By Godwin Otang
Cross River and Akwa Ibom States have been fingered to have high cases of witchcraft branding, especially on elderly, women, and children involving torture and killing.
This was the high point at the multilayered exhibition by Etinosa Yvonne in collaboration with the Basic Right Counsel Initiative (BRCI) held at the National Museum, Old Residency in Calabar.
The exhibition which was targeted at mitigating the scourge of witchcraft branding, accusation, torture, and killings is an initiative of National Geographic Explorer, Etinosa Yvonne, who had been in Cros River and Akwa Ibom years back for research found the problem and is poised to seek solutions for the menace.
Etinosa feels dissatisfied that the government has done very little in cases of witchcraft branding as part of its function of protection of lives and properties.
She said the multilayered Art exhibition titled ‘It’s all in my head’ she began about five years ago, looks at coping mechanisms of survivors of terrorism, conflict, and cruelty. Adding that the project aims to advocate for increased access to psycho-social support for survivors as they have been working with people who have been accused of witchcraft – children, women, and the elderly while observing their mental health.
“I carried out this research in two States; Cross River and Akwa Ibom: despite that I don’t have data, among the states where witchcraft hunt happens, Cross River from my findings has heightened the number of witchcraft accusations, killings, and torture of children, women, and adults. It’s high in Akwa Ibom, but especially in Cross River, it’s very heightened.
“The message here is to get the government to start doing the right thing: securing lives and property, not until war breaks out; take witchcraft accusations as a real issue that is costing people their lives, endangering elderly people, and making people lose their lives. It looks like in Nigeria, when you are older, then you’re tagged as a Witch.
Reports have it that the practice has left many children either as orphans or women as widows and men as widowers.
Victoria Ogar is one of those who has suffered from such incidents. She said: “I can’t express how I feel about this event. I feel happy coming here, I remember my mum who was murdered after being named a witch. I grew up as the last child, in a family of 9; my mum was stigmatized by the church she attended and it spread to the whole community.
“But in August last year (2022) and in her 70s, someone came to our compound with a machete and accused my Mum of witchcraft, and in the process cut her with the knife. They took my mum to the village council, and later they beat my mum to death and pieced her stomach. The experience got me traumatic,” she briefly narrated.
Speaking also, human rights lawyer and co-founder of BRCI, Barrister James Ibor, said the collaboration with the National Geographic Explorer and Etinosa Yvonne was due to the increasing rate of witch hunting.
The Lawyer took participants on the various laws prohibiting witchcraft branding; adding that the government needs to do more to stop or curtail the practice.
“A lot of victims and survivors of witchcraft branding have gotten justice. Witch hunt itself is a criminal offense; section 210 to 215 of the Criminal Code criminalizes witch branding. The Child Rights Law 2023 also criminalizes witch branding, and yet we have a lot of perpetrators working free.
“Government must take responsibility, it is the duty of government to protect lives and property. They must take responsibility to stop witch hunting today.”
The event will span between November 8th to 14th, 2023, and will culminate in a Town Hall meeting.