killed, Child Right Campaigners have alleged. Sam Itauma of the Children's Rights Rehabilitation Network said that the most vulnerable of the children are the orphaned, sick and disabled.

The Churches in Nigeria, especially the Pentecostal churches, are accused by Children Rights campaigners of being active collaborators in abusing these children.

Helen Akpbio, a film maker and evangelist publicly linked to the child witch controversy in an interview with AP declared that witchcraft is real. She admits to performing non abusive exorcism for free.

Gary Foxcroft, the Programme Director of Stepping Stones Nigeria in a paper presented to the UNHCR explained that the belief in child witches in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria cuts across all facets of society including the literate and illiterate, the wealthy and the poor, the law enforcement agents, social welfare workers, law makers and leaders of churches.

According to him “such people believe that a mysterious, spiritual spell is given to a child through food and or drink. The child who eats this spell is then called out in the night where his/her soul will leave the body to be initiated in a gathering of witches and wizards. The initiated child will then have the spiritual power to cause widespread destruction such as murdering innocent people and causing diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria, hepatitis, typhoid and cancer. All accidents, drunkenness, divorce, smoking of marijuana, infertility and misfortunes are perceived o be the handiwork of these so-called witches”.

 The government of Akwa Ibom State has taken steps to arrest the situation. Several persons are said to have been arrested and even convicted.

It is however not certain whether the action of the state government alone would have any strong impact across the country. Stories of ritual killings by prominent persons for business and political success abound in Nigeria. In one of the states of North-Eastern Nigeria, shortly before the2007 elections, infants were snatched from their mothers in the hospital. It was said then that the politicians needed the innocent blood of these infants to succeed in elections. Reports of ritual killings usually increased during the electioneering periods. Mad women who sleep on the streets are raped by the rich and powerful. The story is also told of a university lecturer who was told by his witch doctor that he needed to bury a horse alive for Nigeria's former dictator Sani Abacha to retain him as a minister. All through the night, to the consternation of his wife and neighbours, he struggled with his friends to dig a hole and push the horse into the deep hole. They spent most of the night working the horse into its grave. By early the hours of the morning, they succeeded. However, two days later, when the cabinet shake up was conducted, he was dropped by the General.

Also at risk in Nigeria are albinos. They are also haunted and hunted in Kenya, Congo, and Tanzania. In the year 2005, three people were convicted in Nigeria for killing an albino for ritual purposes.

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