… Man poisons his twin daughters for same thing
… Youths randomly select people, torture them to death for being witches and wizards
… Pastors, lawyers, academics indifferent
By Emmanuel Unah
It is difficult to separate the facts from myths as they relate to witchcraft activities and practices in Cross River State.
In spite of the fact that after Badagry in the West, the next place Christianity berthed and took roots in Nigeria is Calabar yet, allusions to witchcraft activities and beliefs in related practices are still predominant in the people’s daily existence, giving credence to the fact that their mindset is steeped in primordial thoughts.
For instance, if a governor abandons a project or a programme, the general assumption is that he has been bewitched; if a young man over speeds, crashes his car and dies in the process, the conclusion would be that witches took hold of his mind; if a young girl aborts pregnancy and dies in the act, witches must be responsible and if a cat meows at night, then witches congregating.
Basically, nothing happens naturally in the state, be it death, sickness, poverty, sack from work or any calamity of sorts.
Most often, innocent people have been tagged witches and made to bear the brunt through various forms of punishment like being subjected to public flogging, being burnt to death, banished from the community, tied hands and legs and thrown into the river. You name it,
In the past one year, reports from all parts of the state indicate some brutal killings, attacks and dehumanisation of so called witches. For example, One General Iron, a criminal warlord in Boki in the central part of the state lined several elderly men and women including his mother and cut them to death with machetes for being witches and wizards. In that same Boki, some months later, two widows returning from church were accosted by youths who accused them of being behind the frequent deaths of young people in the community. The women were bound hands and legs, tortured for several hours to death.
The most recent was carried out in the outskirts of Calabar where five out of fifteen persons picked randomly by youths in Ndon Owong community in Odukpani Local Government Area were tagged witches, beaten to death with sticks and buried in shallow graves.
When Saturday Vanguard visited the place, the community was completely deserted. Except for a few “bold” persons everyone had fled for fear of police arrest. One of the bold persons, Johnson Nyong said what precipitated the attack was the confession by a nine year old girl, Ekanma who identified fifteen members of the village as witches.
“Some weeks ago, Efa the father of the only lawyer in our village died in his sleep and a few days after the burial the lawyer also died and fingers point to witches being responsible and as God would have it Ekanma confessed and so the youths had no choice but to take action”
He said the community was constantly under attack from witches and the only way was to kill or do away with them.
“A young man will secure a job, soon after that he is sacked under questionable circumstances, a young person would graduate from school few months after that death takes him away, a man will drive his car to this village on his way back to his place of abode he is involved in an accident and dies all because of these wicked people you claim are being killed unjustly. Witches are the ones that are wicked, not the youths who are bringing peace to the community”
Before the recent incident, a man in this same Odukpani in Okurikang village took his twin daughters to the outskirts of the town and laced malt drink with poison, gave to them, killing the innocent girls. The reason for his action was that the twins were witches causing the hardship afflicting him.
A walk round Calabar depicts many children popularly called “Skolombo” roaming the streets and sleeping rough because they were thrown out of their homes by their parents and relatives who accused them of being witches and wizards.
Surprisingly, the witchcraft belief is not restricted to the less educated members of the society but also the well educated including pastors, lawyers, academics etc.
A lecturer in the University of Calabar Dr Ndim Eyo said witchcraft is not a myth but a reality which affects many people.
“I have been a victim of this wickedness. I graduated with PhD in Linguistics and all efforts to secure a job were to no avail.
During the era of Senator Imoke as governor my name was listed for appointment but overnight my name disappeared from the list when it was due for announcement. My mother had to do some findings only to discover that her younger sister was behind my predicament. We had to take some drastic measures before I got this teaching job. Witches do not like good things and anything that happens to them is brought by their wickedness”.
Chief Okon Ita, a village of Ikot Mesembe village said, most times when the youths carry out the action, the traditional rulers and elders of the community are helpless and any attempt to stop them, the youths turn their anger on them.
The police on it’s part says it has been doing it’s best to stem the spate of killings on witchcraft allegations across the state.
Ms Irene Ugbo, the Cross River Police Command spokesman said she several arrests are usually made and after investigations some are charged to court.
“Our duty is to arrest and charge to court after due investigation but what the court does is left to it. Some culprits have been sentenced to jail, others set free”.