With “prophets” and “men of God” spiritually enslaving majority of Nigerians due to prevailing poverty and hopelessness, two sisters, Aniema Ekpenyong and Mary Ekpenyong have narrated how they narrowly escaped being lynched by villages after a prophet – who must be fake- branded them witches.
The so-called prophet is of the Divine Zion of God Church in Ikot-Abasi-Effiom District, in the Akpabuyo Local Government Area of Cross River State.
In an interview with Southern City News, the girls said their close shave with death happened when their uncle, identified simply as Victor, took them to the church for typical Nigerian-Pastors’ “deliverance”.
Thirteen-year-old Aniema, and Mary, 10, who had since relocated to Asanting village in the Ikono LGA of Akwa Ibom State due to the traumatic experience, said the issue that led to their being stamped witches was as a result of their stepsister’s dream.
“Uncle Victor took us to church, where he asked us to confess that we were witches or else when we get back to the house, he would beat us and use nails to pierce our bodies, but I told him that I was not a witch.
“Uncle Victor took us to the church and when the prophet said we were witches, he and some people took us to the bush and started flogging us.”
According to her, she tried to run away but was subdued by the uncle, and all kinds of cruel methods to get them to confess that they are witches were used. But she and her sister refused to confess – Of course they are not witches.
“When they went away, I managed to untie myself and ran away. A broken bottle pierced my feet, but I kept on running. Our uncle caught up with me and continued with the flogging, using big sticks while I cried.
“They took me from one house to the other and some people joined them to flog me. They burned a nylon bag and let the flames fall on our skin to make us confess.”
What however saved the two sisters from the primitive crowd was the timely intervention of a worker with the Cross River State Local Government Service Commission, Okon Edet-Bassey.
Mr. Edet-Bassey, it was gathered, dashed to the scene and warned the uncle and all others who tortured the two girls that he would take legal action should anything happened to them.
In an interview, Edet-Bassey said, “I wasn’t around so I didn’t know where they were tied up. But when the information got to me, I sent a message across to them and reported the incident to some military men who were there. When they heard about my moves, they quickly untied the children.
“I promised that they would not go scot-free. The next day, Basic Right Council Initiative, a not-for-profit organisation based in Calabar, with interest in safeguarding the rights of children, was screening a movie, ‘The Fake Prophet’, which focuses on witchcraft branding and the role of fake clergymen in the propagation of the act.
“I took the children to the event. I narrated the story to them and they interviewed the children; they took their photographs and even took the children to a nearby clinic for first aid.”
The Executive Secretary of Basic Rights Counsel Initiative, Mr. James Ibor, added, “We have been finding it difficult getting the government to understand the effect of child abuse, especially witchcraft branding and stigmatisation, which are borne out of the superstitious belief in witches and wizards.
“Our investigation revealed that it is difficult for some churches to exist in Nigeria without promoting the belief in witches and wizards. That is what actually promotes their trade. Unfortunately, that which gives them money is destroying our society. It’s destroying our children that we call the leaders of tomorrow.”
Due to the belief in superstition, Nigeria remains a dangerous country. People could easily instigate the killing of their enemies. All that is need is for three or four people to falsely allege that their target just turned to a human being after they saw him or her a minute ago as a bird, pussy-cat or dog. Many people have been killed or publicly brutalized across the country on account of such nonsense.
It is high time, those in government did something to stop this madness.