The Cross River State Commissioner for Social Welfare and Community Development, Mrs. Patricia Endeley on Tuesday took over two abandoned children, Esther and Elisha Akpan who have since been sleeping in a police facility after they were rescued by the police and volunteers from the Basic Rights Counsel Initiative, a child’s right NGO in Calabar.
The father of the two children, 6 and 12 years respectively had accused the children of witchcraft and nailed them to a plank leaving them to die. After their rescue, Basic Rights Counsel accused the Commissioner of shirking her duties by refusing to take the children in and providing them the adequate care as required by the subsisting child’s right law in Cross River State.
The group in a petition to the State Governor, Senator Liyel Imoke said after several attempts to make the ministry bear their responsibility to no avail, they were going to stage a solidarity rally round Calabar.
The rally started by 1pm on Tuesday, April 16, 2013 after a court session where the father of the children is presently standing trial. At the trial, the Court granted bail to the accused person following the failure of the Directorate of Public Prosecution DPP, to file information at the family court of the High Court.
Led by Barrister James Ibor, the executive director of Basic Rights Counsel Initiative, the protesters numbering about 20 marched with placards bearing several inscriptions like “Home for abandoned kids is a Fundamental Right”, “Endeley Must Go”, “Child Rights Law Must be implemented Properly”, “Endeley is insensitive and irresponsible”.
The protesters marched to the Preregrino Lodge – Governor’s Office, where they waited for attention while chanting solidarity songs.
The Deputy Governor, Efiok Cobham came close to the protesters but did a decoy and walked away. About 10mins after he walked away, the Commissioner for Social Welfare and Community Development, Mrs. Inyang Patricia Endeley drove in, alighted from a Hilux van and addressed the protesters.
In her address, she denied knowledge of the issues raised by Basic Rights Counsel and persuaded the protesters to meet with her in her office for a closed door meeting so she could find a solution to their major complaint.
A source at the closed door meeting told crossriverwatch that “The Commissioner admitted seeing our letter demanding appropriate placement of the children but insisted that she ordered the Director, Child to inform us in writing for us to find a relation of the children to foster the children.
“Even with her lack luster defense, she boasted of her CV and called us trouble shooters. The good news is that she has requested we hand over the children to her for necessary action. My fear is that the commissioner and the Ministry lack the capacity to handle issues of children in the state.
“The only functional Family Court now is that manned by Honorable Justice Emilie Ibok and her amiable team of assessors and they are doing a fantastic job”.
Crossriverwatch attempts to speak with the Commissioner were unsuccessful. When our reporter called her on her phone, she said “I cannot comment on anything now. I am presently in Lagos in a conference with the First Lady. You will have to wait until I return to my office by next week”.
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