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The Law and Witchcraft

By Dr Ugoji Egbujo

Agbara police station, 20 years ago. Then youths were earnestly yearning for Abacha. An elderly man shuffled past me in leg cuffs. Why did they shackle limp limbs. His kinsman , a Lagos rich man, wanted him locked away for life. The rich man   had fixed his daughter’s traditional wedding for his village.   He would host the cream of the society. The old man sent a message to him. He would need to pay for weather. The rich man contested the fees. And dismissed the old man.

Wedding day came. Guests gathered at a field. The atmosphere was gay and colourful.   The music was good and loud. A wild wind   came from nowhere and ran towards the venue. Dark clouds followed it. Canopies and  geles  were sent flying. Potbellies were drenched before they could find their cars. The roof of the rich man floated two hundred meters and landed safely at the center of the confusion.

Judicial symbol for justice

The host outran his guests.

Once the ceremony fled, the storm disappeared. The rich man told his tale to his big   police friends. The police, with trepidation, went after the witch doctor. The old wizard surrendered with a smile. They arrested him and brought him to Agbara police station .And   chained him . They confessed they were scared.   But they were convinced he was responsible. He sent the storm. They said they were sure. The old man   was calm.   He   mumbled repeatedly :   Children of nowadays!

They said they would charge him under the penal code for witchcraft. I thought they were joking. They believed he ruined the wedding. They told me they didn’t write the law.

I left them and their wizard.

Then in 2011 witchcraft came face to face with the law.   One Adama and one Ibrahim bagged two years   imprisonment. The prosecutor said they bewitched one Hasfatu. He flung section 216 of the penal code at them. Ibrahim , the prosecutor said , was in unlawful custody of Hasfatu’s spirit. The chief magistrate ordered Ibrahim to return the woman’s spirit.   In broad daylight the court sanctioned a ritual. The woman lay prostrate in the court, and the convicts walked over her .   They said they would have to perform more rites before a full recovery.

The magistrate ordered that the convicts won’t leave prison, assuming they opted for the fine option, until the woman’s spirit was fully returned.

Witchcraft is a myth. Almost a myth, in Nigeria.


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