Thursday, January 13, 2011

Travails of Child Rights Advocates in Akwa-Ibom State, Nigeria

Sahara Reporters has reported the arrest and brutalization of Leo Igwe, the representative of International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) in Africa and one of the leading advocates of children accused of witchcraft in Akwa-Ibom State, Nigeria. After his release yesterday, there was no clear information from the authorities about the reason for his ordeal. According to the police it was a case of mistaken identity, while the State's Commissioner for Information claimed that his arrest was for "fraud-related issues." Which tells you that the government is hiding something.

As I have noted in previous blogs, Sam Ikpe Itauma, the indefatigable director of CRARN, who has suffered  systematic harassment by security agents because of his work with the abandoned children has been forced to go into hiding. But the government has now devised a way of cornering him, and quite possibly subjecting him to the same treatment just given to Leo Igwe. Mr. Itauma has been named by the government prosecution as a witness against a pastor who, in the BBC documentary few years ago, claimed to have murdered scores of child witches. But it seems that the prosecution is not so much interested in the alleged crimes of the pastor as in "flushing" Mr. Itauma out of hiding. I want to hope that I am wrong on this.

It is unfortunate that all of this is happening after the State Governor declared that he would deal with men like Sam Ikpe-Itauma and Gary Foxcroft of Stepping Stones, Nigeria, in the wake of the CNN coverage of the Child "Witchcraft" phenomenon in his State. Obviously, the governor is still not done with dealing with people he believes have brought negative publicity to his government. As I noted once before, one would think that the governor and his advisers should have seen the media focus on the witchcraft issue as an opportunity to intervene on the children's behalf, with the help of every and anyone with the goodwill and resources to collaborate with him in this task. That is the way to win the hearts of the governed, and earn more positive reputation in the eye of the world.

I despair so much about this matter, because it just seems as though nothing, nothing whatsoever can be done to help these children and their helpers, in the face of the violence of naked power. If there's anyone out there who knows what else could be done about this problem in Akwa-Ibom State, please let me know.

For the Saharareporters story on Leo Igwe's arrest click here


Marketing Revamped said...

its sad knowing the current situation but happy to hear a lot has been made to improve the current status. child molesters have to be caught, since they had no conscience to make a choice to exploit kids

Ophelia Benson said...

Leo has now given his own account of the arrest and brutalization. It's here:

Carly said...

PACT (Prevent Abuse of Children Today) is a global campaign established by the UK-based child rights charity, Stepping Stones Nigeria and their Nigerian partner organisations. The aim of PACT is to bring long-term positive social change to vulnerable children in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, particularly those at risk of witchcraft accusations, abuse and trafficking.

Witchcraft is often seen as the source of problems within Nigerian society with vulnerable children being the group most at risk of witchcraft accusations. Children stigmatised as witches face abandonment by their families and communities, torture, public humiliation, disgrace and even murder.

To help end this terrible abuse we urge you to stand with us to Prevent Abuse of Children Today. There are lots of ways for you to get involved with the campaign, in particular signing our PACT, holding events and writing letters. Visit our website to sign the PACT and help us spread the word.

Together, we are fighting for a time when all children in the Niger Delta are free from physical, sexual, emotional and spiritual abuse and their rights are fully upheld. With your help, we can make this vision a reality.

For more information about the PACT campaign please visit

To find out more about Stepping Stones Nigeria, please visit