31st August, 2010
Akwa Ibom State governor, Godswill Akpabio has branded a non-governmental organisation (NGO) which campaigns against stigmatisation of children as witches a band of scamsters which has embarked on the campaign for pecuniary benefit.
The governor made the accusation on a Cable News Network (CNN) programme yesterday, while reacting to a documentary by the network which claims that witchcraft is prevalent in Africa and used video shotÂ in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria.
The governor said the story was grossly exaggerated, recalling that in 2008 he signed a bill into law making it a criminal offence, punishable by up to 15 years in prison to label a child a witch.
The governor also attacked a report sent to the United Nations from Stepping Stones Nigeria, which works with children labelled as witches. The report claimed that Nigerian children were being taken to forests, burned and buried alive and bathed in acid for being witches.
â€œThat report is part of the media propaganda against the state and it was done for pecuniary reasons. I need to know why the same set of children are being shown all over the world with the same story. These children are being used for monetary reasons. There is no government that will see children burned alive and killed without taking action,â€ Akpabio said.
For most part of last week, the CNN shocked Nigerians by airing a documentary about alleged preponderance of witchcraft in most of Africa, but showed evidently choreographed scenes from Akwa Ibom State. The grossly one-sided story made no effort to crosscheck some of the wild claims, beyond speaking with the people who run the orphanage. The orphanage is criticised in Akwa Ibom State for having raked in millions of naira as donations from kind-hearted people all over the world without investing even a quarter of the money on the welfare of the children who live in very bad environment.
In March this year, TheNEWS magazine published a story which exposed the fact that people were being fleeced through the child witch saga. Indeed, one Bishop Sunday Emmanuel who disclosed on a documentary put together by the orphanage that he killed over a hundred kids for being witches, when arrested by the police denied he killed anyone and confessed that he was paid by Sam Ikpe Ituama who runs the orphanage to lie so that they can attract donations from all over the world!
In the wake of the startling discovery, many critics thought the Akwa Ibom State government will do the right thing by closing the orphanage and putting the children under government care, but the governor prevaricated and now clearly regrets his action. The state is now being ridiculed all over the world under his watch.
The CNN story has been generating a lot of comments even on CNN website. One of them is by a man named Frebong:
â€˜â€˜I am from Akwa Ibom State and I know for a fact that the orphanage that keeps inviting these international media to stigmatise the children in their care had been in existence as an orphanage for a long time until somebody sold them the idea that they could make more money by branding it a child witch centre about three years ago. Since then we have seen several of the â€œarrangedâ€ reports because some people want to make money using the kids in their care without plunging (sic) ploughing the money back for the welfare of the kids. The kids in the centre live in ramshackled huts despite the centre having received over two million poundsÂ on their behalf. The question is what are they doing with the money collected on behalf of these kids?
Another comment by a certain Anisun said â€œThe report of the same set of children being shown around the world for over three years is a clear case of 4-1-9. The poor kids are being used to extort money from unsuspecting members of the public to line private pockets and bank accounts. The Governor did well to expose this fraudâ€™â€™.
Akpabio has called for an international probe into the child witch saga, arguing that the mater was grossly exaggerated by the CNN story.