By Godwin Otang
Stakeholders at the forefront to end witchcraft branding in Cross River and Akwa Ibom States have blamed the act on institutional failures, government oversights, and Nollywood fiction films that depict characters as witches or wizards.
These fingers were pointed during a Town Hall meeting held at the Old Residency, National Museums and Monuments Calabar, to sensitize the public and to explore coping mechanisms for the survivors of terrorism, conflict, witchcraft branding, and among others in Cross River and Akwa Ibom States.
National Geographic Explorer and co-organizer of the Town Hall meeting Etinosa Yvonne frowned at the spike of witch hunting in the two States and perpetrators go unpunished.
“I use this project to advocate for increased access to psychosocial support for the survivors. For this chapter, we are focusing on people accused of witchcraft; as a society, we are more focused on the physicality of conflict than the mental and psychological effects. Some of the children you call ‘scolombo’ are not scolombo, they are just victims of a dysfunctional society; some of them, (both boys and girls) are being raped.
“In Nigeria, justice belongs to the highest bidder. That’s how Nigeria works, there’s too much abnormality and dysfunctionality. Until that is checked we would continue to spiritualize things that are just normal. The entire Nigerian system has failed, so when these things happen we spiritualize them, which is wrong,” Yvonne said.
Human Rights Lawyer and Co-founder of Basic Right Counsel Initiative (BRCI), James Ibor, Esq averred that witchcraft branding is a criminal offense.
He noted that the reason why the act keeps thriving is because governments at all levels are mute.
“We have to end it, it’s criminal to brand anybody a witch, those who have been branded have been affected negatively. It is the duty of the government to bring all the perpetrators to justice. Primarily, systemic failure is the major cause of witchcraft branding.
“What’s the state of our education, health, and road infrastructure? So superstition now spreads to the detriment of innocent citizens. Until we revive our school where critical thinking, wealth creation, technical and practical are taught; until our labs and the hospitals begin to function, churches would not shut down. The government should bring to justice all perpetrators of witchcraft branding and the killers of victims.
The program featured a healing retreat for survivors, panel discussions, and others.