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By Henry Umahi ([email protected])
On May 2, Esau Ihemeje was in his house when his door was forced open at about 2.00am. He was dragged out and beaten black and blue by youths from Ndiolumbe, Nvosi in Isiala Ngwa South Local Government Area of Abia State. His crime? He was accused of being a wizard, using his demonic powers to cause havoc in the community.
Narrating his ordeal, the 40-year old man, who described himself as a block moulder and farmer, said that he was in his family compound when some men accosted him. His words: “I demanded to know why they came at that time to my house and they told me they were vigilante members. I then asked them whether it was our compound they were deployed to watch over that night. I told them that if there was anything like vigilante that all members of the community should be made aware through a town crier. But before I could say any other thing, they accused me of witchcraft.
“They said it had been a long time they had wanted to get me. As they carried me to another compound, they tied my hands and legs with rope, beat me with clubs and used machete to inflict injuries on my body, including my head. At a point, they wanted to use the machete to cut off my two legs. God saved me, but the deep cuts are still there on my legs.”
Ihemeje further said: “As they beat me, they, including the women, took me to the village hall, calling me a wizard and making jest of me, as if I was a common criminal.”
He added that he was stripped even as his personal belongings and the crops in his farm were destroyed. To rub it in, he has been banished from the community for 14 years, after which he will pay certain fines.
Two sisters, Aniema Ekpenyong (13) and Mary Ekpenyong (10), also walked through the valley of the shadow of death. They were branded witches by a prophet of a church in Ukot-Abasi-Effiom District in Akpabuyo LGA of Cross River State. In fact, the sisters escaped death by the whiskers, as the villagers were baying for their blood.
It was gathered that the sisters’ travails started when their uncle took them to the church for deliverance, following a dream by their stepsister. She told a newspaper: “Everything started when Adiaha Akpan (stepsister) said she had a dream that Aniema and I came to take her child away and that we wanted to kill her. She told Uncle Victor about the dream.
“Uncle Victor took us to church where he asked us to confess that we were witches or else when we got back to the house, he would beat us and use nails to pierce our bodies, but I told him that I was not a witch. Uncle Victor took us to the church and when the prophet said we were witches, he and some people took us to the bush and started flogging us.”
She added that their effort to escape was thwarted by the uncle. And to make them pay for their sins, they were severely punished in the attempt to coerce them to confess.
“When they went away, I managed to untie myself and ran away. A broken bottle pierced my feet, but I kept on running. Our uncle caught up with me and continued with the flogging, using big sticks while I cried. They took me from one house to another and some people joined them to flog me. They burned a nylon bag and let the flames fall on our skin to make us confess,” she lamented.
But for the intervention of one Mr. Okon Edet-Bassey, the sisters would have paid the supreme price. “I wasn’t around so I didn’t know where they were tied up. But when the information got to me, I sent a message across to them and reported the incident to some military men, who were there. When they heard about my moves, they quickly untied the children,” Edet-Bassey explained.
For nine months, a pastor connived with a man (identity withheld) in Warri, Delta State, to lock up his (the latter’s) children and subject them to torture and dehumanising treatment. Someone in the know said: “All these came as a result of the prophecy and counseling activities of the preacher. He told the father of the girls that his daughters were responsible for his being broke. Consequent upon that revelation, the man decided to subject his daughters to torture, as a way of paying them back for his condition in life.”
It was learnt that the man used to tie the girls with rope and leave them under the sun from morning till night without food, even as their bodies were lacerated with canes. At the time the disclosure was made, the once beautiful girls had become skeletons.
Others also involved
The phenomenon is not restricted to Nigeria. In Ghana, a 36-year old electrician, Kwadwo Akomea Jonas, shot the right eye of his 75-year old mother, Salomey Korang, with a catapult, after accusing her of witchcraft.
The police said that the suspect had been accusing the victim of being the cause of the death of four out of the 12 children she gave birth to. On the fateful day, Jonas pushed down his mother and catapulted her right eye. Her wailing attracted neighbours while Jonas ran away. He was, however, apprehended.
A medical personnel was recently humiliated in South Africa over accusation of killing three people through witchcraft. Identified simply as Sisi, she was stripped in public, matched through the neighbourhood and beaten thoroughly. An eyewitness said: “Sisi is a general hand at a clinic in the Nkomazi region of Mpumalanga in South Africa. She was allegedly caught doing witchcraft in the Mafambisa area. She allegedly admitted having overseen the death of three people so far.”
Killing the witches
Perhaps, because of biblical injunction: “Though shalt not suffer a witch to live …” many of the so-called witches and wizards have been sent to early grave. The Cross River Police Command arrested a 33-year old man who allegedly killed his 11 year-old twin children whom he claimed were witches. According to the Commissioner of Police, Mr Hafiz Inuwa, Anyanime Festus killed his children, Emediong and Mfoniso, when they confessed that they were witches.
He said: “The incident happened in Uyanga community in Akamkpa LGA following a report to the police by one David Innocent and Joseph Orok. They reported that the two female identical twins were found lying down and were unable to speak. According to them, one of the twins was found dead while the other was lying down and was unable to speak.
“Much later, the other twin that was lying down was able to speak and gave her name as Emediong Festus and that of her twin sister as Mfoniso, both 11 years. She said that their father told them he was taking them to their mother, and on getting to a bush track, he gave them malt drink suspected to be mixed with poisonous substances.
“Shortly after they drank the malt, her sister died and their father abandoned them there. The other twin died in the hospital.”
Festus confessed: “I poisoned them through the malt I gave them. I did it because they confessed to being witches.”
Take this: Recently, a 25-year old woman, Vilma Trujillo Garcia, was allegedly pushed in a bonfire in a weird deliverance in northeastern Nicaragua. It was reported that a pastor and his congregation stripped the mother of two, tied her up and pushed her onto a bonfire during a deliverance to rid her of demons. She sustained first degree burns on 80 percent of her body and died five days after.
Vilma’s husband, Reynaldo Peralta Rodriguez, said: “My wife spent eight days as a prisoner in that congregation and her sister told me that they pushed her on the flames. I don’t think my wife was possessed at all. What they did to her was witchcraft.
“They got some fire wood together and then they pushed her naked on the flames. She got burns on her face, legs and arms and her kidneys and liver have been badly damaged.”
However, some members of the congregation told a different story. According to them, it was Vilma who requested them to start the fire and that they were praying when they suddenly noticed that she had thrown herself into the flames.
The pastor, Rocha Romero, said that the woman, in her determination to rid herself of “bad spirits” inside her, threw herself into the fire. This is what the 23-year old minister said: “God told her he was going to remove that bad spirit from her and asked us to start a fire because that’s where the spirit was going to be expelled. We were praying when we looked at her and saw she was on fire.”
However, the police said that the pastor and his people were talking bunkum, stressing that she had been held prisoner for some time before the programme.
Three brothers, Pam, Yohanna and John Davou, from Kwogo village in Riyom Local Government Area of Plateau State are currently awaiting the hangmen for killing a 65-year old woman, Mama Lyop Pam accused of witchcraft. The Davou siblings and two of their relations, James Badung and Pam Dalyop, were sentenced to death by a court on May 22, 2017 for lynching the old woman for alleged witchcraft.
Many doubt the existence of witches and/or the powers attributed to them. For some, they are figments of the imagination of creative movie directors as seen in Nollywood. For others, they are, at best, ancient practices that have swept away by the ocean of time.
Mr. Niyi Joseph, a taxi driver, said: “I watch movies about witches but I have not seen it in real life. So, for me, it is olden days practices. People go to churches and mosques nowadays, so no one has the time for such dirty things, if at all they exist.”
But for Prince Edward Uneke, a media consultant, it is a reality. This is how he justified his position: “Until recently, I never believed in such things. How can believe such story about people flying without wings and destroying the destiny of others or even make them sick or kill them. These were all cock and bull stories to me until I had an encounter that changed my perception.
“A few months ago, I brought the 11-year old daughter of a friend from the village to Abuja. It was my little way of trying to help the guy because of his condition. Shortly after, she began to manifest ‘strange’ behaviours. She spends hours to wash her clothes even if they are a few of them. She was virtually living in the kitchen, always washing plates. Sometimes, she will be smiling and dancing to imaginary music. One evening, my wife caught her doing incantation beside a gutter. That was the day the bubble burst for her.
“After much persuasion, she disclosed that at the time she was doing the incantation, she was actually in a meeting with her people. She explained that some years ago, her father’s sister’s daughter took her to a group made up of women only. She explained that the kitchen was their coven, their meeting place. She volunteered that her assignment was to cause confusion, bewitch my daughter and kill somebody in my house but that she refused to do so because were nice to her. She added that her people would deal with her mercilessly for making such disclosure. When she woke up the next day, she bore signs of serious beatings by unseen hands. Her mouth was swollen and she was so weak that she couldn’t go to school. She said that they dragged her to the kitchen and beat her up.”
Dr Success Ibeakanma, senior pastor of Royal Choice Ministries (RCM), Ketu, Lagos said that witches are real and forbidden. He quoted Deuteronomy 10: 10-12 and Exodus 12:18 to buttress his point. He said: “The word witch means to bend, to divert. Something is going in order and you divert it. The word craft means to produce. Example, aircraft means a product that flies on the air. Therefore, witchcraft is a product of diversion; anything that diverts you. The word aircraft means production of diversion. But witchcraft doesn’t operate without a personality. Witches operate with human hand. Witches operate from a base, they call it a coven. A coven is a gathering of 13 people – six men, six women and a leader. The strength of the coven is the night.”
Dr. Ibeakanma further explained that there are four kinds of witchcraft. “One of them is the inherited witchcraft. If your mother is a witch, it’s likely that it is deposited in you. So, you need deliverance. Blind witchcraft is whereby somebody is a witch without knowing. Sometimes the person will dream where she is being pursued and she begins to fly even sometimes with birds. Forced witchcraft, for example, is giving food to a child and through that the child is initiated. There is also the willing witchcraft,” he said.
The Executive Secretary of Basic Rights Counsel Initiative, Mr. James Ibor, submitted: “Our investigation revealed that it is difficult for some churches to exist in Nigeria without promoting the belief in witches and wizards. That is what actually promotes their trade. Unfortunately, that which gives them money is destroying our society. It’s destroying our children that we call the leaders of tomorrow.”
The Quran is also against witchcraft.