2020-2030: Decade of Activism Against Witch Persecution in Africa

By Dr. Leo Igwe

The Advocacy for Alleged Witches (AfAW) hereby announces a Decade of Activism against Witch Persecution in Africa: 2020-2030. The main objective of this initiative is to create a witch hunting free Africa by sensitizing Africans on witch hunting and spearheading the advocacy for alleged witches in Africa within the next ten years.
To realize this objective, AfAW will engage in the following activities:

  • Share latest news on witchcraft allegation/witch persecution
  • Engage state and non state actors in the field of witchcraft accusation
  • Intervene to protect alleged witches, and to educate the accusers
  • Lobby local, national and regional and global institutions in tackling abuses that are linked to witch persecution and witch hunting
  • Cooperate with institutions with similar aims and objectives
  • Organize public education and enlightenment campaigns to reason people out of the misconceptions that drive witch persecution and other harmful traditional practices through trainings, workshops and seminars for various interest groups.

AfAW uses a secular, humanist, skeptical and human rights approach to examine witchcraft narratives and address related abuses. AfAW’s campaign is founded on the principles that:

· witchcraft is a myth and an imaginary crime which no one commits

· attributions of causing harm through occult means are based on hearsay and misinformation, panic and anxieties, fear and superstition

· witch persecution, killings and trials are forms of human rights abuses that should not be tolerated in the name of religion, culture or tradition.

I urge all Africans as well as non Africans including all Africans in the diaspora to join efforts with us to achieve this important objective. Contribute to our Decade of anti-witch hunting programs and activities.
Visit our web site: https://advocacyforallegedwitches.law.blog/.
Send us reports from your countries, communities and provinces.

Join our Facebook group: https://web.facebook.com/groups/760341817780783/. There is also a Whatsapp group that you can join. Otherwise email us at advocacyforallegedwitches@gmail.com; nskepticleo@yahoo.com

Become an advocate for alleged witch today. A witch hunting free Africa is achievable.

Leo Igwe is the chief executive officer of Advocacy for Alleged Witches and initiator of Decade of Activism against Witch Persecution in Africa.

*Original publication in African Global Village on January 10, 2020.*

Additional Resources/News:

https://punchng.com/nursing-mother-burns-10-year-old-girls-body-over-alleged-witchcraft/

http://saharareporters.com/2020/01/11/group-advocates-against-persecution-witches-africa

Photo by Ovinuchi Ejiohuo on Unsplash

Witch Hunting Requires An International Response

By Dr. Leo Igwe

One of the state’s overarching obligations is protection of its citizens. Accordingly, a modern state must fulfill—or be made to fulfill—this duty. The state is supposed to ensure the security of lives and property. Discussions on the responsibility to protect human lives have mainly focused on four key areas: genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. In 2005, the United Nations accepted the responsibility and will to act in situations where states fail in their duty to protect their citizens. The United Nations is committed to addressing these areas of concern and to taking protective and preventive measures. However, one phenomenon will require transnational attention and remedies: witch hunting.

Unfortunately, no mention has been made of witch hunting and other atrocities that are committed in the name of witchcraft and occult fears. There was no reference to the obvious lack of political commitment to protecting accused witches and to preventing violence linked to witchcraft beliefs, whether actual or perceived. In other words, member states of the United Nations have not deemed it worthwhile to address, at the highest level, crimes that are committed against alleged witches worldwide. This global moral failure and disappointing oversight must be urgently addressed.

There is overwhelming evidence that states are unable to protect their citizens from accusations of witchcraft. The United Nations needs to step in to fill this gap and rectify this dereliction of duty by its member states. For instance, like war criminals and perpetrators of ethnic cleansing, witch hunters take actions that undermine peace and security in various countries. They perpetrate egregious human rights violations and atrocious and horrific crimes with impunity. Accusers attack suspected witches in the middle of the night; they beat them up or murder them in cold blood. Witchcraft exorcists shackle, starve, and assault suspected witches. The victims are men or women, children or elderly persons, including people living with disabilities. Witch hunters destroy the houses and belongings of alleged witches and subject them to trial by ordeal. This often involves forcing them to drink poisonous concoctions that sometimes lead to death or serious injury.

For instance, as I write this piece, the fate of seventy-year-old Auntie B, a Nigerian woman from Edo State in Southern Nigeria, hangs in a balance. Auntie B is a widow from Idumoza, Irrua, in Esan Central in Edo state. She was accused of being responsible for the death of a child. According to local sources, the woman was twice alleged to have harmed children through occult means. In the first instance, a child said before his death that the auntie gave him some food to eat. People suspected that some magical substance in the food led to the death of the child. The case was reported to the elders of the community. But the elders dismissed the case on the grounds that the matter was not brought to them to consider when the child was still alive.

Not long after this child passed away, another child took ill in the community and also claimed that the same auntie had given him something to eat. That matter was reported to the elders. This time, the elders ruled that the woman should be taken to drink a magical potion containing toxic substances. Those who wanted to administer the substance asked the accusers to pay 50,000 naira (USD $150), but the accusers could not afford the fee. Auntie B therefore did not drink the substance, and she is temporarily out of danger.

Auntie B continues to live in fear because she could, at any time, be attacked or killed by her accusers. Killing an alleged witch is considered a form of community service, a way to avenge and neutralize the source of danger to the community. Auntie B’s village, Irrua, is near the Ozalla community, where at least twenty accused persons died after drinking concoctions under similar circumstances in 2004. Those who perpetrated the crime have not been brought to justice because powerful people (including an ex-military officer) were said to be behind the accusations and deaths of the alleged witches.

In Ghana and Burkina Faso, there are makeshift shelters where alleged witches take refuge. Hundreds of alleged witches, mainly women, who fled their homes and communities after being accused of perpetrating occult harm live there. In Ghana, these shelters, popularly known as witch camps, predate colonialism. In fact, in recent years the government of Ghana has threatened to close down these witch sanctuaries instead of tackling witchcraft allegations that force people to flee their homes and communities. Suspected witches are treated as undeserving of state protection in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.

Meanwhile, it is not only in Africa that states have failed in their responsibility to protect citizens who are accused of witchcraft. On the Indian subcontinent and Oceania, alleged witches suffer a similar fate. Suspected witches are targets of mob violence and extrajudicial killings. In India, it has been reported that four persons who were suspected of practicing witchcraft or black magic have been murdered in the village of Jharkhand in the district of Gumla. Their killers stormed their homes in the early hours of the morning, dragged the alleged witches to the village square, and lynched them. Suspected witches are subjected to similar horrific abuses in Nepal and Papua New Guinea.

In many cases, these atrocious crimes happen near police stations or offices of provincial or municipal authorities. In fact, suspicions of witchcraft frequently begin among police officers and other state security agents, so no arrests are made. In the situations where some of the attackers are arrested, they are seldom successfully prosecuted. Witnesses are afraid to come forward to testify against witch killers, because they are often persons in stronger socio-cultural and political positions with the means to victimize those who testify against them. In many countries, witchcraft allegation trumps the state’s responsibility to protect its citizens.

Without an effective mechanism to tackle witch hunters and address horrific crimes linked to witchcraft beliefs, the transnational epidemic of witch persecution and killings will continue. The United Nations needs to act quickly to protect alleged witches and prevent witch hunting and witch cleansing in communities worldwide. The United Nations needs a mechanism that will enable it to sanction member states that are unable to fulfill their responsibility to protect alleged witches from attacks, persecutions, murder, trial by ordeal, banishment, torture, and inhuman and degrading treatments. This mechanism will permit the United Nations to reprimand member states that refuse to call to order or penalize those who incite violence against alleged witches, including traditional healers, pastors, mallams,and other so-called religious experts. United Nations agencies need to prioritize stemming harmful practices linked to witchcraft beliefs in various sectors so that they can effectively address allegations that affect children, women, elderly persons, and people living with disabilities.

Witch hunts supposedly ended in Europe centuries ago, but vicious crimes linked to witchcraft beliefs have continued in many parts of the world. Witchcraft allegation presents a global challenge. It constitutes a religious, health care, environmental, human rights, and development issue. The United Nations must lead efforts to end witch hunting in this century and ensure that states fulfill their duty to protect alleged witches around the globe.

*Original publication in Skeptical Inquirer (Volume 43, No. 6 November / December 2019).*

Photo by Namnso Ukpanah on Unsplash

Okinibi: The Witch-Hunters of Aodoka, Nigeria – a Report by Leo Igwe

By Dr. Leo Igwe

The Okinibi, or Night Spirits, brutally murder those accused of witchcraft in the Aodoka community, Central Nigeria. Leo Igwe reports.

I just returned from a short visit to Idoma land in Benue state in Central Nigeria. A medical doctor whom I met at a local conference in Ibadan drew my attention to the pervasive practice of witchcraft allegation and the horrific abuses by witch hunters in this region. Idoma is one of the main ethnic groups in Benue. I have never been to Benue state and do not speak any of the local languages. Although I have read about witchcraft beliefs among the Tiv in Benue, I knew very little about witchcraft related abuses in Central Nigeria. The medical doctor told me that a woman was brought to his hospital following injuries that local witch-hunters inflicted on her. He urged me to visit to have a detailed knowledge of this violent campaign, and also to meet with the victims. I arrived at Benue on September 22 and the following day, I had a meeting with journalists at the radio station in Makurdi. James Ibor, a child rights activist and an attorney based in Calabar was at the meeting. Both of us were interviewed for a radio program called security watch. The program was broadcast on Thursday, September 26 with a repeat broadcast on September 28, 2019.

We discussed the security implications of witchcraft allegations and what the Witchcraft Human Rights Information Network (WHRIN) is doing to tackle harmful practices that are linked to witchcraft beliefs. The following day I traveled to meet with the elders of Aadoka community. Before the meeting, I had another radio interview at Joy FM in Otukpo. I was in a company of two lawyers and we discussed the intersection between witchcraft allegations, law, and human rights. One of those who phoned in during the program pointed out that jungle justice was the only option in a situation of witchcraft imputation since such allegations could not be entertained in courts. In my response, I noted that law prohibited jungle justice and trial by ordeal. One of the lawyers pointed out that illegality could not be used to remedy illegality.

The plan was that I would, first of all, meet with the elders from Aadoka and the elders would lead me to meet other community members and some of the victims the following day. However, due to concerns over security we postponed the second leg of the meeting. I met with seven elders (four women and three men) who recounted some heart-wrenching stories of abuses and atrocities that were committed against alleged witches in their community in recent years.

At the meeting, the elders noted that witchcraft allegations were hampering the progress of their community because people were using flimsy allegations to attack, kill and destroy lives and property. According to them, the allegations were often linked to dreams. Little children of 10 years would dream that they saw usually elderly women giving them soft drinks or biscuits or pure water. They would inform their parents who would subsequently notify the elders. The villagers will convene and the accused will be asked to publicly respond to the allegations. After listening to the accused, he or she is asked to bring a goat or ram. In some cases, disputes over the allegations result in the beating of the accused. The alleged witch may be asked the accused to swear an oath. And as part of the oath-taking, the elders would slaughter a goat and put the blood inside a Calabash and ask the accused to drink. If the accused fails to pay the penalty or take the oath, he or she will be banished from the community. If the person refuses to leave the community, a local cult group called the night spirits will attack or kill the person at night. I agreed with the elders to address the issue on a case-by-case basis. Here are the four cases that were recounted and we agreed to focus on at the moment.

The first case is that of Ms. O. She is about 65 years. A child accused her of being responsible for his sickness. The child said that she saw Ms. O in his dream and reported to the parents. The parents went to a prayer house where they confirmed their suspicion and then took the matter to the elders of the village. The accused person was brought to the village square and asked to swear an oath but she declined. They asked her to leave the village but she refused to do so. The Okinibi or night spirits went and destroyed the crops in her farm. In addition, the night spirits went in the middle of the night and attacked her with broken bottles. The woman was taken to Nazareth Hospital and then to Otukpo General Hospital. According to the elders, the woman remains in hiding.

According to local sources, Okinibi, night spirits, are those who enforce the decisions of Aleku. Aleku is the local god and used to be domesticated at a shrine. People used to go to the Aleku shrine to worship, make sacrifice and pledges. Following the spread of Christianity, the shrine was pulled down. The tree and other sacred accessories at the shrine such as masks were destroyed. But the priest, an elderly person, who is the custodian of Aleku has continued to operate. Persons who have problems and challenges consult him. The Aleku formed the Okinibi. These are youths in the twenties and thirties and they operate mainly at night hence they are called the night spirits. The Okinibi execute the directives of the Aleku during the day if and when necessary.

In another case, a girl child claimed that she saw a woman, Ms. E. in the dream giving her biscuits. The girl reported to the parents and the parents asked the accused to respond to the allegation. The accused told the parents of the girl that she was not there in the dream with her and so did not have anything to say regarding the allegation. The parents of the girl reported the accused to the elders of the community who asked her to take an oath and clear herself of the allegation. In the course of the argument over the oath-taking, some youths in the community descended on the woman and beat her thoroughly. The accused managed to escape and ran to her house and the mob followed her and started pulling down the house. The woman eventually fled the community and is living somewhere in Otukpo.

But the case of Mr. D. was quite horrific. The man was accused of witchcraft. Unfortunately, they never gave him the opportunity to defend himself or respond to the allegation. One night, the Okinibi, wearing masks, went and kidnapped him. They took Mr. D. to a primary school field and beat him to death. The Okinibi inserted a stick into the anus, tied him up with a rope and dragged him on the road until he died. The case was reported to the police but they did nothing. No arrest was made and the matter died. The widow and the children are still in the village where they live in constant fear of their lives. The fourth case was that of Ms. J. Her relatives, the elder sister and step-brother accused her of witchcraft. The villagers banished her and she was sleeping on the streets and inside the bush. Her only daughter, married and living in the same village was unable to accommodate her. Instead she used to go and feed her on the street where she was staying. When the elders were alerted, they sanctioned her. The elders asked her to pay a heavy fine and warned not to give her food again. Another woman, Ms. F, who was living in a neighbouring community saw Ms. J and pitied her. She took Ms. J to her house and was taking care of her. But after 1 year and 3 months, Ms. F said she became tired and urged her only daughter to come and take custody of the mother. On the very day that Ms. J returned to live with the daughter, the Okinibi mobilised and stoned her to death. They left the corpse on the roadside. The daughter later came and covered the corpse with a piece of cloth and buried it. According to Ms. F who recounted the story, it seemed that the woman had a premonition that she would be killed. That as Ms. J was leaving her apartment, she told her “God will bless you I know you would not see me again”.

I agreed with the elders that we would visit the community later in the year. Priority will be given to the welfare of survivors and families of victims. For instance, in the cases of Ms. O and E, efforts will be made to find out where they are currently residing and support them to pay medical bills or offset other costs that they had incurred as a result of the attack. Some assistance will be extended to the families of Mr. D. and Ms. J. to mitigate the hardship and suffering that they have been experiencing following the murder of their family members. I also plan, if possible, to reach out to the Okinibi or night spirits, and initiate a conversation on how to end their atrocious activities. I hope to put in place a skills acquisition/entrepreneurial scheme that will provide the ‘night spirits’ who renounce their Okinibi membership alternative sources of income. I also plan to initiate a conversation with leaders of the prayer houses in the region to make them understand the link between witch persecution and their prophecies.

The case of Ms. O was linked to a prayer house where the accused was identified as responsible for the illness. In fact, before leaving the state, I visited three prayer houses, Love Ministry, Mount Zion Salvation Ministry, and Prophet Jude Ministry in Otukpo. Incidentally, I did not meet any of the men or women of God who presided over these ministries. At prophet Jude’s residence which doubles as a prayer house, I saw over 20 women and children listening to his sermons. I was told that women were the leaders most of the prayer houses in the community. In addition to other actors, faith leaders should be part of any initiative to stamp out witch persecution in Benue state and in Nigeria.

*Original publication in Uncommon Ground Media Ltd.*

Photo by Lenny Miles on Unsplash

Saving Innocent Lives: Witchcraft Allegations and Native Medicine in Edo State

Intervening in cases of witchcraft allegations and witch hunting is a moral duty. It is a social obligation that should be fulfilled. Victims of witchcraft allegations are usually defenceless, helpless vulnerable members of the population, children, elderly persons and people living with disabilities. Witch persecution takes various forms: torture, banishment and trial by ordeal. Witchcraft accusation is a form of death sentence. Witch hunters want to avenge the harm that the accused have supposedly done. If the accusers do not immediately kill the accused, they murder them at a later date. If they do not get the accused to quickly die, they make sure that they die slowly. Alleged witches have limited options.

On June 30, 2019, someone sent me this message via the Facebook drawing attention to the plight of an accused woman:

“Hello Sir, my name is Ben. I need you assistance for an Auntie at my maternal side called Idumoza-Irrua in Esan Central LGA of Edo State, being accused of witchcraft and whose fate is hanging on the balance for life/death decision tomorrow 1 July 2019. Kindly give your number to brief you and get support from you. Please help to save another innocent life”.I do not visit my Facebook messenger very often. I read the message on July 4. I contacted Ben, via the telephone number that he left on the message, and he confirmed the story. I have been discussing details of a new role as the campaigns director with a Non Governmental Organization, Witchcraft Human Rights Information Network. Due to limited funds, such interventions could not be done. So I was unable to travel to Edo state in July. I could not do much to respond to the urgent request. And my inability to do so haunted me.
Meanwhile, I never gave up exploring ways of intervening in this case.  I continued to explore every opportunity to visit and support the woman. I wanted to use this accusation as a test case. I wanted to send a message of hope and solidarity to alleged witches and their families. I wanted to notify all witch hunters and their enablers that their days of operation are numbered. An opportunity came late in November. I was returning from the controversial ‘witchcraft’ conference in Nsukka and decided to stop over in Edo state to visit the accused. Meanwhile, in the past months I have tried to address issues related to my personal security.

Leo Igwe with a woman

Risks and Worries Over Safety

Intervening in cases of witchcraft allegations is associated with risks. A witch is perceived as the enemy of the society. And anyone who tries to save or support an alleged witch is equally seen as an enemy. People usually refrain from getting involved in witch hunting cases due to fear of being implicated and subsequently killed by the accusers.  I was warned to stay away and not to make the trip to Idumoza. But I wanted this culture of impunity to end and for alleged witches to receive the support that they desperately needed. Ben gave me the contact of another relative who would guide me to the village. I called him and he said that Idumozza was a rural community that could easily be accessed with a moto bike, or Okada as popularly known in Nigeria. Some of the friends that I told that I would be visiting this village to try and save the life of the accused woman asked me: What if this was a set up? What if they overpowered and killed you there? There were so many questions regarding my personal safety and security. I had to reasonable replies or explanations. Risks and concerns over my safety did not perturb me more than the dangers that I believed that this alleged witch faced. I have always known that such missions would be associated with risks. The only thing in my mind was to do all I could to see this woman and be sure that she was safe.

Leo Igwe mother and son

Ben gave me another contact of a lecturer at Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Ekpoma. He said the lecturer hailed from a neighbouring community and could provide me some information on allegations of witchcraft and also some assistance. I called the lecturer and explained my mission. But he denied knowing anything about witchcraft accusations in the community. He is from a neighbouring village, Ozalla where some years ago over 20 suspected witches died after taking some concoctions. I rang up another university teacher in Abuja who used to lecture at AAU. I have known him for so many years. I asked him to link me up to someone who could accompany me to Irrua. He asked me the purpose of my mission. I told him that I was going there to intervene in a witch hunting case. He remarked: Hia! He said that he would get back to me. And he never did. After the attempts to get more people to support my mission failed, I decided to go it alone relying on the contact that Ben sent me. I bought a bottle of whiskey, which I planned to give to the head of the Idumoza community or the King (Onojie) of Irrua.

 Planning a tripMy contact person, Austin, is in his 30s. He is an electrician. Calm and soft-spoken, Austin studied electrical engineering at the polytechnic. He asked me to alight at Uromi, not Ekpoma as I had intended. He said Uromi was nearer to the woman’s village. I checked into a hotel and waited for him. He came to see me about 7 pm. We discussed and firmed up our trip to Idumoza the following day. Austin advised that we go there in the evening because people used to go to the farm in the morning. He did not have the telephone contact of anyone. He noted that it was in the evening that we would likely see the woman. I was actually happy that the woman was able to go to the farm, at least he could ‘freely move around’.

Azen: The Esan Witch

 I had nothing to do in the morning of the day that we were to visit Idumoza. I decided to go to the nearby market to converse with people and to understand the local notion of witchcraft. I went to a book shop and after purchasing an exercise book and a pen, I asked the sales boy what they call a witch in the area. He looked at me and smiled. He then looked in the direction of some elderly persons sitting beside the shop as if he was telling me: “Ask them”. I repeated the question looking at one man who was repairing a footwear. The man was also slow to answering my question. Another man in his company, who retired from the military said: It is Azen. I repeated it several times to make sure that I correctly got the pronunciation . According to him, these are people who fly like birds at night; they beat and press people while they are sleeping. He recounted a personal experience where witches attacked him. He claimed that witches hit him on the arm at night and he had pains for a long time. The man later went to an Oboh (native doctor) who gave him something that he applied on that part of the body and also something that he tied and placed in his house. And since he did that, the man said, the witches had not come again. I inquired to know the Oboh that gave him the anti witchcraft medicine. He said the doctor was based in Uzea, a distant rural community. I told a motorcyclist to take me to Uzea but he said it was far from Uromi. I wanted to know how native doctors in the area detected and treated witchcraft. The motorcyclist said we should visit native doctors that were within Uromi town. I agreed and we took off.

A woman they claim to be a witch

 Consulting an Oboh (Native Doctor)

We moved about 500 meters and left the tarred road, and started driving on a dusty footpath. I was wondering why the native doctors seldom live and operate in decent areas and estate. The motorcyclist suddenly stopped beside a haggard looking man who was coming in the opposite direction. The man spoke threateningly in the local esan language to the motorcyclist as if they were quarreling. As if he was saying “I don’t want to see you in my place again!”.  I kept quiet. The motorcyclist did not say anything. He quietly turned back. We drove a few meters and I asked him what was wrong. And he said: “That was the man we wanted to see”. “We had some misunderstanding sometime ago, I thought he had forgotten but he’s still bearing grudges”. What was the misunderstanding about? I inquired. The motorcyclist hissed as if he was experiencing some emotional pain. I asked him to take me to a nearby restaurant.  I offered him a bottle of beer and asked him to tell me what transpired between him and the Oboh. He said that it was a misunderstanding in connection with some medicine he asked the man to prepare when he was traveling to Europe. The native doctor asked him to pay 30,000 naira for the medicine that will enable him prosper in foreign lands. Unfortunately he could not afford the money.  He travelled without the medicine, went up to Senegal and from there he was repatriated.  He recounted the story sighing and hissing intermittently.

 After narrating his experience, the motorcyclist asked if I was interested in visiting another native doctor, and I said: Yes. I told him that I wanted to find out how native doctors in Uromi detected and treated witchcraft. He suggested that the best way was to tell the native doctor that I wanted to examine my life. I agreed.

We eventually arrived at the home of a native doctor after traveling down another potholed, dusty road. It was a two-room apartment. In front of the house was a carved piece with some red and white cloth, some needles and sprinkled blood that had turned black due to the heat from the sun. As soon as we arrived I heard some noise at the backyard. The motorcyclist said that the Oboh was busy attending to someone. As we were waiting for somebody to come and direct us on what to do I peered into one of the rooms and it was filled with all sorts of things, white and red cloth, black and white stones, pieces of metals, bones and sticks etc. A young man in his late 30 came from the backyard and told us to follow him. We sat briefly under the shade where he welcomed us. I was later ushered into a room where the native doctor, another young man in his late thirties was sitting on the floor. He asked me to pay 1000 naira for consultation. I hesitated and waned to pay less but he refused. And I paid. He gave me a black stone and asked me to speak to it, to say my name and my mission. I said that my name was Idris and I had come to examine my life. I used to lie whenever I visited shrine priests and native doctors. I wanted to know if they could use their powers to detect that I was lying but they never did. I told the Oboh that my parents were dead, that all my uncles had passed on. I told him that I had a girl child from a former marriage. All these were lies.The Oboh looked into the divinational bowel containing pieces of metal, coins and stones with silver and black colours. He looked at them as if he was communicating with them. Occasionally, after I made a statement, he would say, that is what the gods are saying.

 The Oboh told me that night people were meeting under the banana tree behind my family house and advised me to give them their food to avert further misfortune and calamities. I expressed surprise that the night people were convening behind my family house. And the Oboh laughed. He said that they were not meeting there physically but spiritually. I inquired the type of food that the night people wanted. And he said I should bring a goat, white cloth, a small basket, cassava fufu, cocked rice and stew.

The Oboh told me that the mother of my daughter was a witch and that he would give me special Ukhumu (medicine) that I would use to neutralize her witchcraft. But the Oboh advised me to do ‘the pot of life’. He said the pot of life will open doors to better business and protect me from all dangers. His assistant showed me two other pots of life that they prepared for some people. The Oboh said that the pot of life would cost 150,000 naira (400 dollars). I told the Oboh that I needed to go home and look for the money to procure the pot of life. But before I left I was able to capture a photo of the carved item at the compound and another photo of a section of the consulting room. My motorcyclist asked me to wait outside while he chatted with the Oboh. I thought it was a discussion to get the Oboh to give him some money from the consultation fee that i paid.

Ride to Idumoza

I agreed with Austin that we would leave for Idumoza by 3.30pm. But he arrived my hotel 20 minutes to 5pm. At a point I thought that the visit would not hold. We hired a motorbike and the driver agreed to wait for us and bring us back to Uromi. The trip took us from one local government to another. Idumoza is in Esan Central and Uromi is in Esan North East. We arrived Idumoza by 5.30pm after traveling through some remote communities and forest like areas with very tall trees. Erosion has destroyed the road that leads to the village. It was a very rough ride. A motobike was the best means of accessing Idumoza. It would have been a huge mistake if we had hired a taxi. After making some inquiries we arrived at the family house of the accused woman. In her 70s, the woman was sitting on a white plastic chair. There were three other women in the compound. Austin spoke briefly in the local language explaining our mission and the woman said nodding: “Yes I am the one”. I was relieved. The accused woman looked relaxed and warmed up to us immediately. She recounted how she was accused on two occasions, taken to the elders, then to the Onojie and the Obor for confirmation. She said that she had not faced any threat to her life since then, and in fact that her life had returned to normal. She had started exchanging greetings with some of her accusers. I was relieved. My guide, Austin, advised that we refrain from taking any further actions that would reignite the problem. I did not visit the head of the community or the palace of the Onojie. We gave the family members the number to call in case anyone threatened her. It was getting dark and we had a long way to go. We took some photos with the accused woman and left for Uromi. I hope to visit her again as soon as I can. At the moment, I will be in contact with Austin and Ben to ensure that no harm befalls this innocent woman.

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

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