In a swift reaction to the news of the recent rescue of a boy who had been chained in a church in Ota, Ogun State by his father who is a pastor and denied food for over a month, three Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are calling on the government to urgently respond to the increasing rate of stigmatising and branding vulnerable children as witches.
In a statement issued in Lagos, the United Kingdom-based charity, Africans Unite Against
Child Abuse (AFRUCA) and Nigeria’s Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE) alongside the Humanist Association for Peace and Social Tolerance Advancement (HAPSTA), said it was time the Nigerian government showed that they meant business in putting an end to the prevalence and worrying trend of children being branded as witches who are then ostracised, tortured and some even killed in several parts of the country.
According to recent media reports, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) had on July 23, rescued a nine-year old boy, who was chained for weeks at the Celestial Church of Christ (Key of Joy Parish, Ajiwo) in Ado Odo/Ota Local Government Area of Ogun State. According to the NSCDC, the boy, Korede Taiwo had been tortured, chained and
kept without food for more than a month by his father, a Celestial church pastor, Francis
Taiwo. The father allegedly accused him of being ‘possessed’ by the spirit of stealing and therefore needed to be ‘delivered’. The statement said Master Korede was rescued while in chains, and that the case had been transferred to the appropriate authority for further investigation.
‘We are appalled by the indifference the Nigerian government is showing towards the welfare of children, especially the lack of political will to see through cases involving gross abuse of children and non-implementation of the Child Rights Act. This recent incident is a wake-up call for the government to take up her statutory responsibility and duty to protect citizens especially vulnerable groups such as children, from harm,’ the statement read.
Debbie Ariyo OBE, the founder and Chief Executive Officer, AFRUCA said, “The terrible
cases of children accused of witchcraft coming out of Nigeria are quite alarming. What is really shocking is the seemingly lackadaisical attitude of the government in addressing these
cases and the general disregard for children’s rights and welfare in Nigeria. It appears there are no systems and structures in place to ensure children are protected from harm and abuse.
There is little in place to mitigate or prevent children’s sufferings. Where gross abuses such as this occur, there is no action on the part of government. When it comes to support and care of abused children, a lot of this work is left for NGOs to deal with – and most do not have the resources to do so. Government cannot delegate the protection of its children to NGOs – it has the primary responsibility to ensure all children are protected as part of its obligations under
the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.”
Dr. Adeyemi Ademowo, Projects Director of HAPSTA on his part noted that witchcraft
branding of children had reached an alarming proportion:
‘It is quite unfortunate but Korede Taiwo’s case is just one of the approximately six thousand child abuse cases that take place every day in Nigeria (approximately 7 reported cases with the Nigerian Police in every 774 local governments),’ he said. ‘Unfortunately, these children do not get justice because of our nauseatingly corrupt system. Contemporary dysfunctional family system, blind religiosity, poverty, belief in money rituals, frustration of unemployment and systemic exploitation have made more children to be vulnerable”, he added. Ademowo urged government agencies to keep a tab on the activities of some Pentecostal pastors,
herbalists and shepherds of white garment churches so as to ensure that the rights of the Nigerian Child are not violated in the course of ‘exorcisms, amulets-making, deliverances and scapegoating for pecuniary financial rewards’. ‘Based on experience, the judiciary must be strengthened, being the last hope of the common man, in dealing with cases like this without fears or favours for the sake of deterrence,’ he further advised.
In the words of Betty Abah, CEE-HOPE’s Executive Director, Korede’s case and other
related incidences paint the nation’s image badly, yet there is hardly any sense of shame by those vested with the responsibility of protecting its citizens.
‘We ought to be ashamed, actually, that the rest of the world goes to sleep virtually every day with horrific reports of abuses of innocent children and other vulnerable people emanating from here and nothing concrete is done to serve as a deterrence or to stem the tide’, she noted.
‘Only a few months ago, a Denmark woman, Anja Ringgren Loven rescued a boy who had been abandoned and was starving to death in a village in Akwa Ibom State after been tagged
a ‘witch’. The world was outraged at such atrocity but as we speak, no one has heard a single word of response from any government agency and at any level. A few years ago, the BBC ran a damning document about ‘Nigeria’s Witch Children’, yet what changes have we
witnessed? In Calabar, Cross River State, the Skolombo boys phenomenon (children branded
witches and disowned who turned to beggars and street urchins) still goes on.’
‘Only a few weeks ago, two elderly men, Chief Bassey Effiong Ngwe and Asuquo Effiong
Etim, were burnt to death by their community folks in Akwa Ikot Effanga in Akabuyo Local
Government Area of same Cross River State, after a certain native doctor alleged that they were wizards. These deranged people must be called to order now,’ added Abah.
The three organisations further called on all stakeholders to prevail on the government to
enforce the Child Rights Acts of 2003 and the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of
the Child to safeguard children nationwide and punish offenders including parents who brand
their own children witches and endanger their lives in the process as is the recent case in