Wednesday, 30 March 2011 06:49

NIGERIA: Witchcraft - We Are Ready for Probe, Says Group


Child Rights group, Stepping Stones Nigeria (SSN), has expressed its readiness to co-operate with the Akwa Ibom State Commission of Enquiry into the alleged child witchcraft cases in the state, when members of the commission visit London this week to take testimony from the group's principal officers.

The commission was established in November 2010 by the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, with a mandate to investigate the extent of child witchcraft accusations in Akwa Ibom and the effect they have on children, and to make recommendations to address the issues.

Since its inauguration, the commission has heard detailed evidence from a huge range of witnesses including children, parents, community leaders, United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF), churches, government officials and NGOs, and has had to twice extend its original timeframe due to the high numbers of people who have come forward to testify. The commission has also investigated the shallow graves allegedly used to bury the victims of witch-hunts and has found a number of such graves.

In a statement, Advocacy Programme Officer of SSN, Emilie Secker, said, "This commission is the first of its kind anywhere in the world, despite accusations of child witchcraft being a significant problem for many countries, including the UK. The final report and recommendations of this commission will also be the first time that any government body has ever detailed the nature of the problem and identified means to address it. This is a major step forward for child rights."

She said SSN has fully co-operated with the commission since its inauguration and submitted a 800-page dossier of evidence to support its claim of child witchcraft abuses which include "cases of children who have been abandoned, beaten, burnt with fire or acid, thrown in rivers, attacked with machetes and even killed as a result of being accused of witchcraft."

Several international Human rights groups including British Government's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Federal Government of Nigeria have shown a keen interest in monitoring the findings of the Commission both in Nigeria and the United Kingdom.

SSN has worked with other Nigerian Child Rights groups to help children who were abused following an allegation of witchcraft. The group is facing challenges to its operations after the state government accused it and other Child right groups in the state of misappropriation of funds following a Cable News Network (CNN) report on its activities. However, SSN has vehemently denied the allegations. The Commission is expected to submit its report soon.

Source: Daily Independent (Lagos, Nigeria)

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