Saving Nigeria’s ‘Witch’ Children

Posted on Tuesday, November 18th, 2008 at 11:19 PM

By BellaNaija.com

I believe the first time I read about this story was on NaijaBlog and I just couldn’t believe what I was reading. I tried to put together an article on this topic last week but found myself breaking down. This is just so tragic and I pray that we can all work together to stamp this out. We will keep raising awareness about these causes and mobilizing efforts to make a change! God bless Mr Gary Foxcroft for his effort! I cant help but feel ashamed that with this happening in my country, someone from the outside had to come in to shed light on this. It makes me think, what am I doing with my time, what am I doing with my influence? Below, BN Cause Contributor, NK Aniebo gives us some more info on this disturbing situation.

____________________

By NK Aniebo – BN Cause Contributor

A few of you may have heard stories about the plight of child “witches” in Nigeria. I personally saw this story on the Observer last year and watched a few clips on YouTube which covered shocking stories about children being abused by their parents and family members based on the claims that they were child witches and were responsible for their parents’ unfortunate woes. It seemed that this story did not gain as much audience as it should have until it was featured again on Dispatches, Channel 4, in England.

Titled “Savings Africa’s Witch Children” – the one hour long documentary – based in Akwa Ibom state – focused on how children as young as 5 years old were branded as evil and are being abused, abandoned and even murdered. The documentary gives us graphic examples of the scars that some of these children had received from their own parents. These children were accused of killing their parents, poisoning their siblings, and for generally causing poverty in their household. The one that stuck out was a girl who had a 3 inch nail dug into her head – She had become mentally disabled. Another 5 year old girl called Mary was driven out of the house by her father. According to his pastor, she had “evil powers” which killed her mother. Mary turned out to be one of the lucky ones, as some were burnt with acid, or buried alive while the family stood by to watch them die.

This abuse has been linked to religious beliefs – a lot of pastors have formed a habit of brainwashing parents into believing one of their offspring is a “demon child”. In order for the child to be healed, religious leaders offer deliverance services, where they perform exorcism, for the price of up to N400,000. One wonders how families that live on less than a dollar a day are able to afford the costs. As part of this exorcism process, these children were locked up in a dark room in the church for weeks, starved and beaten into confession. One of the pastors called the Bishop was widely known for his ability to drive away evil spirits. He gave the children a concoction to drink called African mercury – this was a blend of pure alcohol and his own blood (I could not help but think about all the medical implications of drinking another human beings blood). Naturally, the Bishop instilled enough fear in the children to the extent that some of them began to believe that they were truly “possessed” by the devil.

Some Nigerians blame the increase on one of the country’s wealthiest and most influential evangelical preachers. Helen Ukpabio, a self-styled prophetess of the 150-branch Liberty Gospel Church, made a film, widely distributed, called End of the Wicked. It tells, in graphic detail, how children become possessed and shows them being inducted into covens, eating human flesh and bringing chaos and death to their families and communities. Mrs. Ukpabio, a mother of three, also wrote a popular book which tells parents how to identify a witch. For children under two years old, she says, the key signs of a servant of Satan are crying and screaming in the night, high fever and worsening health – symptoms that can be found among many children in an impoverished region with poor health care. When confronted about the fact that her film is an influential factor in the increase of the abuse of children in the region, she denied all allegations and accused the channel four reporter of being racist.
Stepping Stones Nigeria, a charity that works in partnership with local organisations in the Niger Delta region to build sustainable futures for some of the region’s many disadvantaged children, including protecting, saving and transforming the lives of children who have been stigmatised as being ‘witches’. So far they have been doing an excellent job with very little resources. The founder, 29-year-old Gary Foxcroft, initially went to the Niger/Delta region to research on Crude Oil but ended up staying back to devote his life to helping these desperate and vulnerable children.
So far he has rescued about 150 of them, and now struggles to care for them in a makeshift shelter and school. Stepping stones works alongside the Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN) – together they try to persuade the parents to take their children back, with little or no success.

After the documentary was aired, about £10,000 pounds was raised instantly. However, we still have a lot of work to do together to help this cause. This does not necessarily have to be financial, as these children need clothes, books e.t.c You can get more information on how to help by joining their Facebook group

Alternatively, please visit How To Help | Stepping Stones Nigeria

Note: Content of the videos are very disturbing




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  • 32 Comments on “Saving Nigeria’s ‘Witch’ Children”

    Comments
    • just...toluwa November 19, 2008 at 2:31 AM

      I am totally speechless. I am also angry! Very angry! What sort of government authority would see this and do nothing? SAD! I wish i cld do something!

    • Bukky November 19, 2008 at 2:43 AM

      I think this is so absurd at this age of time. I can’t believe people would still abuse their child all in the name of “witchcraft”. If you think your child is a “witch”, you should to pray to God to deliver him/her than giving up the child God gave you. Many people will continue to die innocently, unless we neglect all these beliefs and traditions. May God forgive them. Amen.

    • Dorah November 19, 2008 at 3:44 AM

      Wow! God help Naija, for real. All children are innocent.

    • twangstar November 19, 2008 at 5:58 AM

      seeing this documentary on channel four was so disturbing. was home with my school mates when it started. felt so embarrassed. couldnt even tell them i lived in Nigeria . this isnt the image of ourselves that we should display on the internet or on international tv. dont expect the U.N to do smth about it so deal with it locally. such things should never be aired. some funny pastors ”performing their so called deliverance acts on camera and doing unscriptural things, taking money and giving children fetish thing to drink and all sorts”, putting our Christianity in awkward positions and all. how does this help. creating an awearness? still nothings been done.

    • Nkechi November 19, 2008 at 6:25 AM

      please, claim Nigeria just so u can say that not every Christian in our beloved country practices these barbaric heartless practices.

    • Nkechi November 19, 2008 at 7:05 AM

      did you guys see that? one of the ‘so-called’ ace directors in Nollywood, Teco Benson, directed the film that is partly responsible for the surge in violent crimes against children, aided by profiteering false prophets. Nollywood rehashing crass stories about witchcraft is not going to get us anywhere. one can only wonder if money was the main motivating factor for the director taking on this movie, not to talk of the actors. if so, it’s a sad sad day for what we call ‘entertainment’. we all have a national responsibility, if not for humanity’s sake, at least to prevent the embarassment you feel when someone sees this and thinks you are as heartless as these people to not let money be our motive, as actors and directors, when engaging in an art form. many of us Nigerians are still in the stage where we believe everything we see in the movies, if not you reading this article, then at least u know ur housemaid and ur grandma in the village probably does. we can only stop it by not partaking in this. after you read this, do something, get involved and never forget. if we don’t buy these films, how will these people thrive? the end was very sad and touching, and i recommend y’all watch it on youtube. i can’t go back to bed now, but Lord knows what those children have been through is much worse.
      peace

    • Lezly November 19, 2008 at 2:29 PM

      This is so SAD!!!! am sooo Angry right now!

    • Abi November 19, 2008 at 3:16 PM

      Thank you for raising awareness on this issue. i was quite touched when i watched the program, seeing poor children suffer cos of stupidity/ ignorance of those who should be protecting them.
      hopefully, we should be seeing a lot of changes.

      Thanks once again

    • Lisa November 19, 2008 at 11:02 PM

      This is so absurd! I’m effin pissed. What type of human beings are these…..you’ld rather believe a stupid Bishop than protect ur child? What the heck is this? I don’t how parents can be so naive and ignorant. I can’t stop the tears from running down my eyes. I pray God delivers these children form the hands of this craziness.

    • pamela November 20, 2008 at 11:05 AM

      There will soon be screenings and discussions in Calabar, Lagos, Abuja and Uyo.

      This is the power media has. Actually the effort of helping these kids started with a local ngo led by Sam called CRAN. They took in 6 kids after a community witch hunt in 2003 that left many dead (adults mainly) and now care for 150.
      Stepping stones noble decision to support this initiative has led to your being able to view the documentary. Possibly without support it would have died away or the issue simply remaining in the background. People in Nigeria confront and fight such evil everyday however getting media attention from a jaded public or support is hard. We fight in unconnected pockets. I imagine lots of people who work with street kids or abandoned children have never made a connection between witchcraft accusations and child abandonment… we need to feel the whole elephant and not just the bits and pieces. By the way… this isnt strictly an Akwa Ibom issue. The film was done around people taking action there. As for tasking home videos… hmmmm, i dont see people in other countries killing kids because they watched the omen. However that book is completely out of hand and evil. I dont blame the government. I blame all of us for tolerating various degrees of oppression, keeping silent and then expressing shock when we discover the kids we see hawking in the streets or living in gutters are victims of abuse.

    • yetunde November 20, 2008 at 11:17 AM

      PLSSSSS people go to this website and support this cause.

      http://www.justgiving.com/witchchildren

      we cannot simply sit down and watch this madness continue and simply wish these children well and pray 4 d madness to stop. PLEASE LET US DO SOMETHING PRACTICAL TO HELP. please donate to help Gary care for the children in his care. LET US SHOW THEM THE TRUE LOVE OF CHRIST. From as liitle as 10 pounds im sure that can help Gary and the team provide decent meals for them and provide academic materilas so they can atleast have a second chance at life

      WE CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT PLSSSSSSSSS

      Thank you.

    • Kelli Stowe November 20, 2008 at 1:47 PM

      There is something you can do to help these innocent children. Watch the documentary and spread awareness, visit my blog Children of Nigeria, sign the petition Stop Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries of Nigeria from labeling children as witches.

      THIS NEEDS TO STOP NOW!!! Do it for the children.

      Please read in full before downloading.

      I have found a website that you can download Dispatches – Saving Africa’s Witch Children 2008 for free.
      Dispatches – Saving Africa’s Witch Children 2008 for free.

      To start this P2P download, you have to install a BitTorrent client like µTorrent for free.

      or:
      Wyzo for free.

      Please donate to Stepping Stones Nigeria to help with the Documentary.

      ~Thank You ~

    • Jaycee November 20, 2008 at 5:31 PM

      The videos are quite disturbing. I almost screamed as that witch doctor, albeit ‘false prophet’ poured that black mixture in the little boy’s eyes. As Christians we do not fight against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers.

      I have shared this youtube video on my blog, to enlighten those who do not know about these practices. Thanks for sharing.

    • nelly November 20, 2008 at 7:15 PM

      I dont know why people are so shocked at this like this is something new thats just happened in Naija, this stuff has been going on for a long long time not much people cared and sadly even as it was shown on Dispatches still wont really and truly care, they will want to take about it just cause you know it happened in Nigeria and all that, but do they really care? Very few do. Wow you would think the whole “ojuju Calabar “was a bed time story or something.The programme was very extreme yes but it doesn’t mean the kids aren’t capable of being “child witches” as the UK likes to call it, do not get me wrong I do not condone any of that extreme behaviour. In the Bible is says we are fighting against principalities and powers and we should pray against that and most importantly pray for those kids who are actually innocent and that God’s protection be upon them. We cannot be ignorant and say just because they are kids we will go ” awwwww what a shame and do nothing. So lets do something it will cost us nothing thats right prayer! God bless Naija mehn!!!!!

    • Fikayo November 20, 2008 at 7:56 PM

      this has been happening since time memorial. its 9ja. every househelp is a witch or a wizard. any strange thing happenin is attributed to them. i believe there are forces of darkness but the solution to such is through prayers not toturing the poor souls. their deaths are in these fake prophets hands. judgement day is coming and we would all be judged according to the works of our hands. do the great pastors of our time burned any1? or is it written in the bible to burn them with acid or maltreat them.
      these prophets all have psychatric issues and should be evaluated. let’s be careful of the churches we go to. we should believe everything we hear

    • Thompson November 20, 2008 at 8:17 PM

      Totally insane!
      Totally confused by religion!
      Totally nonsense!
      We’ve got work to do

    • tolu November 20, 2008 at 11:57 PM

      This is SICK!!!! just plain twisted and disgusting…..bunch of freaking barbarians!!! What sort of parent abuses their child in such horrific ways???……UNBELIVABLE!….now I totally understand some folks go through life blaming thier shortcomings in life on others, but this crap right here is on another level….. these idiots need someone to set them straight….they need to know: “if ur life is screwed up, don’t blame the child….if anything blame ur freaking self, starve urself and burn ur hands and lable urself a witch….because guess what? u screwed it up!”

      And I don’t think this is all “brainwashing” infact i think alot of those individuals -i.e parent and prophets who go around accusing their children of witchcraft need a serious mental evaluation and possibly need to be put on some antipsychotics! (no kidding…..these folks are demented, delusional and i’m pretty sure some of the so called “prophets” are definately Schizophrenics…..’cuz how can a mentally stable person stand in front of a camera and give such “BS” spiel on how they are convinced another individual has demonic power….what a load of crap!

      And don’t even get me started on that ugly, need a perm, buck tooth looking heifer who is going around promoting this stupid notion of children being possessed but yet when confronted with her consequences of her half assed work she has the nerve to get upset and claim racism….no heifer, it ain’t racism baby, its freaking reality and if had a lick of sense in that nappy Kuta Kinte looking head of yours u will know that! Gosh! these fools got me riled up….I hope there is a special boulevard in hell for all these crooked prophets and evangelist who commit such heinous crimes against innocent, children who can’t defend themselves…i just refuse to believe this nonsense actually exist! I was beyond stunned looking at video….this madness and it needs to stop like seriously! It 2008 people…grow the hell up!

    • Shakara November 21, 2008 at 12:02 AM

      Last year, a group of us raised over $500.00 through Naijaryders.com an online community, and were able to buy bags of food that were delivered to CRARN. Amonetary donation was made as well. This year, we are doing the same again and are hoping to raise up to $1000 by December 1 for the organization. Thus far, we have raised over $700.00. Please click on the link at:http://www.naijaryders.com/forums/220169-call-your-conscience-ii-4.html
      to learn more about our efforts.
      Anyone interested in donating can give via paypal at ebel_e@hotmail.com

      We really need to stop talking about these kinds of things and start doing something about it!

    • PB November 21, 2008 at 1:15 AM

      Nelly, there are many things I disagree with about your comments – but the one thing I will say is that prayer is important but is not enough. The Bible encourages us to put works behind our faith. We need to help these children by supporting the few charities, orphanages and others that help children in this country. Supporting them means giving money, food, clothes, books, toys etc, and also giving your time – physically visiting these charities and homes, to show these kids some affection. And thankfully, for those outside the country, you can also give online to help them. The children need us to reach out to them and show them love – sitting at home and praying for them is simply not enough. Unlike most people, I have felt a little of what these children are going through, and it is extremely bitter and traumatic. I know what it feels like to be accused of witchcraft to the point when you almost start believing it, and I can tell you that the stigma is unbelievable – children are so vulnerable and tender. Yes, we should pray, but we need to support these children. Please if you read this and you are in a position to give something (no matter how small) to protect children who have been abused and traumatised, then don’t hesitate. I am doing so and it helps me get some sleep at night, just knowing that I am helping some other child who has gone through horrific trials. We can do it – one child at a time. If we all do just a little, we can accomplish so much. Children do not have to go through this. Finally – it’s a shame that so many of us in this country have allowed ourselves to be brainwashed by people calling themselves ‘men and women of God’. In the Bible, demons were cast out of people, yes, but was it ever done by whipping, burning, torturing, poisoning, scarring, starving innocent children? These beliefs, as others have said, are really so widespread – I personally know people who were forcibly taken to such deliverance sessions, chained and forced to go without food or water. Let us continue to raise awareness and educate people around us, since our leaders are too busy living in the lap of luxury.

    • nelly November 21, 2008 at 2:10 AM

      Well PB what exactly do you disagree with? Its easy to says this is horrible its much harder to physically do something. As in when next your in VI or Lekki or VGC. Try and do something. Please do not get me wrong these kids are being abused thats for sure, as I mentioned before maybe you didnt read it. They have taken it to the extremes. It’s not their fault they are poor and ill educated thats the kind of behaviour you would expect from those kind of people. The whole false prophet thing doesnt even need to be discussed so much, why? We can clearly see these prophets are 419 babalawo preists. My main point is lets pray for them its so easy to talk and do nothing thats what we Nigerians love to do. You know theres no way you would give up your time and sell your most precious stuff to help out like the White guy Sam did, its much easier to talk heck its free. Lets see how many people will be rushing to Akwa Ibom to go and help, as I said before sadly very few. What we can do indefinitely is to pray. There’s no need to worry ourselves with the fake priests, because really and truly none of us are proper christians, we think we are but we dont also do what we should as christians. I am very aware of what it means to support them every one knows how to support them we are not idiots, the fact is we are not all going to lets not, we will carry on with our lives sadly. You clearly dont believe in the power of prayer, do you think by praying for them God wont support them and supply their needs through us His vessels. No one is disputing what it feels or doesnt feel like to be accused my point is lets pray and actually do something.

    • pb November 21, 2008 at 10:13 AM

      LOL… no point responding to your laughable response, Nelly. ‘I clearly don’t believe in the power of prayer’??? LOL

    • pb November 21, 2008 at 10:30 AM

      Ok I’m back because I realise my previous comment was harsh to someone who’s heart is in the right place, and also because this really isn’t a laughing matter. Nelly, your points are well-taken, and the fact that I may not agree with all of them doesn’t mean I don’t respect your views. We cannot all agree on everything. You are right, we should pray, and if you read my original comments I stated that I agree with you that prayer is important, all I was saying is that it should not stop there. You don’t know me, so it’s very, very unfair and judgmental of you to say that ‘I clearly don’t believe in the power of prayer’. Let’s not descend to personal attacks. Let’s all respect each other’s opinion, let’s live and let live. God bless you.

    • nelly November 21, 2008 at 11:51 AM

      That whole “there’s no point responding to your laughable comment” shows what kind of person you are. You didnt even answer my question. You’e just talking for talking sake.The fact that you found that funny too doesn’t surprise me either its sad really. You dont know me either,yet you were quick to find my comments “laughable” dont try and play the bigger person know, doing the whole lets live and let live thing, you have shown your immaturity. Im sure you really dont care about those kids. You’re one those people who love the attention and like the idea of helping people but wouldnt physically do it. God bless you.

    • simeone November 21, 2008 at 10:04 PM

      would you please ensure that there is some form of publicity when these screenings are coming to town…i wont want to miss the abuja one..even tho i might end up shedding tears at the event,,

    • mina November 21, 2008 at 10:21 PM

      wow, this is very disturbing and heart breaking; How people can take the gospel of Jesus and turn it into insanity and wickedness. We really do have work to do, these families live in darkness. It’s very disturbing……

    • tosan November 27, 2008 at 1:16 AM

      I have no words to describe this. This is the most despicable and unforgivabe act against children i have ever seen. I can’t beleive this is still happening in Nigeria. Right now, i am ashamed to be a Nigerian and as a mother, i weep for those innocent children.

    • emmanuella December 2, 2008 at 12:38 AM

      one breath u are saying oh its 9ja wat do we expect, the other breath u are saying the bible says we should pray against the evils of this world. im sure the bible doesnt say we should drill a 3inch nail into a childs head because one suspects that child is a witch. the bible also says that children are the “meek and gentle”… i am completely appalled and irritated by all this, i blame the parents and untimately the people/person in charge of that community, lga and state for sitting back and watching this happen in this day and age… God is not sleeping all these people will answer to him and explain why they have decieded to pass judgement on other human beings hear on earth.

    • Ini December 5, 2008 at 2:25 PM

      The screening of the documentary will hold in Lagos on Dec. 13, 2008 at Terra Kulture – 4pm. Pls come see it and come with your donations too!

    • Eva December 26, 2008 at 7:08 AM

      Wow…
      I have been trying to find the right words to say in response to this video but I have been dumbfounded for a good 15 minutes. Perplexed and confused. We embrace the bible and yet so willing to believe the presence of withcrafts and still participate in barbaric ways to achieve one thing or the other.

      I do not want to offend people but this is happening because of the Nigerian or African mentality in which many of our comrades possess. If it is not the fact that a wife is considered a property where when her husband dies, his brother takes over by sleeping with her and reproducing his own children with her; then it is land matter; or the killing of twins; or the fact that women or daughters are not considered fit to head a household; and now this!

      Cant we Africans understand that a nation and the strength of a nation rests simply in the hands of women and children? It is no wonder that we continue to be underdeveloped. Dont we realize that we are a laughingstock in the eyes of many industrialized nations that we try so hard to please? Politicians send their children to expensive schools abroad with Niger Delta money and the the true owners of such wealth die in shame or are stigmatized because of their stolen wealth??? If the money is spent on these people, would we be sitting before our computer screens and watching THIS?

      It is not that money is the root of all evil…it is lack of it. We are all guilty of greed. The prophetess has to eat as well as the ‘bishop’ as well as the prophet. If they stop labeling children as witches their source of income will cease to exist.

      We ARE SO GULLIBLE. I tell you. The things people say in Nigeria, I am shocked and many still claim to be graduates. I cannot believe this. I do not know if I should cry or scream………….children, Nigeria you will surely pay for the souls of those children. You will. And that woman who heads the Liberty Church of rubbish will pay too. She is enjoying her wealth now…..but God is not asleep.

      Prayer DOES not work ALONE! I dont care what anyone says. We Nigerians ARE very lazy! Anything that happens, PRAY! If you cannot SHIT, pray! Prayer is not the answer at least not the only answer. It is like having an exam. If you tell yourself, I will pray and fast before the exam and you DO NOT study, I tell you….fast all you want, get prayer mongers, YOU WILL FAIL. WE HAVE FAILED OUR CHILDREN. AND WE HAVE FAILED OUR NATION. GOD FORBID!

      It is no wonder that many Nigerians refuse to go home. There are many people walking around the streets of Nigeria that should not be because MOST of them are on the verge of insanity. I blame it on poverty and our continual need to look like the white man. It is evident that the curse of colonialism is still aparent. But we should grow out of it.

      Religion has always been the opium of the masses. Where there is poverty there is bound to be a church. Arrive in America and you will find that the WHITE MAN who brought christianity is no longer practising it….because he has found wealth. BUT i guess this recession will change all that.

      God forbid!!!

    • 2009ice January 1, 2009 at 5:13 PM

      Please is there anyway on can reach CRARN directly. Not too comfortable with 3rd party donations. Does anyone have their contact details?

    • Carly February 9, 2011 at 11:49 AM

      Make a PACT – Prevent Abuse of Children Today in Nigeria

      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.

      With high levels of malnutrition, poverty, persistent violent conflicts and disease, increasing numbers of children in the Niger Delta are being forced to the streets putting them at risk of abuse, rape 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 http://www.makeapact.org 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 http://www.makeapact.org

      To find out more about Stepping Stones Nigeria, please visit http://www.steppingstonesnigeria.org