JANE: A CHILD IN CRARN CENTRE, EKET WITH A SAW SCAR ON THE FORE HEAD
Paul Eme is the first son of his father who is proprietor of a school. Paul was accused of being a witch by his step mother. His step mother took him to the Liberty church where the pastor pronounced him to be witch. His step-mother drove him out of the house. Paul has been living at CRARN for about one year
Paul’s father visits him at CRARN occasionally but is not willing to take him home due to the stigma associated with “child witches”
When asked to describe in his own words how he feels he said “I feel so bad when my step mother called me a witch. I could not play or talk with people”
Paul Eme’s Experience, a case study in A UNICEF report provided an important background to the wider context of the issue of children accused as witches and provided a fascinating and important insight into the very dehumanising and unacceptable situations for which Nigeria should have zero tolerance. The children at CRARN whose detailed stories, physical scars and tearful accounts in the wide ranging report spoke volumes.
There were stories of Burying alive; instances where a child has been buried up to the neck.
“The report summarises the findings of a research carried out in Akwa Ibom State, and in Eket Senatorial zone in particular, to investigate reports of prevalence of children being accused of witchcraft.
This study seeks to provide a descriptive analysis of the history, belief and practices of “child witches”.
The study summarises the key findings and recommendations made from the qualitative study involving a total of 80 FGDs and IDIs conducted. A few case studies were documented from the findings. The presence of children labeled as “child witches” is known to virtually everyone across the state and is practiced State-wide.
The children are called witches and blamed for untimely deaths in the family, broken homes, problem at work, loss of work, pain and sickness. These children who are labeled as witches are abandoned, ostracized and violated in several ways. The primary accusers and perpetrators of violence are members of the immediate family who attempt home –made remedies, which include beating, acid baths, setting ablaze and killing. The children are taken to churches, shrines and traditionalists who use one, or a combination of prayers, praise and worship, oil in the eyes and ears or to drink. Other extremely harmful remedies meted out include beating, chaining, sawing, tying up, herbal enemas and nails driven into the head. These superstitious beliefs have become a fertile ground for churches, shrines and traditionalists who have cashed in on the situation to provide a remedy in the form of exorcism and deliverance.
“Therefore, they may be the ones to prophesy that a child is a witch or a family member may bring such a child to them to be delivered. It is a common site in AKS to find up to five sign boards advertising churches, competing for space at a street junction. One can also find a plethora of banners promising miracles and deliverance, such as “CARRY YOUR BABY IN 90 DAYS” Some of these churches are highly organised; with several branches while others are one-man one room churches. The genesis of this issue has been attributed by respondents, to initiation by older witches as well as the presence of movies which have depicted children as witches who bring all manner of ill-luck in families.
“It is also thought to be passed on through food, so much so, that the name given to snacks received from another child is also called “witch”. These children are thrown out of homes by parents, ostracised by the community and end up on the streets eating from garbage. They may even progress to drugs and robbery and are in danger of being trafficked. They can be found in settlements in parks, near markets and filling stations and uncompleted buildings. There is also a high rate of teenage pregnancy amongst the girls. One of the striking findings is the high level of stigma and discrimination which the children go through.
“They are seen as defiled and capable of defiling. The extreme stigma robs them of any social support network from their families, communities and churches. They are called names at school and suffer mob attacks. They therefore go through both physical as well as psychological trauma.
Some of these children are being given shelter by child protection agencies of Government and Civil Society Organisations such as MOWASD, NAPTIP, CRARN and SSN.
These agencies provide shelter, feeding, education and medical care. There is however a danger in further increasing stigma when they are put in separate institutions and kept out of mainstream schools. There are a few recorded success stories of reunification with families and reintegration into communities, by CRARN. However, the vast majority of accused children continue to be stigmatised due to the negative mind set of the people.
“The recoded successes have occurred when the children have been taken in by their grandparents or other close family members who live in totally different communities. The best successes have been recorded in cases where the parents have kept the accusation secret from other community members. They have then taken the children for counselling at the child protection CSOs on a daily basis without having them live in.
“Public enlightenment efforts such as PACT, an annual enlightenment programme, and advocacy rallies such as the one held on the 15/5/08 World Family day, have yielded positive results.
“The positive results include commitment to passing of the Child Rights Bill into Law. An internet petition sponsored by Kelli Stowe, has been signed by more than 1,000 people in over 30 countries. Advocacy efforts such as a recently held Zonal workshop on child rejection in South-South States created an opportunity for the issue to be extensively discussed and for high level commitments to be extracted from key players such as the Governors, wives of Governors and Commissioners of relevant ministries.”
Among the disgusting findings of the report are the following:
The accusation may also involve the child being accused of initiating his/her siblings. Of the 140 children in CRARN, there were 14 families which had two or more siblings resident at CRARN. An example of children being accused initiating their siblings appears in case study 5 where Erit was accused of initiating her 5 and 2 year old sisters.
Most of the accused children were middle or last children in the family. Where the first son was accused it was usually by a step parent who saw the first son as a threat to her own child being the heir apparent. The culture of the high premium placed on the first son played out in the fact that most of the accused children were either middle or last children in the family.
The wide range of reasons for accusing the children highlight the variations in socio-cultural perspectives, and the fact that any enlightenment campaign will need to recognise the heterogeneous nature of the society.
The accusers or those who pronounce the child a witch include Parents, step parents, siblings, and pastors in churches or herbalists in “healing homes”; the accuser may decide to carry out the local remedy or may seek help from a deliverance minister, pastor or herbalist.
Of the 16 children in CRARN who filled the self – administered questionnaires the following were mentioned as accusers: Father-2, Mother- 2, Pastors-3, and Relations-6 and step parents-
iv) Place of deliverance
Deliverance takes place in the following locations
o Prayer House
o Traditional medicine practitioners
Those who carry out the deliverance include some pastors and evangelists. A child may be suspected or pronounced a witch in a prayer house, during fasting or tarry night or may have been brought by the parent. Parents who have been reunited with their children after staying at CRARN believe that the counselling sessions are “a type of deliverance”.
vi) Ways of determining a successful deliverance
Those who claim to deliver use certain signs to claim a successful deliverance. These include vomiting and passing of stool. The gullible clients believe these to be signs despite the fact that the concoctions are so unpalatable that vomiting would be a natural consequence, or that the insertion of herbal enema would cause a child to pass stool frequently.
6.3 Methods of Deliverance These methods were listed by respondents as methods of deliverance which they had either experiences or had heard of:
i) Forced confession Some of the parents in the study claimed that their children confessed willingly to them. However he children when asked privately explained that they were left with no option than to confess for fear of beatings and to avoid the ordeal of further questioning. These confessions are most times made under duress or even hypnosis. Questions are asked repeatedly if she/he is going to the witch world, this questioning may be accompanied by threats until the child succumbs. If the child says “yes” may be beaten. Over time the children may hallucinate.
ii) Prayer The deliverance prayer may go on for days, months or even years. During this time the person administering the deliverance sees visions. This may be accompanied by praise and worship. Part of the deliverance or exorcism may include “assignment” such as buying certain items such as oil and leaving them at a road junction. Informants referred to this as casting out, breaking the yoke or exorcism
iii) Fasting Children are not allowed to eat or drink for periods of up to a week. Fasting may be seven (7) days, one month, or may be repeatedly every Saturday. Fasting may mean abstaining from both food and water. The parent/s of the child is required to join in the fast. They are usually kept in the church premises, and therefore, this constitutes a form of starvation.
iv) Oil, salt water and other liquid concoctions
In the process olive oil or concoctions are given to them to drink. Oil is rubbed on their bodies, on heads, in mouth, eye, ear, all over body. The other method is squeezing water and drinking of fluid squeezed from mbritam – a bitter plant.
Vomiting or defecating of any of these substances may be taken as proof that the deliverance has succeeded. Herbs are put in the in eyes or ears. “Holy water” and salt may also be used. Some of these concoctions are given in the form of an enema, which is a method commonly used by the medicine men.
v) Tying up or chaining
An example was shared by the respondents whereby Uduak Samson Eyo a 10 year girl was tied by the ankles and hung upside down for two days. When she was freed she escaped by running into a bush. This method may also involve the use of chains, blindfolding and being kept in dark room.
Children may be beaten with the local stem-mbritam (see picture below). The use of a broom stick is also common. In the case of Michael Itah-Esan, he was flogged by a pastor of Jesus Revive Ministry. This left deep gashes in his body after which he was left in a bush to die. It was when people came to photograph the dead body that he was discovered to still be barely alive. (local plant mbritam-good at inflicting maximum pain)
vi) Hot poker up anus
An iron instrument or knife may be heated on the fire and inserted into the anus as a means of deliverance leaving behind serious burns.
vii) Torture by pouring Acid
One of the children at CRARN – Mary Sunday Dan, aged 9 years her own mother poured acid over her, after she was treated, a huge scar is testimony to the agony she could have gone through.
viii) Throwing in bush or abandoning in the market
I met two year old Emilia1 who was found wandering in the market for two days. She had been simply dumped in the market with no trace of who left her there. Abandonment may be preceded by isolation or locking up.
ix) Using a saw or knife
In the case of Jane Ikpezia, aged 8 years her mother used a saw and tried to saw off her head.2 Body marks and scarification are some times made and herbs inserted in the scars
x) Driving of nails into the head The internet report by journalists reported in the Guardian showed pictures of children who had nails driven into their heads and who ended up mentally ill, such a child exists at CRARN.
xi) Pouring of Petrol and setting ablaze
In the case of 10 year old Jeremiah Victor Friday, his own father poured petrol over him and struck a match and locked him in a room. He escaped by climbing out through the ceiling.
Case study 2
Two year old EMILIA was found wandering in the market for two days. She was simply dumped in the market with no trace of who left her there.
(Comfort Bassey) If child is not cleansed from the witchcraft, the child is given a local berry – esire.This berry is known to be very poisonous. The belief is that if the child is not a witch, he/she will survive after ingesting the poisonous berry .The community comes out to grind the berry and to give it in a large quantity to the child.
xii) Burying alive There are reports of instances where a child has been buried up to the neck.
xii) Drinking of cement There are reports of children being asked to drink cement mixture so that they could die. Others means: Of the 50 pupils in the FGD at CRARN, 20 had been beaten in a church, 21 had oil poured over them and 23 had participated in fasting and prayer. 6.4 Stigma and discrimination/exclusion Stigma is the common thread that weaves through
As a result of these key findings the following recommendations are being proposed:
1. Locate, track, number and document all affected children.
2. National Protection Systems should be strengthened 1
3. Advocate for the immediate passing of child rights Act
4. Establish family courts and a task force to protect children
5. Establish an agency to regulate churches.
6. Prosecute offenders and perpetrators.
7. Strict regulation by the National Film Censors board.
8. Have programmes that will enhance social change2
9. Expand pubic enlightenment programmes especially at the
grass root/community level.
10. Lobby for inclusion of child protection in the State school
curriculum in social or religious studies.
11. Harnessing the expertise of civil society and other partners such as Christian Association of Nigeria, political parties and oil companies.
12. Emphasise reintegration and reunification with families and communities for children already residing in shelters.
13. Provision of counselling centres for day case rather than residential centres
14. Invest in massive training of counsellors
15. Strengthen the protective role of families through promotion of parenting education.
16. Strengthen the protective role of communities through1non-coercive and non-judgemental approaches.
Report compiled by UNICEF ‘A’ Field Enugu, Nigeria
See main report with photos here
Culled from Elombah.com