The HAWK Project

Monday, December 13, 2010

YHN/CRARN/SSNUK/SSNCEF/BRC now free to arrest Helen Ukpabio!

Sequel to the dismissal (today) of the restraining order sought by counsel to Apostle Helen Ukpabio, Barr Victor Ukutt, by Justice T.J.Nneke of the Federal High High Court 2, Calabar, YHN and partners, most especially CRARN, SSNUK and SSNCEF are now free to seek for the arrest of the popular Nigerian witch exorcist.

Apostle Helen Ukpabio' book "Unveiling the Mystery of Witchcraft" and home videos like "End of the Wicked" has variously served as reference texts for many child-witch hunters in Akwa-Ibom and Cross Rivers (and other states).

Special kudos to erudite Barr. James Ibor of the Basic Rights Counsel and Bar. Pius Madaki for the tenacious and enviable doggedness in securing justice and in removing the impediment obstructing the course of justice. We can all hope from here that the arrest will be effected and prosecution started in earnest.

We sincerely want to thank our supporters and partners for working assiduously towards securing justice for these affected children. Although the road to justice might seem rough and bumpy yet the joy of been able to secure it, no matter how long, is long lasting.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

YHN/SSNUK Symposium on "Caging the Monster: Witchcraft Belief, Witchcraft Imaginations and Witch Hunting in Nigeria"

YHN 2010 annual end of the year symposium is scheduled to take place on 22 December, 2010 at the University of Ibadan (with the support of the Stepping Stones Nigeria, UK).

YHN/SSNUK Symposium on "Caging the Monster: Witchcraft Belief, Witchcraft Imaginations and Witch Hunting in Nigeria" is being planned as a means of carrying along ‘the town’ and ‘the gown’ (academics and the general public) in campaign to rid Nigeria, nay Africa, of unproductive superstitious beliefs that are affecting the children negatively

The core need addressed by the symposium is the need to ensure continual robust discourse on the menace called child-witch hunting in the south-south Nigerian states of Akwa-Ibom and Edo and recently in Nasarawa state so as to find a lasting solution

The objectives include: seek the opinion of the those within the academic and the general public on the core questions that affects the discourse; and how best to address the menace use the avenue to inform the participants on what the key groups (NGOs) involved directly in taking care of the affected children are doing and the challenges they are facing draw on the likely supports and expertise the participants could offer in the bid to tackle the menace

Over fifty participants are expected.

For more info contact YHN Senior Projects Officer, Ayo 08027763677

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Please Support this: Petition to Stop the killing of children in Akwa Ibom State in Nigeria

Stop killing of children in Akwa Ibom State in Nigeria

We, the concerned Nigerians of Akwa-Ibom State origin (South- South Nigeria) in Diaspora, as well as fellow Nigerian citizens seize this opportunity to appeal to your office for immediate intervention to save the severely abused, displaced, children of Akwa Ibom State in Nigeria, and the lives of the people who have worked tirelessly to advocate for their safety – Sam Itauma and Gary Foxcroft. We also seek your intervention for the safety of the social workers and volunteer staff members who provide care, medical aid, education, and a protective environment for the abused children.

Read more:

Thanks for your anticipated co-operation!


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Akwa-Ibom State Commission of Inquiry into Witchcraft Accusations and Child Rights Abuses: Our Position

For Immediate Release

Akwa-Ibom State Commission of Inquiry into Witchcraft Accusations and Child Rights Abuses: A Call for Inclusion of Child Psychologist, Human Rights Activist and Commission's Neutrality and Fairness

Our organisation, Young Humanistas Network, also known as YHN, has been involved in addressing child-witch menace in Akwa-Ibom and Edo both south-south Nigeria (and recently in researching into the situation in Nasarawa state) in the last twenty-three (23) months. During this period, we have been able to organise town-hall meetings, meetings with pastors, paid courtesy visits and organise road rallies to highlight the precarious state of child rights in the areas and explored, with the beneficiaries, how best to redress the situation; we even went as far as donating a sick-bay (health center) in one of the interventions. In all of these, we have been supported by the Humanist Action for Human Rights, Norway (HAMU) and Stepping Stones Nigeria, UK (for the pastors' parleys and book production).

While we can beat our chests to say that we have made appreciable impact on all fronts (rescuing, psycho-social supports, prosecution and re-unification), we shall be untruthful to say that we have not been faced with challenges.The challenges we have encountered in Akwa-Ibom has, however, been more gangantuan and disturbing than we envisaged; our staff have been harrassed, our partners' have been frustrated and key officers have been variously haunted by the foot-soldiers of the governor and some highly placed religious leaders. Unnecessary allegations have also been made against us on international and national media such as the CNN, AIT and even the local newspapers, but the joy has always been that WE ARE NOT DISSUADED!

After so many months of mis-information which has culminated in highbrow raising decisions, Governor Akpabio's constitution of a panel of inquiry on 23 November, 2010, we are bold to admit, is a welcome decision; not because of the committee's terms of reference but for the supposedly sincerity of members of the committee.

The committee, by the way, was given the mandate to, among others,
a. determine the veracity of the allegations of witchcraft against children and infliction of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment upon such children.

b. It is also to determine the number of those stigmatized, abused or killed on suspicion of involvement in witchcraft; those culpable; identify the shallow graves and the particulars of children affected under paragraph 5 (e) and also identify those who maltreated, stigmatized or caused their deaths and make appropriate recommendations.

The Commission is chaired by a Judge with over 23 years on the bench, Honourable Justice Abraham and Barrister (Mrs.) Theresa Obot, Dr Okon Edet Akaiso, Dr. Essien Edward Essien, Rt. Rev. John Koko-Bassey and a Chief State Counsel, Barrister Mrs. Uduak Victor Ekwere as members.

Ordinarily, one should be happy of this, though late yet, vital government intervention. Unfortunately, however, the tasks set before the committee and the timeframe (six weeks), non-inclusion of a child-psychologist and seasoned rights activist leave much to be desired.

We therefore call on the government of Akwa-Ibom to:

1. As a matter of URGENCY extend the time-frame of the commission by FOUR WEEKS if truly the Governor wants to unravel the mistery behind the stigma Akwa-Ibom children have been subjected to

2. include a capable child psychologist and a respected human rights activist in the commission to ensure that the members are adequately advised in the screening of gathered child-related information and that the pulse of the populace on the menace is sumptuously felt; and

3. Ensure that the commission, as promised, by His Excellency Governor Akpabio, remain apolitical and futuristic.

On our part, we are ready, as CONCERNED CITIZENS of Nigeria, STAKEHOLDERS and professionals, to partake in the public hearing BUT we shall be happier if the above concerns are taken care of.

Above all, we want to thank His Excellency, Akwa Ibom State Governor, Chief Godswill Obot Akpabio, for this initiative and his untiring efforts to free Akwa-Ibom state children.

Akwa-Ibom Children ADO OK! They are NOT WITCHES!!!


'Yemi Ademowo Johnson

YHN/SSNUK anthology, Suffereth Not a Witch to Live, is out!

Suffereth Not a Witch to Live
Discourse on Child-Witch Hunting in Nigeria

Edited by:
Adeyemi Johnson Ademowo
Gary Foxcroft
Temidayo David Oladipo

Belief in witches is never peculiar to Nigerians, nor is it an ‘African thing’, for there are stories of witchcraft practices and witch-hunting in countries all over the world. Thousands of lives have been lost at stakes, village squares, witch pits, etc., all in the name of witch-hunting globally. However, the contemporary practice of witch-hunting in different parts of Africa, when similar beliefs have been thrown into the rubrics of history in other parts of the world, and, or, in the face of ‘modernity’ and contemporary advancements in science and technology, is quite disturbing. Again, considering that children, the bundles of joy in almost all cultures of the world, are now the targets of witchcraft accusations in some African countries such as Congo, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, among others, one can’t but be moved to ask: is it a case of barbarism? Or is it a resurgence of primitively acts? Or, considering the role of churches, is it a case of ignorance of proper interpretation of religious texts? Does poverty has any role to play in these accusations?

Contributors to Suffereth Not a Witch to Live have one or two answers to proffer to the above questions. Although the book is essentially on the Nigerian case-study, some contributors attempted to go wider to explain the phenomenon in an African context. Indeed, the book can be taken as an amalgam of theoretical and applied contributions on the understanding of the menace called childwitch hunting by academics and social workers researching and working with the victims of the menace. Also included, for personal reflections of the readers to possibly deduce answers to the questions, are excerpts of interviews had with ten victims of childwitch hunting abuse (those who lived to tell the stories).

You can get a copy by contacting:
Yemi Johnson
Gary Foxcroft

Monday, November 15, 2010


The international child rights NGO, Stepping Stones Nigeria (SSN), has condemned in the strongest terms the ongoing campaign of harassment and intimidation directed at one of its Nigerian partners, the Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN), which is based in Eket, Akwa Ibom state, in the Niger Delta. Since the work of SSN and CRARN was featured in the multi-award winning documentary – Saving Africa’s Witch Children – in 2008 both NGOs have been on the receiving end of a fierce and relentless campaign of intimidation. This has included two court cases being launched against them by the child witch-hunting pastor – Helen Ukpabio - who also sent her supporters to raid a child rights conference organised by the NGOs and beat up the organisers. Her lawyer also escorted some police officers from Lagos to the CRARN centre in July 2009 where they falsely arrested staff and beat up a number of the 200+ children.

Recent developments have seen the Akwa Ibom State Government launch a widespread media campaign stating that SSN and CRARN are fraudulent organisations who have used the children under their care to extort millions of pounds from the international community and demanding that the President of CRARN – Sam Itauma – and the Programme Director of Stepping Stones Nigeria – Gary Foxcroft – should both be arrested. These allegations have been entirely refuted by both agencies who have stated that their accounts are publicly available for all to see.
On Wednesday 10th November, 15 years to the day since the human rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa was hanged by the Abache Regime, the CRARN centre in Eket was once again raided; this time by the EFCC,iii who said that a petition had been filed against CRARN and that they were seeking to arrest Mr Itauma. When informed that he was not on the premises, they initially arrested another staff member, Mr Bassey, but he was released following protests from the children at CRARN.

Sam Itauma of CRARN stated ‘I am genuinely living in fear for my life. I know there are people who would like to see me dead because I have stood up and told them that it is wrong to torture and murder innocent children who have been accused of being witches. I have had to leave my home and family and go into hiding. How can this be right?”

He continued: “The only reason that certain people are making accusations against me is because their interests are threatened by our fight against child witchcraft-related abuse. I am happy to face any charges that are brought against me or CRARN, including those from the EFCC, as long as this is done through a publicly monitored and fully accountable process, rather than at the whim of some official who disagrees with the work that we do”.
Gary Foxcroft, Programme Director of SSN, said “It is absolutely disgraceful that passionate, committed human rights defenders are being threatened in this way, when all they are trying to do is protect the rights of some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children in Nigeria. We call upon the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Akwa Ibom State Government to guarantee the security of the staff and children at CRARN and to ensure that any charges brought against them by agencies such as the EFCC are conducted in a fully transparent manner.”

Foxcroft added “It appears that the Governor of Akwa Ibom state, Chief (Dr) Godswill Akpabio is being given false information by those who seek to profit financially from the exploitation of helpless, innocent children. We will continue to seek dialogue with the Governor at the earliest opportunity so that we can reassure him that we are genuine NGOs and wish to work together with the Government in order to overcome the problem of child witchcraft accusations and repair the damage done to the image of Akwa Ibom State due to this ongoing campaign of intimidation”.

Monday, September 13, 2010


For Immediate Release


Dear Sir/Ma,

Since the release of the UNICEF report and the airing of the CNN programme on Akwa-Ibom child witches recently, the State Governor has decided to release his vernon on those "making claims that there are childwitches" in his state.
To this extent, he has declared MR SAM ITAUMA WANTED!

And true to his threat, some of his foot soldiers attempted to intimidate (and possibly kill) the CRARN officials on 13 September 2010

Dear all, when Mr. Governor issued the threat some weeks ago on CNN, and later during a local programme on the Akwa Ibom State Broadcasting Corporation, little did we know that HE MEANT BUSINESS and that the lives and future of the STIGMATIZED CHILDREN are not IMPORTANT TO HIM. But, now we KNOW BETTER.

A stitch in time, they say, saves nine. Hence we want all global citizens to:

1. Be aware that ALL the officials of the NGOs working with these children have been DECLARED PERSONA NON GRANTA and consequently THEIR LIVES ARE NOT GUARANTEED (they live in perpetual fear for their lives)

2. That rather than reviewing the MEASURES taken so far, Mr. Governor (Godswill Akpabio) has decided to DENY what he earlier affirmed when he visited the CRARN Center in July 2009 FOR POLITICAL REASON (because his SECOND TERM in office ambition is under threat)

3. That CRARN, SSN, SSNCEF, YHN, CEPHD and their partners have no cladetine motive towards the governor

Based on the above, and to mitigate any further attacks, we want to implore all well meaning global citizens to HELP:

1. CALL on the Governor to SHEALTH his sword for the sake of the children (because we believe that their interest should be the focus for now)

2. APPEAL to the governor to provide SECURITY for the staff of the affacted NGOs as well as the affected children

3. The Governor should APROVE A MEETING with the officials of these NGOs to discuss face-to-face, so that unclear issues will be clarified.

It is our sincerely belief that the GOVERNOR is being MISINFORMED on our role in this matter, HENCE, we are cocksure the a meeting will be enough to clarify the cloudy opinions of the Governor.

Kindly help us, through your organisations, group and consulate, to request that the governor take action on these demands of ours.

His Excellency Obong (Barr.) Godswill Akpabio
The Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State
Wellington Bassey Way
Uyo, Akwa Ibom State

Thanks and onward!

Yemi Ademowo-Johnson
Projects Director,
Young Humaistas Network

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A revealing town-hall meeting held at Esit Eket

The participation of the locals in intervention projects cannot be overemphasized, hence, the Young Humanistas Network (YHN), Ibadan in partnership with Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN), Eket, organized a town-hall meeting in Esit-Eket, Akwa Ibom State on August 6, 2010.

The essence of the meeting was to influence people to
work together with the organizations to address childwitch hunting menace in the state. The attendance was highly encouraging and demonstrates the commitment of the people to address the menace; a total of seventy-six people (76) people participated. The use of local dialect was employed for better understanding of the goals of the meeting. Fifteen (15) people volunteered to work within their localities. The two organizations recorded the meeting as a success. We hope to follow-up on this later on

YHN hosts an American researcher and volunteer, Jessica

In July, YHN hosts and supported the research works of Jessica Wilbanks, an American graduate student of University of Houston who visited the University of Ibadan. Jessica, against all odds and damning the fears of being kidnapped visited the abused children at the CRARN Center. For about two days, she played and taught them Elementary English. Jessy also took part in YHN Monthly seminar for July with the theme "Pentecostalism, get-rick quick syndrome and Witchcraft accusations in Nigeria". She also did the first reading of an edited volume (a book we are publishing soon). Although she is back in Houston, we want to say a very big "Thank You" to her for daring to be different. More of Jessica are needed! She really lifted the children!!

YHN holds a successful prosecution training

The heat turned on child-abusers under the disguise of child-witch exorcism by the Akwa-Ibom State Child Rights Bill has been exacerbated recently by the prosecution accord signed by five organizations, namely, Basic Rights Counsel, Calabar; Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network, Ikot-Afaha; Stepping Stones Nigeria, UK; Stepping Stones Nigeria Child Empowerment Foundation, Eket and Young Humanistas Network (for Secularism, Leadership and Neglected Rights), Ibadan. Since the said agreement came into existence, in 2009, formidable efforts have been made to arrest, detain and prosecute those investigated (no matter their status) and confirmed to be involved in child abuse, abandonment and stigmatization/labeling.

Unfortunately however, this dream (of sending offenders according to the Child Rights law) has remained largely a pipe dream for many of us seeking justice for these kids. Parents and concerned citizens who most often than not are willing to narrate ‘how it all happened’ and are only WILLING to speak in CONFIDENCE with us, the police and legal team. None of them, so far, is willing to confront these ‘accused’ persons we have arrested and hold them accountable for their deeds. The dilemma here is that WITHOUT these WITNESSES, we cannot successfully prosecute any of the cases; and now, we have gone too far to ever imagining taking a break. The pertinent question then is: what is the way forward?

The foregoing question was our compass on 17th July, 2010 as we gathered the police, legal team and the social workers working on the childwitches menace to brainstorm on the way out of the seemingly irredeemable quagmire. The meeting among others, sought answers to three questions:
1. Are there categories of witnesses and which among can best serve our purpose?
2. What methods or ways can we adopt that can guarantee access to quality, nay dogged, witnesses cum prosecution?
3. How best can we assure and reassure our witnesses of their safety for the sake of justice?

It was, indeed, a rewarding meeting/seminar.

YHN/ CRARN Children Sick Bay

One of the major worries at the centre, apart from food and water (and maybe clothing) has been access to medical attention. With the financial support provided by HAMU, we were able to acquire a 2-bedroom flat on an 18-months initial lease and refurbished same to cater for the health need of the children at the center. Apart from the sick beds provided, we also hired two staffs (a staff nurse and a ward maid) to cater for the kids. The two staffs will join CRARN hired staff nurse (who now heads the medical team) in providing day-to-day healthcare for the children at the center.

YHN organises pastors' parley

During the period under review, we organised a meeting with sixty-seven pastors in Oron land on how best they think we could address the menace. Held on 26th May 2010 at the Bakibum Beach Hotel, the high point of the meeting was the willingness of twenty-one pastors who personally decided to volunteer to work with us in whistle-blowing the activities of their colleagues caught or suspected to be involved in witch-hunt and also their willingness whenever such is held in their area.

Radio jingles continue to enlighten and sound notes of warnings!

To be forewarned is to be fore harmed. In continuation of our public enlightenment aspect of the Child Witches Rights Project, we have been able to renew our paid radio enlightenment on Sibawasibawa and Rockyfella, both popular radio programmes on Akwa-Ibom State Broadcasting Corporation Radio section. While Sibabasibaba is a local language programme aired every Tuesday between 8-9pm, Rockyfella is an 'afternoon ride' programme that enjoyed wide audience most especially among the youths, the educated and the 'young at heart'. It is expected that we will be able to reach out to as many as 1.8million people within the 3-quarter plan.

Advocacy visit to the Norwegian embassy

As part of our efforts to ensure that the menace is not thinned out of public discourse, YHN/CARN team visited the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Abuja. We were received by Geir A. Schei, Deputy Ambassador, at the chancellery on 22 June, 2010.

YHN/CRARN organises rally to mark World Family Day

In tandem with our belief in family as the best social institution for the growth of the child, YHN in partnership with CRARN organised an open rally on May 15, 2010 sharing handbills, pasting posters with anti- childwitch hunting messages amidst singing and dancing in and around Ikuta, Uya- Oron, Idua, Eyobasi, Ukpata, Esuk- Oron and Eyetong. The goal of the "energy intensive" walk and dance was to remind Oron Nation of the need to remember that care for children, not stigmatization, is the bedrock of family.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


For some times now, we have not updated the HAWK blog due to so many reasons, one of which is the spam attack we have experienced. Our ability to secure a website donation (thanks to Alan) also made us to consider focusing on developing our website for the news items. Unfortunately, our website: is still undergoing further development. We hope to update within days to come.



Thursday, February 4, 2010

SSNUK/YHN/CRARN/BRC Prosecution for Deterrence on course

Following the Newspaper reports (The Guardian, Wednesday, Jan., 27, 2010 page 8) on the arrest of Prophet Gideon Peter who allegedly killed two kids: Abasi-Ifreke Monday 7years and Edidiong Monday 10years by administering a concoction mixed with olive oil to the children. The police also, confirmed that their parents one Monday Akpan Bassey and Ima Monday Bassey at Ikot Ikpene, on the 29th December, 2009 took these children to the said prophet to exorcise the allege witchcraft spirit possessing them.s

Also in Police custody is one Ben Esifa is alleged to have murdered the sister; one Eno Ben Ben Esifa in the process of exorcising witchcraft on the 19th of January, 2010 in their village Eyokponnang village, Udung Uko L.G.A. There is also the case of one Inyene Monday Ekaidem of Ikot Ntuk Village in Oruk Anam L.G.A who allegedly murdered Madam Doette Akpan Ekaidem (50years) and Mfon Akpan Ekaidem (30years) and setting ablaze their properties.

My interaction with the Police Public Relations Officer Akwa Ibom State ASP Gabriel E. Ngban and the officer in charge of the Homicide department of the police command revealed that the suspects confessed to the crime. I also had the opportunity of interacting with them in their cell.
I found out from reliable police sources that, many other alleged witch-hunters and their accomplices were arrested but released after an illegal bargain was struck with the police. I am specifically disturbed that since the arrest of these suspects, the police has not conducted an autopsy to enable them corroborate the suspects confessional statements. I found out that the relations and church members of the prophet are committed to getting their prophet off the hook and are only waiting for an opportunity to do so.

I will be meeting with the Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State on the 24th of February, 2010 to discuss the prosecution of these criminals as soon as the police are done with their investigation.

Barr. James Ibor Esq., counsel to the SSNUK/YHN/CRARN/BRC P4D Project