A local non-governmental organization, the Basic Rights Counsel Initiative (BRCI), in Calabar has just released horrific images of three children who were tortured for witchcraft in Cross River State in Southern Nigeria. Grace 3, Lillian 5, and Juliet 13 narrowly escaped death after their accusers tried to extract confessions from them.
According to local sources, the parents of Grace, Lillian and Juliet are dead. So the three children have until recently been living with their grandmother. The grandmother has been ill for some time. She has AIDS and accused the children of being responsible for the ailment. She claimed that the children were sucking her blood at night, and that made her emaciate. The grandmother contracted two witch-finders in the community to help in neutralizing the witchcraft in the children.
On February 12, the grandmother lit some fire and the witch-finders burnt the knife until it is very hot. They place the knife on the bodies of the children, and they screamed uncontrollably. Grace, Lillian and Juliet sustained serious injuries in the process. A member of the community who volunteers for the BRCI heard about the incident and contacted the organization. The BRCI intervened and has taken custody of the three children. The police have also intervened. They arrested the grandmother of the children but granted her bail on health grounds. The two witch-finders are currently at large.
Belief in child witches is widespread in this region and children who are accused are sometimes tortured and killed. Churches and pastors in this part of Nigeria preach and promote the idea that children can be witches. They often organize sessions where they claim to exorcize the spirit of witchcraft. State institutions have been slow in tackling witch-finding churches because many state actors believe that witchcraft is real. Also state institutions do not want to be seen to be anti Christianity and anti God. An effective public enlightenment campaign is needed in the region to educate the people, to reason them out of this dark and destructive superstition, and save the lives of innocent children.