Nigeria 'child witch killer' held

4 December 2008 / BBC News

Police in south-east Nigeria have arrested a man who claimed to have killed 110 child "witches".

"Bishop" Sunday Ulup-Aya told a documentary film team he "delivered" children from demonic possession.

But after his arrest, he reportedly told the police he had only killed the "witches" inside, not the children.

Child rights campaigners say children are frequently abandoned, hideously injured and even murdered because their families believe they are witches.

Self-proclaimed "pastors" extort money from families to exorcise the children, but none has been charged until now.

Mr Ulup-Aya was arrested in Akwa Ibom State after a child rights campaigner led police to his church and negotiated a consultation fee for an exorcism.

He has now been charged with murder.

Five others have been arrested since the weekend and the state government says more arrests are planned

Embarrassed

"So many people here believe that children can be possessed by demons that there is rarely any action taken against those who claim to deliver the children in violent exorcisms," says Sam Ikpe-Itauma, of the Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN).

He says he has been working for six years to bring the attention of the state government to the children being abandoned, sold to traffickers, or murdered.

But it was not until a British documentary - Dispatches: Saving Africa's Witch Children - was aired on Channel 4 last month that an arrest was made.

His organisation is looking after 170 children who have been abandoned or abused after being accused of being witches.

Akwa Ibom State spokesman Aniekan Umanah denied they had been embarrassed into acting.

"Nobody knew about him, he lives in a very remote village," he said.

The state has cared for child victims of abuse, but has not been able to track down abusers because of "lack of documentation", he said.

'Misunderstanding'

Mr Ulup-Aya reportedly told police he had not actually killed children.

He said there was a misunderstanding - he meant he had killed the witch inside the child, not the child themselves.

When police raided his house they found two children inside, but no evidence that any others had been murdered there.

"We have him on tape admitting to killing," said Mr Umanah.

"It is now up to him to prove otherwise."

In the past other "pastors" who claim to have the power to deliver children from demonic possession in violent exorcisms have been arrested, but then quietly released by the police, according to Mr Ikpe-Itauma.

"I fear for my life now," he says.

Trafficking

The fear of child witches is a relatively new phenomenon in Nigeria.

Belief in witchcraft is strong across the country but a fear of child witches has become widespread in Akwa Ibom State since 1990s.

Now children are blamed for all kinds of misfortune that befalls their families.

They are abandoned or sold to child traffickers who then indenture them as house-workers in other parts of Nigeria or into prostitution.

Others are violently exorcised to rid the child of the "demons".

Exorcism victims seen by CRARN in the past include a child who had nails driven into her head.

Earlier this week Mr Ikpe-Itauma said a six-year-old child was brought to their rescue centre after clambering out of a fast-flowing river.

"The boy's uncle was experiencing painful swelling in his legs," Mr Ikpe-Itauma told the BBC.

"He concluded the child was a witch and had placed a curse on him, so he took him on his bicycle to the river and threw him in."

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Which witch is which?

"Witch hunts", like the Salem Witch Trials fascinate me.  Angry mob mentality frightens me.  Ignorance and religious rhetoric amazes me.   Using fear as a way and means to get something from another person is by no means anything new.... it's a bully-tactic that's been used for AGES.

When we first started PPL, I posted a piece written about behavior scientist, Linnda Caporael, and ergot poisoning.  [ "Ergot Poisoning - the cause of The Salem Witch Trials "]  It was Caporael's belief that so-called wicked behavior (hallucinations, convulsions, bizarre skin sensations and other unusual symptoms), was in fact the result of fungus-infested food poisoning. 

For some reason, people tend to forget there are very rational reasons for a person's "strange behavior".  For some reason, people want to attack before getting all the answers and hidden truth.

The other day I was reading another article about a modern-day witch hunt that seems to plague many teachers in the UK.:

Unions argue that teachers faced with abuse allegations or claims they used excessive force against pupils, face suspension, police investigation and unfair disciplinary systems.

And even if the teacher's name is cleared, the complaint is still on record.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of NASUWT, said 800-plus complaints were being made against its members annually and the vast majority related to the way teachers dealt with difficult situations in the classroom.

"It's a blight on the modern teaching profession," she told BBC File On 4.

'Pupil's slur killed my career'

Ms Keates said the majority of accusations are false, but added: "Whatever the outcome of the investigation that will be on the teacher's file. If that teacher applies for another job that allegation will be resurrected under the Criminal Records Bureau check.  [From:  "Thousands of teachers 'at risk', BBC News, March 3, 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/7918981.stm ]

It seems the only people who escape justice are the priests/clergy/government leaders who have repeatedly hurt parents and children, all because their actions have been done in the name of God and one's country.

How does one confront a child abusing attacker who is more concerned  about his/her "permanent record" than the lives of others?

Witch hunts

I remember a few years ago in Ireland- social workers and nurses ad probation officers were all sent off on conferences re witch craft- and came back brainwashed and accusing women of being witches.

I was one of the accused.

I asked why and was told- " well, you are too strong for a woman and need to be taught your place in society as a woman."

I had already been exorcised a s a witch age 4- for being too clever.

So, where is the logic in this?

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