The HAWK Project

Friday, March 9, 2012

YHN/CRARN prosecute parent over witchcraft stigmatization

Mr. Michael Effiong about 38 years old man from Odoronkit village in Esit Eket Local Government Area was arrested on the 1st of March 2012 by Esit Eket Divisional police over witchcraft accusation and abandonment of his son Master Benjamin Michael Effiong.

The complain which was brought to the police by the two NGOs, working in partnership, Young Humanistas Network and Child’s Right and Rehabilitation (YNH/CRARN) based in Eket Akwa Ibom State Nigerian was as follows: that the said Mr. Michael Effiong from Odoronkit Village in Esit Eket L.G. A. accused his 7 years old son Master Benjamin Michael Effiong in February 2008 of been a wizard and the cause of all his problems. The little boy who had stayed in YHN/CRARN Centre for over 3 years was later reconciled with the father in February 2011 after counselling. Just a year later Benjamin was seen wandering along Ikot Afaha –Idung Offiong road in Eket L. G. A. (about 11 kilometers away from his home) with a bag of clothes on his head when interviewed by a staff of YHN/CRARN. Benjamin said his father was arrested by police , when he was release, the father called him and said he is the cause of all his problems that he is a wizard. The father packed all his clothes and put in a polythene bag and put on his head and drop him on the street. After intensive investigation by YHN/CRARN it was discovered that the father deliberately accused Benjamin of being a wizard and abandoned him on the street . YHN/CRARN reported the matter the police on 29/2/2012 and an arrest was made on March 1st, 2012.
After days in police cell without any surety to sign his bail bond, the matter was taken to the Magistrate court in Uquo in Esit Eket L. G. A. by YNH/CRARN prosecution team at about 12: 00. GMT on Thursday, 8 March, 2012. Young Humanistas Network and Child’s Right and Rehabilitation were the complainant while Mr. Michael Effiong was a respondent.

The presiding magistrate after going through the charges asked Mr. Michael Effiong the following questions:
Magistrate: Do you know that you have committed a serious offence against this child by calling him a wizard?
Mr Michael: Yes
Magistrate: Which church do you attend?
Ans. Apostolic Church, lkpa Town in Esit Eket L. G. A.
Magistrate: What is the name of your pastor
Ans. I can remember because he is a new pastor (he lie to the court)
Magistrate: Are you married?
Ans.Yes but we have divorced
Magistrate: How many children do you have ?
Ans. Two but my wife killed one and ran to the fishing port
Magistrate: What is your occupation?
Ans. Wood Sawyer
Magistrate: Do you know that you have committed evil against this child
Ans. Yes
Magistrate: Do you know that the Governor of Akwa Ibom state His Excellency Godswill Obot Akpabio was a child like this?
Ans. Yes
Magistrate: Do you know people ( human traffickers ) are going around the town buying children
Ans. Yes
Magistrate: Do you know what this child will be tomorrow?
Ans. No
Magistrate: Do you have parents?
Ans. Yes
Magistrate: While don’t you give them this child for proper care and when did you see this child last
Ans. When I was arrested.
Magistrate: If any pastor tells you that your child is a wizard, that pastor is a liar. I want you to apologize to this child. If you use your mouth and tell the world that your child is a wizard what do you thing will happen to that child?
The Magistrate then called the child “my son” and asked him to stand up. She asked the child who is caring for him, he answered YHN/CRARN. The Magistrate asked who is providing food for him. And he answered YHN/CRARN.
The Magistrate then commended the NGOs and assured that the case will be transferred to the Family Court for proper hearing since it involved children issue and then ordered Mr Michael to be remanded in prison custody till 22/3/2012 for further hearing
The case was transferred to DPP (Department of Public Prosecution) which will direct the case to family Court, Eket. The matter was adjourned to 22nd of March 2012 and the Magistrate promised that her Court will follow up the matter wherever it will be taken to, to make sure the child is properly taken care of.

Compiled by Emman Okon (YHN/CRARN Litigation Officer/Field Office Coordinator), Bassey Antia (YHN Investigation Officer and Ayobami Ojedokun (YHN/CRARN Center Manager)