By Jonathan Ugbal
Weeks after he was alleged to have set people ablaze in Oku, Boki local government area for acts of wizardry, Mr. Thomas Obi Tawo popularly referred to as ‘General Iron’ has opened up to CrossRiverWatch, describing the allegations against him as ‘fake news’ propagated by his ‘enemies.’
On May 20, 2020, no fewer than a dozen people were set ablaze for alleged acts of witchcraftcy and wizardry in Oku with the Association for Alleged Witches releasing 14 names out of the 15 said to have been set ablaze.
They included Benard Kekong (also known as papa Odu Ekpang), Rita Abang (also known as Dachi Ochang, Margaret Akan (also known as Ada Akan), Edward Kekong, John Otu, Mama Delia Kubua, Rose Obi, Patricia Obi, Kaka Olum, Mary Ada Otu, Martina Maurice, Serah Kepua Odu, Paulina Owan, Sussana Bisong and a yet to be identified person.
Three, (Bernard, Rita and Margaret) were said to have died while Serah’s buttocks were burnt off. The rest suffered different degrees of burns with many accusing Iron of masterminding the attack, an allegation he vehemently denied in an interview on Wednesday in Calabar at the sidelines of the presentation of the Cross River state report on “Insecurity in the South-South States: Issues, Actors and Solutions” by the Niger Delta Dialogue.
He said said: “It is not true. The issue happened in Boki, the name of the village is Oku. The issue of witchcraft – there are some women who confessed that they killed one man they called Asu and one young man they called Asu Otu and one young man they call Asu California. Along the line, the last person they killed was Emma Asim.
“So, they began confessing, and when they began confession, I wasn’t around even there. The youths, the community entirely, the Chiefs, the women, the men rose against it and the youths took action over the people, the witches who were killing people.
“On the day that event was taking place, I was even in Ogoja. They called me on phone that my community is on fire, I should come back immediately. I rushed down there and when I arrived, I calmed the situation urging the youths not to take laws into their hands. I asked them to allow the matter for the government to settle it.”
When asked why he was alleged to be the mastermind, Mr. Tawo said that: “I am a politician and when Government granted me amnesty, I was having a lot of enemies who were fighting against me. These people take fake information just to spoil my political career.”
According to him, he has been a victim of name dropping.
“The last time, I was arrested by soldiers when people were kidnapped in Ogoja and my name was used. When the soldiers arrested me, they went to verify and found out that it was not true so I was released. This is how my enemies move around trying to tarnish my image. I don’t know anything about it (witch burning incident).
The Police command in the state had said they were on the trail of those who perpetrated the act.
And, when pressed whether he was invited by the Police, Tawo averred that: “The DPO (Divisional Police Officer) in my zone came to me and asked over this same issue. I told him same thing I just told you.”
The Governor, whom sources say is aware of the allegations against his aide, has remained mute on the issue.
Iron is said to be feared in Boki and is often referred to as ‘powerful’ even after he was granted amnesty by the state government in 2018. Explaining this, he said that: “I am an agitator. During the struggle which led to me been granted amnesty; which was the position of our political leaders who use and dump, cause a lot of problems. We have an (oil palm) estate and that very estate was hijacked by them and they were enriching themselves. When we worked for them, they could not settle nor empower us. This led the youths to rise against that. I supported this move that the youths need to agitate so that government will intervene.
“In the (oil palm) estate, the palms are old, they have to privatize it so we can have development.”
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