Date Published: 11/22/10
Akpabio sets up Commission on Child Witch Saga
Gov Akpabio swearing-in members of the Commission of Inquiry into witchcraft accusations and child rights abuses
The Akwa Ibom State Governor, Chief Godswill Obot Akpabio has sworn-in a six-member Commission of Inquiry into witchcraft accusations and child rights abuses in Akwa Ibom State with a charge to members to recommend appropriate actions to be taken to protect children from being branded as witches and wizards in order to guard against future occurrence.
Speaking at the inauguration of the Commission, Governor Akpabio said it was annoying that at a time when education is completely free, compulsory and qualitative for all Akwa Ibom children from primary to senior secondary school, the children were being shortchanged and shielded from benefitting from the gesture.
According to the Governor, “it has been brought to our notice that some of our children wallow in the abyss of stigmatization and have been given a raw deal because of accusations of witchcraft. It should be stated that this problem was there before our advent, but it apparently came to the fore now because there is more light and the greater the light, the more visible the rot,” he said.
He charged the Commission to “determine the veracity of the allegations of witchcraft against children and infliction of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment upon such children; examine the allegations that children in Akwa Ibom State have been stigmatized, threatened, tortured, segregated and/or killed on grounds of being witches and wizards.”
Governor Akpabio also enjoined the members of the Commission to “determine the number of children so abused and/or killed on account of such allegations of witchcraft and the locations and persons involved in such abuses and practices; examine the role and culpability of any person, authorities or organizations in the generality of the allegations and abuses or practices and make recommendations.”
In particular the Governor charged members to “ascertain the veracity or otherwise of the allegation that several children in Akwa Ibom State were stigmatized, maltreated, killed and/or buried in shallow graves on account of being branded as witches and wizards,” and for them to “identify the shallow graves and the particulars of the children affected and also identify those who maltreated, stigmatized or caused their deaths and make appropriate recommendations.”
Governor Akpabio conceded that the Commission was given a “tall order” but urged Akwa Ibom people to cooperate with the Commission while urging anyone with useful information to see it as a civic duty and social obligation in giving such information to the Commission. According to him, “I urge all Akwa Ibom people to join this fight to obliterate this blot from the pages of our history. We should not remain silent in the face of these shameful deeds,” he said.
Responding on behalf of the members, the Chairman, Justice Godwin Abraham said they understood the seriousness of the assignment and promised that the members would use every skill available to them to ensure the success of the work. He thanked Governor Akpabio for the confidence reposed in them and solicited for cooperation from members of the public.
The Commission which is chaired by a Judge with over 23 years on the bench, Honourable Justice Abraham has as members the Director of Akwa Ibom State Multi-Door Courthouse and a lawyer who has practiced law in Nigeria and the United States of America, Barrister (Mrs.) Theresa Obot.
Other members are the Chief Consultant surgeon/ Urologist in the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital, Dr Okon Edet Akaiso, a lecturer in Education in the University of Uyo, Dr. Essien Edward Essien, a Bishop of the Methodist Church of Nigeria, Rt. Rev. John Koko-Bassey and a Chief State Counsel, Barrister Mrs. Uduak Victor Ekwere who would serve as the Secretary. The Commission has six weeks to submit its report.