When CRARN, YHN, SSNUK and SSNCEF, and other non-governmental organisations were calling the attention to the naked injustices and human rights abuses of children in the Niger-Delta state of Akwa-Ibom, the government and their sycophants were busy denying that such situation exists. However, shock and disbelief gripped the Commission of Inquiry into Witchcraft Accusation and Child Abuse inaugurated by Governor Godswill Obot Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State, as it received a two year old girl who had been badly burnt in the buttocks by her step-father.
The child was forced to sit on a glowing fire by her Step-father, one Assam Bassey Amanam, a 35 year old man from Esit Eket who lives in Efoi Eket. Mr. Assam also branded the child with a hot machetes in different parts of her body, including her legs, palms and her private parts, according to her mother, Imabong.
“When I returned back from the stream, I saw Assam putting my child on fire with hot machetes in his hand branding her too. I shouted on him and raised alarm. When people stated coming, he brandished the weapons against them too. When he realised that a lot of people were coming he locked up my three month old daughter, picked a motorbike and ran away…” Imabong told the commission.
A member of the commission, and medical doctor, Dr Okon Edet Akaiso who examined the two year old expressed shock at the level of the inhumane and degrading treatment meted out on the little innocent girl. “This is not an accident; it is a deliberate act…” Dr Akaiso said.
Responding to questions on how she came to the commission, Imabong said that she was taken to CRARN Children Centre Ikot Afaha, Eket where the child was given first aid treat,e and food by director, Mr. Sam Itauma who gave her transportation and attached a staff to take her to the commission. “He gave me N2,000 for transportation and asked one of his staff to take me here. He also asked one of the staff to go and get the police…”
The Chairman of the Commission, His Lordship, Justice Godwin Abraham, promised to send a letter of summon to the man to come and answer questions on why he carried out such brutality on the little child. “This is not something we should take for granted. If he does not come here, I will issue a warrant of arrest on him,” said Justice Abraham.
The Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State, Barrister Ekpenyong Ntekim, who was apparently in the commission to cross-examine the Child’s Right and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN), out of sympathy to the child, doled out the sum of N5000 to assist in her medical treatment. “This is the prize the society has to pay for superstition; and this why the governor sets up this commission,” Ntekim maintained.
On why he referred the child to the commission, Mr Itauma sent an SMS, “This is what we are being crucified for. But when a two year old child is burnt on fire on account of witchcraft accusation, we therefore don’t need diagnosis to tell whether we need psychologists or psychiatrists to settle our cases.’’
Apparently stunned by this spectre of disbelief, this reporter headed for Effoi Eket where he met the mother to Mr Assam Amanam (Mrs Ekaete Amanam), who out of lamentation sang her nunc dimittis thus:
“Assam does not allow me to rest. He wants to kill that small child as he brought people to kill his father in 2001. That time many people were killed. They say they were witches. My husband was not a witch. That is Kufre, his brother. He has broken his head. See, I take care of his children but he beatas he likes. When police comes, he runs away. Nobody to help me arrest him.”
Video of the burnt child: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hqsnTt1f9s
Asuquo Okon CEJ