Friday, July 24, 2009

SOS: Homeless Children and the Terror of Evangelist Helen Ukpabio

When many in her position would be spending their vast wealth to give shelter, medical care and access to education to children abandoned by their parents, this "Evangelist" Helen Ukpabio, it seems, is hell-bent (no pun intended) to stop anyone providing any assistance to these children, just because she wants to protect her religious business, which thrives on victimization of impoverished children in Akwa-Ibom State, Nigeria. This is outrageous, unconscionable, immoral and utterly despicable. Is there no one in the Nigerian government to stand up for these children? To stop this woman and the apparently compromised local police?

Here below is a press statement on the current travails of the homeless children of Akwa-Ibom State, and the Child Rights And Rehabilitation Network (CRARN).

Sent: Sun, Jul 5, 2009 8:27 pm
From: gary@steppingstones
To: info@steppingstones

Dear Friends,
On the afternoon of Friday 3rd July, a group of men appeared at the CRARN children's centre in Eket, Akwa Ibom State claiming to be donors wanting to donate goods to the children. Suspicious of these men, the CRARN President, Sam Itauma hid away in his home. The group of men, who by now were claiming to be police officers from Lagos, then moved to Sam's house and demanded that Sam give himself up. Fearing for his life, Sam escaped through the ceiling and ran off into the bush where he has been in hiding for the previous two days.

The police officers then broke into Sam's house and seized his computer, camera, personal items and a number of documents from his office. They then subsequently beat and wounded a number of the CRARN children who were protesting against Sam's "arrest". Two children were beaten unconscious and are now undergoing emergency medical treatment in hospital. In addition to these gross violations of human rights, the police also unlawfully arrested Sam's wife, Elizabeth and another CRARN staff member, Eseme and took them to Eket Police station where they were held, without charge, for over 24 hours before being freed on bail.

It has since become apparent that the police were accompanied by a lawyer from Lagos, Mr Victor Ukott. This is the same lawyer who has been representing Evangelist Helen Ukpabio in the law suits that she has filed against CRARN, Stepping Stones Nigeria, Channel Four, Mags Gavan and Sophie Okonedo since the broadcast of the internationally acclaimed documentary film - Saving Africa's Witch Children. The lawyer and police are claiming that Sam and other CRARN staff must travel with them to Lagos to face charges of fraud, which have been levelled against them
(presumably by Helen Ukpabio). These trumped-up charges apparently relate to a petition filed in Lagos claiming that Sam and CRARN have been defrauding international donors of millions of dollars: claims that are clearly false.

It would seem that the vicious beatings of innocent children and unlawful arrests of CRARN staff are part of a wider campaign of intimidation that is being carried out against CRARN and their supporters. This is obviously of great concern to all of us here at Stepping Stones Nigeria and we are particularly worried about the threat to the lives of Sam Itauma and all CRARN staff and children. As such we are contacting you to request for your help with this case. We need to make the world aware of what is happening in Nigeria and place pressure on the Akwa Ibom State Government, police force and legislature to do everything in their power to protect the lives of these
innocent children and the brave people who are prepared to stand up and fight for the rights of some of the world's most vulnerable children.

Tomorrow outside the Eket Police station, the CRARN children will be demonstrating against these gross violations of their rights and those of their carers. We therefore request for full media attention to be placed on this issue and the subsequent demonstration. A formal press release outlining a clear set of demands from civil society organisations will then be issued after this event along with
details of how supporters may be able to further help the situation. Stepping Stones Nigeria condemns in the strongest terms possible this illegal and immoral campaign of terror that has been initiated against the most vulnerable group of all, children and their carers. We therefore call for you to continue your support for our work to protect these children and do everything in your power to make the world aware of what is currently happening in Akwa Ibom State. We have absolutely no doubt that the truth will prevail and that, with your continued support, we can overcome the forces of darkness that have unleashed this campaign of intimidation and terror.

Both Sam and I will be available for press interviews throughout the day. You can contact Sam on his usual number. I may be contacted on 00 234 792 309 2811 or on the office number below. With sincere thanks for your continued support for our work and the fight against child abandonment, torture and killing due to witchcraft belief.

Gary Foxcroft,
Programme Director, Stepping Stones Nigeria, 24 St Leonard's House, St Leonard's Gate, Lancaster, LA1 1NN, UK. Tel Office: 0845 3138391 Protecting, Saving and Transforming the Lives of Vulnerable and Disadvantaged Children In the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria, Registered UK and Wales charity number 1112476, Company numbers 05413970


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I admire your commitment to help abandoned children. Continue your advocate and I hope that more people would become aware of this.