By Ike Uchechukwu
CALABAR- THE three female siblings, aged 13, five and three years respectively, whose HIV-positive grandmother branded as witches at a community in Akamkpa Local Government Area, Cross River State, have divulged how their grandma allegedly conspired with some persons to whip them with red-hot machete to coerce them to confess what they were not.
They flogged us with hot machete
The eldest of the siblings, 13-year-old Imabong (not real name) told NDV: “We are not witches, our grandmother made us to confess what we are not. We dropped out of school in 2016 when our mother died; we also lost our father in 2014. We do not belong to any witchcraft world. We are normal children; she made us to sell sachet water before we can eat once a day.
“She is our grandmother, she normally brings people like Uncle Aniekan to punish us with hot machete and he flogged us with it after it had been heated up in fire. They will use it to flog us to confess that we were responsible for her sickness, but we are not.
“It was out of fear and intimidation that we admitted earlier that we were witches, me and my sisters, Grace and Emem are not witches, we are normal children,” she emphasised.
Father died in 2014, mother in 2016
NDV learnt that the three children, who lost their father in 2014 and mother in 2016, had since dropped out of school, following the death of both parents and hawked sachet water on a daily basis before they would be given food.
What we found out – BCRI
Two non-profit organisations based in Calabar, Child Protection Network and Basic Rights Counsel Initiative, BRCI, took up the matter to ensure that the rights of the children were protected by the appropriate authorities.
Principal Counsel to BRCI, which had removed the children to a comfortable home, Barr. James Ibor, said the witchcraft-related case of the three kids was very disturbing, as a lot of children, including the three sisters who are orphans, have been dehumanised to the point of death because according to their grandmother, they were the ones behind the family’s predicament.
He said that he got a report from their volunteer about the matter and as the Chairperson of Child’s Protection Network in Cross River State, he and his team decided to launch an investigation and discovered that the children were near death because of the kind of treatment they got from their grandmother.
“When we got the call, we thought it was just a mere allegation, but when we probed further, we discovered that the children were near death, so we mobilised and got the police involved and the first suspect that was arrested was their grandmother, who was later granted bail because she was HIV-positive and was like a walking corpse.
“We also discovered that the children have been dehumanised for more than a year and it only got worse two months ago.”
Grandma has deadly illness, refused to take drugs
“We know that the old woman in question has a terminal illness, for which she has refused to continue taking drugs as prescribed and recommended, but she decided to blame her condition on the children, who she claims are behind her deteriorating state of health,” Ibor asserted.
He added: “With the help of one Aniekan, they heat up a machete in fire, and flogged the children’s backs with it, inflicting serious life- threatening injuries on them all in a bid to make them admit they were witches. But from our findings, the children have nothing to do with their grandmother’s condition, she is only suffering from a terminal disease and if she adheres to the treatment made available by government, which is free, she would bounce back to life”
Apprehension and release by Police
Ibor told NDV: “She was arrested by the Police but was later released because her health condition was obviously deteriorating. We want the government of Cross River State to enforce the Child Rights law of 2009 in a bid to stop this kind of barbaric practice and demonic belief that children are witches or wizards.
“She got other accomplices to help inflict those injuries on the children because she believed that her health condition was caused by their (grandchildren’s) witchcraft and demonic powers, but it is really shocking and frustrating to know she was aware of her status and was placed under anti-retroviral drugs, but she stopped taking them and decided to say her children were sucking her blood.
Appeal to govt
“We are calling on the government to take more interest in children, implement the child rights law and also regulate churches that promote the belief of children being witches and wizards. The matter is on and we are going to make sure that other accomplices face the full weight of the law,” he said.
Case under investigation – PPRO
Contacted, Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Cross River Command, ASP Irene Ugbo, confirmed the incident, adding that the matter was under investigation and all the parties involved would be made to face the consequences of their actions.