Tag Archives: CRARN

The kids are targets because they can’t defend themselves—-Sam Ikpe-Itauma

2 May

By Ahaoma Kanu

Children at CRARN Centre Eket

He witnessed some kids being persecuted for a sin they were innocent of and that incident inspired him to start a movement that protects and takes care of the children perceived to be witches. In this interview, Sam Ikpe-Itauma, President of the Child’s Rights and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN) explains why he took up the challenge to become the defender of the children condemned by the community as witches and wizards.

Sam Ikpe Itauma, Founder of CRARN

I am Sam Ikpe-Itauma, the president of Child Right and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN). It was established 2003 when three children were attacked in a market close to where I am living when I came back from school in Calabar to visit my late mother who was hospitalised then. I enquired and found out that their only reason for being persecuted was because they came to beg and the traders believed that they were witches that were holding down the progress of the market and prevented people from making good sales. I intervened and talked to the people. I went back to school and on returning back home two weeks later, I discovered another two children held there; it became a continuous exercise. Before you could know it, other children in the different part of Eket and Akwa Ibom State as a whole were being attacked equally. I tried to work towards making government intervene in the problem and called on some of my friend that had some kind of influence in government for help and assistance to stop the killing of people who were branded witches. So in 2004, we got a friend who went to the government and was told that the situation could not at the moment be handled without involving a civil society organisation or a Non-Governmental Organisation. That was how we started CRARN.

When they government said that the issue could not be handled, did they mean that attacking the children alone was not a crime?

Unfortunately, the children issue and child abandonment due to witchcraft was springing on at different spots but the killing of the kids was not widespread before people started believing that the elderly ones initiated these children. We went to the police and reported these cases and we decided to drum up support for our cause but many of them thought that people were somewhere created information that never existed. Many were in doubt of what we were talking about even many people never believed in our website after we started but the information we were getting were real; children were being killed, thrown into the river, buried alive, burnt and tortured to death. Some of them were poisoned with a local berry called Eseri, but people never believed.

Do you have an idea how old this myth about witchcraft maybe?

The witchcraft persecution started exactly 10 years ago when a homemade video was released, the name of the film is The End of the Wicked and it was a very popular film in Nigeria and Akwa Ibom State. Before then, the issue of witchcraft has been there but it was attributed to the elderly and the wretched then; it has been there before I was born. It took a different turn when children became a target. You know, the elderly ones they call witches are not too strong; nobody will accuse an able-bodied man of being a witch. They cannot say that Sam is a wizard because they know I am big and strong but if you are aged and weak, you are a witch, that was then but the film when it was released in 1998 portrayed how the children are initiated into the witchcraft kingdom to attack people and cause all kinds of misfortune. In fact, any problem that any person experiences will be attributed to witchcraft; it got so bad that you could get drunk and blame a witch for drinking off your limit. We have carried out research and found that these witchcraft accusations does not exist, it is a non-issue because certain situations have made me believe it is a hoax. I also discovered that the Christian community in Akwa Ibom State is involved in the catalysis of this issue.

Ahaoma Kanu with chldren at CRARN Centre

Did the Christian community affect it positively or negatively?

On the negative side

Can you explain what you mean in clear words?

What I am trying to say is that the issue of witchcraft has been a traditional belief actually but the Christian community or pastors are now mixing the traditional belief with the Christian doctrine in such a way that the children are the victims. It gets to a point that one starts looking at Christianity as an institution of the problem that instigates catastrophes to so many families in the sense that they, through their divinity, bring confusion into these homes. When the churches started with their divinity and spiritually revelation of somebody being a witch, all the traditional doctors have closed their shrines and started up a church where they will equally reveal through their gods that someone is a witch; they have put up prayer houses and create fear in the minds of people by making them believe that someone is behind anything that’s wrong in that person’s life. I was once upon a time a believer that witches existed but now, I don’t think like that again. I remember that my father never took that issue seriously.

What were the initial challenges when you started the centre?

We suffered a lot by trying to convince the government; we tried to get them to listen to us and look at the documents we had been gathering so far. We tried to get the support of the wife of the then Chairman of Eket L.G.A and he was on our side and helped us a lot by talking to her husband. We involved the state government and I remember the Ministry of Women Affairs, then Prof. Ekaette Etuk was the commissioner and she helped us a lot at that time. Our major challenge was that the children were constantly being attacked by the community and we were attacked also, I mean our staff. We had to report all these assaults to the police and later to the State Security Service agents and I would say that they were very helpful to us. The DPO of Eket at that time, Udoka, was very helpful and had a listening ear to our cries then; he made sure that any of our properties damaged by the people were replaced. I remember a time we took the kids out on sporting activities around Eket and our action flared tempers from the community leaders; they sent people to warn us to stop bringing the children around them again but we continued with what we were doing. I later got to know that the people planted themselves on our way with guns to attack us so we reported the matter to the SSS and they foiled the plans and that made me know that government was really behind us.

You started this relief organization for these kids when you witnessed them been attacked, how were the initial early days and how rampant was the situation then?

Before the establishment of CRARN in 2003, I had been taking care of them since 2000. I discovered that children were being abandoned and stigmatized as witches and wizards, I also discovered that there was a pogrom was carried out on these kids and more than 200 were killed in Eket alone. It wasn’t an easy task. It was very rampant and it was because of the rampant nature of the situation that we knew we had to start off a movement to stop the killing in the community. It happened in our own community where some of the people accused were tied up and asked to confess to being witches, many denied and were killed while some more wise ones agreed to being witches but good witches that untie people’s lucks, those good witches were spared. We tried to talk to the people and enlighten them to stop killing people that they assume are witches and charged them to obey the Commandment of God which emphasizes that killing is a sin.

Like the Prophet that confessed to killing 110 kids; he might have killed that much. So it was rampant at that time and we cannot actually put a number to those that died but many died as a result of this menace of being branded as witches and wizards.

What are the ages of the kids that are labeled witches or wizards?

They don’t have any particular age they start from.

Can a year old child be branded a witch?

Even a three months old baby can be said to be a witch; it has become a maddening situation now and getting worse. They believe the spell is transferable to babies also. They may threaten maybe a child to know if he or she had been initiated the baby, the child will accent to their threats and they will now be left with the option to do away with the baby that they cannot question to know if she has the spell or not. Everything tends towards people without a say in the matter; people that cannot defend themselves, they are the victims. They cannot accuse able-bodied strong men or rich men in the society as being witches because such person will match them; they look out for the vulnerable ones to target. But I will say that the belief that people are witches is a myth that has been overblown to the extent that if a witch concoction and poison is kept here and people are asked to choose from, they would prefer the poison to the witch spell. It is really a problem here in Akwa Ibom State.

How many kids do you have at the centre?

The children keep running into sometimes 150-155; it keeps increasing and reducing in units of one or two but at the most five without efforts to reconcile some of then with their parents. The situation has become that of children being brought to the centre on a weekly basis. What we do is this; when we see a child come in, we take it upon ourselves the battle of reconciling that child with the parents.

How successful are those reconciliationss?

The reconciliation is a very cardinal process to us but also the moist difficult task that we are facing. Over the years, we may have reconciled up to 250 children with their families.

Do you normally run a check on the children reconciled with their parents to make sure a relapse of them being treated as witches doesn’t occur?

Yes, we go back and check them and it is also a difficult task doing that because some of them live at the riverine areas and in far places and these checks also need money for transportation for us. We have got on records from our volunteers that some of the kids are rejected. In July, some UNICEF officials came around and we went on checking some of the children that were reconciled and we found so many of them happy to be with their families. The reconciliation processes is of two types; reconciling a child who has been in the centre for quite a long time say three or four years is one thing and another is reconciling a child who has just been sent out or thrown away or abandoned. For the child who has been in the centre for a long time, we have two ways of talking to the parents. Firstly we try to let the parent know the child is not a witch and, depending on the response of the parent, we let tell them that the child has been delivered by some missionaries from America and the United Kingdom; many of them know we work with some foreign missionaries and they see us with them and they believe that the Whiteman has extra powers to deliver witchcraft. For those brought to the centre, we accept the children and don’t argue with them on whether the kids are witches or not because if you argue with them then it means that you don’t want that child alive in that community. We accept the child and tell them that we will deliver the child. We keep the child for some time and counsel the child and make him know that truly that he or she has never been a witch. Often times when these children are brought here, we ask them to initiate us into their kingdom; we give them bread or other edible things to infect with witchcraft and some of them will agree. We eat these things in their presence and nothing happens to us. After some time we will ask the child, why did you did not come to take us to your coven, some of them reply that they couldn’t because we are too strong. With time, that child will realize that we are mocking him or her. We find out that these children later become happy to know that somebody believes they are not witches and then they open up and confess that everywhere you say you are not a witch, you are beaten so the best thing for them is to comply and confess to being witches so they will not be beaten but thrown out. In doing that we change their mindset from believing they are witches. Some of these ones are very intelligent while some, due to the torture, cannot assimilate quickly. In dealing with these kids we have found out that these kids are threatened and made to pass through an ordeal which forces them to accept to being witches. I am happy that today that all that we have been shouting that these children are not witches is now a subject of concern in the country and in the world.

Yes, this is largely due to the foreign journalists that came around and made the world see what has been happening for so many years. How did you meet them?

The name of the journalist is Max Gaven and she came with her partner, Joost; we call them Max and Joost. They came across a news report in the UK Guardian that said that children were targets of Nigerian witch hunt. They came at a time we were about to launch our Prevent Abandonment of Children Today (PACT) campaign, they came to cover the event. They came here and conducted their interviews and research and because they were at Esit Eket, they believed that everywhere in Akwa Ibom was Esit Eket. So when they went back they wrote that it was only happening at Esit Eket but it is a serious issue in Cross River State and there is no denying that fact; it is happening at Bogobri, Watt Market, Calabar Road and so on. We have these kids at Aba in Abia State and spreading.  The UK Guardian must have gone through our website and saw the situation there before they wrote to us requesting to come and do a documentary. We consented to their request and they came in February and went back. Later they came back in April with the Channel 4 group and did the documentary that was broadcast. The result of the documentary is overwhelming but I must say that what you saw in the documentary is just a flash in the pan compared to the real situation but we thank God that the government is paying attention.

I saw some of the children going to school and will like to know how you hope to integrate them into the society?

We will always work towards reconciliation. Some of those children you saw are growing out of primary school age so we decided to start giving them primary education here in the centre. Many of them are being rejected in many schools around; they are stigmatized and rejected out rightly, which the government assisted in building with the hope that children from the centre can benefit from, had the indigenes of the community rising against having the kids come there. We withdrew them so that they will not harm them. We have volunteers and teachers that teach them and we are working hard to put other facilities in place. We thank the efforts of the then State governor, Victor Attah, who donated to the Stones Model School but we have been rejected and this reminds me that part of the fund that was supposed to be used for the feeding of these children was used to put up some blocks here.

How many teachers do you have at the moment?

We have seven teachers and a head teacher; we have three Live-in carers and two management staff and lot of volunteers. We are still optimistic of employing an accountant, security and many other hands. Right now, we don’t have the funds to pay but we believe that people will partner with us in this regard. The present State governor has also promised to help us. For those we have to put into secondary schools, we take them to very far schools because those nearby have rejected them and we are faced with the challenge of paying for their transport of which we don’t have much funds. Some children in the centre are being trained in some trades, like automobile, sewing, and other kinds of trade.

I saw the school compound and there was no fence around it which poses a security threat; I also saw the windows that have no blinds and I also did not see any medical centre out there and I want to ask how you take care of their medical needs because I saw some one-year-old children out there that are really vulnerable to diseases?

First I will like to answer by thanking my colleagues in CRARN because they are so committed to their work. Yes we don’t have the facilities for them medically but what we do is that we take them to the hospital for treatment if a case is severe and at such time, we pay the bills; nothing is subsidized for us. There are cases that are just treated at the centre; we have volunteers that come here once in a while and again, most of the not-so-serious cases are handled by my wife, Elle, who trained as a nurse. We have plans of employing other nurses to be here permanently. We appeal to Nigerians and the government to come to our aid in this regard because on so many occasions we have emergencies that require immediate medical intervention.

I also saw some of the beds without mattresses and some of the kids were sleeping on the floor, is that despite what has been revealed, the government did not see these necessities?

When you talk about the government, I have a complaint; the information officer in the government house may not brief the governor very well on the situation on the ground. I believe that the governor is well aware of our needs here. I believe that the present governor, Mr. Goodswill Akpabio, is really concerned about helping us and has been sending some delegations here. The names of these kids have been taken and I want to believe that they are working out modalities on how to help us.

You told me last night that since the Child’s Right Act was passed, the issue has been taken more seriously than before and that you are part of the squad that is involved in the onslaught on erring pastors, how successful has the campaign been so far?

The government is concerned and since they watched that documentary, they became very aware of the situation. The State governor has ordered that these so called men of God should be apprehended. Last weekend, the pastor that claimed to have killed 110 kids was arrested; I did the reconnaissance for the police and he was apprehended. He is just one of the thousands of these Bishops that propagate this evil. I took the Channel 4 guys to him and he roped himself in thinking he was getting publicity. The government is actually arresting these pastors; we arrested more recently and it will be a continuous process. But the problem we are facing now with the police is that some of them that are indigenes of this part of the state are protecting their kinsmen and thwart our effort and get those to be investigated to run away; I have complained to the head about this attitude and they promised to look into it.

You said that you have been receiving threat calls and I will like to ask, are you not afraid because where the centre does not have much security?

We will soon erect a fence around the centre because it is very necessary that we do that but for myself and death threats, you know, I have put myself into this issue and I can’t withdraw it. I must see this fight to the end and whether I come out alive or not is inconsequential. This pogrom involves children and I will not abandon the fight. I am not saying I will be careless with my life and security, I know that these pastors being arrested have followers who may want to attack us in reprisal attacks, we know that but we can’t stop now because we have gone far. What we have done is likened, to us, planting a seed that is growing and spreading against the earlier belief of alleging children are witches. I will not step down and I know that God will be on our side.

The kids are targets because they can’t defend themselves—-Sam Ikpe-Itauma

2 May

By Ahaoma Kanu

Children at CRARN Centre Eket

He witnessed some kids being persecuted for a sin they were innocent of and that incident inspired him to start a movement that protects and takes care of the children perceived to be witches. In this interview, Sam Ikpe-Itauma, President of the Child’s Rights and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN) explains why he took up the challenge to become the defender of the children condemned by the community as witches and wizards.

Sam Ikpe Itauma, Founder of CRARN

I am Sam Ikpe-Itauma, the president of Child Right and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN). It was established 2003 when three children were attacked in a market close to where I am living when I came back from school in Calabar to visit my late mother who was hospitalised then. I enquired and found out that their only reason for being persecuted was because they came to beg and the traders believed that they were witches that were holding down the progress of the market and prevented people from making good sales. I intervened and talked to the people. I went back to school and on returning back home two weeks later, I discovered another two children held there; it became a continuous exercise. Before you could know it, other children in the different part of Eket and Akwa Ibom State as a whole were being attacked equally. I tried to work towards making government intervene in the problem and called on some of my friend that had some kind of influence in government for help and assistance to stop the killing of people who were branded witches. So in 2004, we got a friend who went to the government and was told that the situation could not at the moment be handled without involving a civil society organisation or a Non-Governmental Organisation. That was how we started CRARN.

When they government said that the issue could not be handled, did they mean that attacking the children alone was not a crime?

Unfortunately, the children issue and child abandonment due to witchcraft was springing on at different spots but the killing of the kids was not widespread before people started believing that the elderly ones initiated these children. We went to the police and reported these cases and we decided to drum up support for our cause but many of them thought that people were somewhere created information that never existed. Many were in doubt of what we were talking about even many people never believed in our website after we started but the information we were getting were real; children were being killed, thrown into the river, buried alive, burnt and tortured to death. Some of them were poisoned with a local berry called Eseri, but people never believed.

Do you have an idea how old this myth about witchcraft maybe?

The witchcraft persecution started exactly 10 years ago when a homemade video was released, the name of the film is The End of the Wicked and it was a very popular film in Nigeria and Akwa Ibom State. Before then, the issue of witchcraft has been there but it was attributed to the elderly and the wretched then; it has been there before I was born. It took a different turn when children became a target. You know, the elderly ones they call witches are not too strong; nobody will accuse an able-bodied man of being a witch. They cannot say that Sam is a wizard because they know I am big and strong but if you are aged and weak, you are a witch, that was then but the film when it was released in 1998 portrayed how the children are initiated into the witchcraft kingdom to attack people and cause all kinds of misfortune. In fact, any problem that any person experiences will be attributed to witchcraft; it got so bad that you could get drunk and blame a witch for drinking off your limit. We have carried out research and found that these witchcraft accusations does not exist, it is a non-issue because certain situations have made me believe it is a hoax. I also discovered that the Christian community in Akwa Ibom State is involved in the catalysis of this issue.

Ahaoma Kanu with chldren at CRARN Centre

Did the Christian community affect it positively or negatively?

On the negative side

Can you explain what you mean in clear words?

What I am trying to say is that the issue of witchcraft has been a traditional belief actually but the Christian community or pastors are now mixing the traditional belief with the Christian doctrine in such a way that the children are the victims. It gets to a point that one starts looking at Christianity as an institution of the problem that instigates catastrophes to so many families in the sense that they, through their divinity, bring confusion into these homes. When the churches started with their divinity and spiritually revelation of somebody being a witch, all the traditional doctors have closed their shrines and started up a church where they will equally reveal through their gods that someone is a witch; they have put up prayer houses and create fear in the minds of people by making them believe that someone is behind anything that’s wrong in that person’s life. I was once upon a time a believer that witches existed but now, I don’t think like that again. I remember that my father never took that issue seriously.

What were the initial challenges when you started the centre?

We suffered a lot by trying to convince the government; we tried to get them to listen to us and look at the documents we had been gathering so far. We tried to get the support of the wife of the then Chairman of Eket L.G.A and he was on our side and helped us a lot by talking to her husband. We involved the state government and I remember the Ministry of Women Affairs, then Prof. Ekaette Etuk was the commissioner and she helped us a lot at that time. Our major challenge was that the children were constantly being attacked by the community and we were attacked also, I mean our staff. We had to report all these assaults to the police and later to the State Security Service agents and I would say that they were very helpful to us. The DPO of Eket at that time, Udoka, was very helpful and had a listening ear to our cries then; he made sure that any of our properties damaged by the people were replaced. I remember a time we took the kids out on sporting activities around Eket and our action flared tempers from the community leaders; they sent people to warn us to stop bringing the children around them again but we continued with what we were doing. I later got to know that the people planted themselves on our way with guns to attack us so we reported the matter to the SSS and they foiled the plans and that made me know that government was really behind us.

You started this relief organization for these kids when you witnessed them been attacked, how were the initial early days and how rampant was the situation then?

Before the establishment of CRARN in 2003, I had been taking care of them since 2000. I discovered that children were being abandoned and stigmatized as witches and wizards, I also discovered that there was a pogrom was carried out on these kids and more than 200 were killed in Eket alone. It wasn’t an easy task. It was very rampant and it was because of the rampant nature of the situation that we knew we had to start off a movement to stop the killing in the community. It happened in our own community where some of the people accused were tied up and asked to confess to being witches, many denied and were killed while some more wise ones agreed to being witches but good witches that untie people’s lucks, those good witches were spared. We tried to talk to the people and enlighten them to stop killing people that they assume are witches and charged them to obey the Commandment of God which emphasizes that killing is a sin.

Like the Prophet that confessed to killing 110 kids; he might have killed that much. So it was rampant at that time and we cannot actually put a number to those that died but many died as a result of this menace of being branded as witches and wizards.

What are the ages of the kids that are labeled witches or wizards?

They don’t have any particular age they start from.

Can a year old child be branded a witch?

Even a three months old baby can be said to be a witch; it has become a maddening situation now and getting worse. They believe the spell is transferable to babies also. They may threaten maybe a child to know if he or she had been initiated the baby, the child will accent to their threats and they will now be left with the option to do away with the baby that they cannot question to know if she has the spell or not. Everything tends towards people without a say in the matter; people that cannot defend themselves, they are the victims. They cannot accuse able-bodied strong men or rich men in the society as being witches because such person will match them; they look out for the vulnerable ones to target. But I will say that the belief that people are witches is a myth that has been overblown to the extent that if a witch concoction and poison is kept here and people are asked to choose from, they would prefer the poison to the witch spell. It is really a problem here in Akwa Ibom State.

How many kids do you have at the centre?

The children keep running into sometimes 150-155; it keeps increasing and reducing in units of one or two but at the most five without efforts to reconcile some of then with their parents. The situation has become that of children being brought to the centre on a weekly basis. What we do is this; when we see a child come in, we take it upon ourselves the battle of reconciling that child with the parents.

How successful are those reconciliationss?

The reconciliation is a very cardinal process to us but also the moist difficult task that we are facing. Over the years, we may have reconciled up to 250 children with their families.

Do you normally run a check on the children reconciled with their parents to make sure a relapse of them being treated as witches doesn’t occur?

Yes, we go back and check them and it is also a difficult task doing that because some of them live at the riverine areas and in far places and these checks also need money for transportation for us. We have got on records from our volunteers that some of the kids are rejected. In July, some UNICEF officials came around and we went on checking some of the children that were reconciled and we found so many of them happy to be with their families. The reconciliation processes is of two types; reconciling a child who has been in the centre for quite a long time say three or four years is one thing and another is reconciling a child who has just been sent out or thrown away or abandoned. For the child who has been in the centre for a long time, we have two ways of talking to the parents. Firstly we try to let the parent know the child is not a witch and, depending on the response of the parent, we let tell them that the child has been delivered by some missionaries from America and the United Kingdom; many of them know we work with some foreign missionaries and they see us with them and they believe that the Whiteman has extra powers to deliver witchcraft. For those brought to the centre, we accept the children and don’t argue with them on whether the kids are witches or not because if you argue with them then it means that you don’t want that child alive in that community. We accept the child and tell them that we will deliver the child. We keep the child for some time and counsel the child and make him know that truly that he or she has never been a witch. Often times when these children are brought here, we ask them to initiate us into their kingdom; we give them bread or other edible things to infect with witchcraft and some of them will agree. We eat these things in their presence and nothing happens to us. After some time we will ask the child, why did you did not come to take us to your coven, some of them reply that they couldn’t because we are too strong. With time, that child will realize that we are mocking him or her. We find out that these children later become happy to know that somebody believes they are not witches and then they open up and confess that everywhere you say you are not a witch, you are beaten so the best thing for them is to comply and confess to being witches so they will not be beaten but thrown out. In doing that we change their mindset from believing they are witches. Some of these ones are very intelligent while some, due to the torture, cannot assimilate quickly. In dealing with these kids we have found out that these kids are threatened and made to pass through an ordeal which forces them to accept to being witches. I am happy that today that all that we have been shouting that these children are not witches is now a subject of concern in the country and in the world.

Yes, this is largely due to the foreign journalists that came around and made the world see what has been happening for so many years. How did you meet them?

The name of the journalist is Max Gaven and she came with her partner, Joost; we call them Max and Joost. They came across a news report in the UK Guardian that said that children were targets of Nigerian witch hunt. They came at a time we were about to launch our Prevent Abandonment of Children Today (PACT) campaign, they came to cover the event. They came here and conducted their interviews and research and because they were at Esit Eket, they believed that everywhere in Akwa Ibom was Esit Eket. So when they went back they wrote that it was only happening at Esit Eket but it is a serious issue in Cross River State and there is no denying that fact; it is happening at Bogobri, Watt Market, Calabar Road and so on. We have these kids at Aba in Abia State and spreading.  The UK Guardian must have gone through our website and saw the situation there before they wrote to us requesting to come and do a documentary. We consented to their request and they came in February and went back. Later they came back in April with the Channel 4 group and did the documentary that was broadcast. The result of the documentary is overwhelming but I must say that what you saw in the documentary is just a flash in the pan compared to the real situation but we thank God that the government is paying attention.

I saw some of the children going to school and will like to know how you hope to integrate them into the society?

We will always work towards reconciliation. Some of those children you saw are growing out of primary school age so we decided to start giving them primary education here in the centre. Many of them are being rejected in many schools around; they are stigmatized and rejected out rightly, which the government assisted in building with the hope that children from the centre can benefit from, had the indigenes of the community rising against having the kids come there. We withdrew them so that they will not harm them. We have volunteers and teachers that teach them and we are working hard to put other facilities in place. We thank the efforts of the then State governor, Victor Attah, who donated to the Stones Model School but we have been rejected and this reminds me that part of the fund that was supposed to be used for the feeding of these children was used to put up some blocks here.

How many teachers do you have at the moment?

We have seven teachers and a head teacher; we have three Live-in carers and two management staff and lot of volunteers. We are still optimistic of employing an accountant, security and many other hands. Right now, we don’t have the funds to pay but we believe that people will partner with us in this regard. The present State governor has also promised to help us. For those we have to put into secondary schools, we take them to very far schools because those nearby have rejected them and we are faced with the challenge of paying for their transport of which we don’t have much funds. Some children in the centre are being trained in some trades, like automobile, sewing, and other kinds of trade.

I saw the school compound and there was no fence around it which poses a security threat; I also saw the windows that have no blinds and I also did not see any medical centre out there and I want to ask how you take care of their medical needs because I saw some one-year-old children out there that are really vulnerable to diseases?

First I will like to answer by thanking my colleagues in CRARN because they are so committed to their work. Yes we don’t have the facilities for them medically but what we do is that we take them to the hospital for treatment if a case is severe and at such time, we pay the bills; nothing is subsidized for us. There are cases that are just treated at the centre; we have volunteers that come here once in a while and again, most of the not-so-serious cases are handled by my wife, Elle, who trained as a nurse. We have plans of employing other nurses to be here permanently. We appeal to Nigerians and the government to come to our aid in this regard because on so many occasions we have emergencies that require immediate medical intervention.

I also saw some of the beds without mattresses and some of the kids were sleeping on the floor, is that despite what has been revealed, the government did not see these necessities?

When you talk about the government, I have a complaint; the information officer in the government house may not brief the governor very well on the situation on the ground. I believe that the governor is well aware of our needs here. I believe that the present governor, Mr. Goodswill Akpabio, is really concerned about helping us and has been sending some delegations here. The names of these kids have been taken and I want to believe that they are working out modalities on how to help us.

You told me last night that since the Child’s Right Act was passed, the issue has been taken more seriously than before and that you are part of the squad that is involved in the onslaught on erring pastors, how successful has the campaign been so far?

The government is concerned and since they watched that documentary, they became very aware of the situation. The State governor has ordered that these so called men of God should be apprehended. Last weekend, the pastor that claimed to have killed 110 kids was arrested; I did the reconnaissance for the police and he was apprehended. He is just one of the thousands of these Bishops that propagate this evil. I took the Channel 4 guys to him and he roped himself in thinking he was getting publicity. The government is actually arresting these pastors; we arrested more recently and it will be a continuous process. But the problem we are facing now with the police is that some of them that are indigenes of this part of the state are protecting their kinsmen and thwart our effort and get those to be investigated to run away; I have complained to the head about this attitude and they promised to look into it.

You said that you have been receiving threat calls and I will like to ask, are you not afraid because where the centre does not have much security?

We will soon erect a fence around the centre because it is very necessary that we do that but for myself and death threats, you know, I have put myself into this issue and I can’t withdraw it. I must see this fight to the end and whether I come out alive or not is inconsequential. This pogrom involves children and I will not abandon the fight. I am not saying I will be careless with my life and security, I know that these pastors being arrested have followers who may want to attack us in reprisal attacks, we know that but we can’t stop now because we have gone far. What we have done is likened, to us, planting a seed that is growing and spreading against the earlier belief of alleging children are witches. I will not step down and I know that God will be on our side.

Archives: Akpabio’s Gunmen Invade Stigmatized Children’s Home In Eket

24 Apr

In fulfillment of an earlier radio pledge to go after the charitable organisations responsible for the upkeep of suspected child witches,’ Akwa Ibom State Governor Chief Godswill Akpabio has sent his killer squad after Mr. Sam Ikpe-Itauma of the Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN).Child who was bathed with hot water by her fatherChild who was bathed with hot water by her father over witchcraft accusation Continue reading

Two #Children, a Good #Samaritan, Banish From Homes, Seek Protection at #CRARN Centre

2 Apr
#CNNiReport: Three children yesterday arrived the CRARN Children Centre in Eket – Nigeria, a Centre that takes in children banished from their family homes by parents and relatives over the allegation of witchcraft practice. The children who came from different villages and communities narrated their ordeals in the hands of their relatives said they feared for their lives while on the streets,  that is why they sought refuge at CRARN Children Centre.

Speaking to newsmen at the Centre, Ms Esther Edem (surname changed to conceal identity), a 13-year-old girl from Edo, Esit-Eket and the senior among them, said she found the other two girls roaming the streets and discovered upon inquiry that they were abandoned by their parents. She said she took them to their family home where she lives with her uncle and gave them food. When her uncle came back from work, she reported the incident to him and requested him to take the children and meet their parents if they could accept them back. Blessing said instead of yielding to her request, her uncle launched an attack on her and ordered her to leave his house with the two girls immediately. She said her uncle revealed to her that he had been suspecting her of being a witch all this while.
“I was thinking he was going to be happy and try to help the girls out of their dilemma. I was surprised when he pounced on me with anger and a spank. He asked me to leave his house immediately, so I left the house and did not know where to go. While roaming the street in the middle of the night, and as we sat in an uncompleted building, Ima came with an idea that we should go to CRARN Centre, a place she had been about six years ago. That’s why we came here.” Esther told reporters.
Ima who brought them to the CRARN Children Centre said her grandmother packed out and left their rented apartment in Ekpene Obo, Esit Eket where they were staying and asked her to find her way because she can no longer take care of a witch. She said she was in CRARN Centre in 2010 at the age of five and was reconciled with her grandmother who had been very good with her until a prophet told her  that she was still possessed by the evil spirit and has been responsible for her misfortunes and business downtown.
The youngest of the trio, Blessing Bassey, said she attended a prayer session on a Friday night (which locals called Tarry Night) after her two siblings were kidnapped by unknown gunmen, one of the Pastors in a  small church close to the Mary Slessor Health Centre, Effoi – Eket denounced her as using her magic power to cause the kidnapping of her two siblings and causing the family to go broke. She maintained that things changed for the worst since that fateful day and her parents began a string of torture on her every night before she was finally sent out the house.
The Child’s Right and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN) Centre was founded by Mr Sam Ikpe Itauma in 2003 while still a college student when he rescued four “witch” branded children from the hands of angry youths who wanted to kill them for coming to a nearby market and begging for alms. Itauma was not, however, available for comments when reporters visited the Centre. But the Centre manager, Ms Carol Akpan said there were cases of new children flocking into the Centre with no adequate support to cater for them. She regretted that some children could not be accepted, except in extreme or emergency cases, but referred to the government centres or  taken to their communities for immediate reconciliation and reunification with family which has always  been a very difficult task.

CRARN Calls On Police To Investigate Case Of A Child Bathed With Hot Water

16 Feb

Anambra  State: The Nigerian police and other security agencies have been called upon to investigate the case of a four-year-old female child who was bathed with hot water over accusation of witchcraft in Anambra State, the South Eastern region of Nigeria and bring the culprits to book.Burnt girl, Child bathed with hot water over witchcraft

The Founder and President of the Child’s Right and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN) Mr. Sam Itauma made the call in a telephone chat with newsmen yesterday.

Itauma stated that his organization was prepared to work with the security agencies in the country to unravel and bring the culprits of the heinous crime to book to serve as a deterrent to others. The CRARN founder said the little girl did not deserve such gruesome attack by an adult who has the obligation of protecting her.

The little girl was said to have been poured with hot water all over the body by her stepmother who believed that the child was possessed with witchcraft powers and was responsible for her persistent illness.

“We’re willing to work with the police and other relevant agencies to make sure that the perpetrators face justice to serve as a deterrent to others.”

Mr. Itauma disclosed that the fate of the burnt child was first brought to limelight by a CRARN volunteer and member of the Children Brigade International, Mr. Ubong Etuk who has been working assiduously to campaign against the silent brutality against innocent children across the country on the basis of witchcraft superstition.

The charity worker called on the government to carry out and sustain enlightenment campaigns to brush off superstition in minds of the people to lessen the spate of witchcraft related attacks and abuse on children and elderly persons. He averred further that anyone accused of witchcraft would not have a defender on his or her side even as the immediate relations would be scared and flee from him, thereby allowing the victims to suffer and die in the hands his accusers and attackers.

“The only way to checkmate this trend is for the government across the country to partner with the civil society and faith-based organizations and launch a vigorous awareness campaign so as to cushion the yoke of superstition in the people’s mind.”

Mr. Itauma lamented that even the scholars who were supposed to be the touch-bearers of the society were themselves trapped in the vicious circle of witchcraft belief which he said was entirely superstitious and baseless. He regretted that religious profiteers were exploiting the ignorant population in Africa to fan embers of discord in families with their false teachings for personal gains.

“It just baffles me that in this 21st century, you still have greater chunks of the scholarly community believing that ordinary diseases like malaria and high blood pressure are caused by certain spiritual and mysterious beings somewhere. This has given some religious profiteers the leeway to dominate the airwaves with spurious preachings and fears with the sole intent of exploiting it to their whims and caprices.

For details go http://www.crarn.net

15 Year Old Boy Brutalized, Axed To ‘Death’ By Hoodlums Over Witchcraft

13 Nov

 By Joe Eno

 

 15 Year Old Boy Brutalized, Axed To ‘Death’ By Hoodlums Over Witchcraft

·        Bathes with  urine and local gin mixed with marijuana  

Akwa Ibom State: A 15 year boy, Asuquo Edet  from  Akwa Ibom State – Nigeria was mid last week tortured for more than four hours before finally axed on the head to a state of coma by assailants numbering about ten over allegation of using witchcraft power to kill his father.

The Brutalized Asuquo Edet Showing Battered Body

The Brutalized Asuquo Edet Showing Battered Body

Narrating his ordeal in the hands from those he called ‘local cultists’ to newsmen, Asuquo, who hails from Ikon- Edikor, Udung Uko Local Government Area, said he was reconciled with his parents few months ago by an Eket based non-profit organization, the Child’s Right and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN) that runs a centre for witch stigmatized children, having lived there for over a year. He maintained that his father who had unknown health issue received him with open arms, before he died a few days ago.

‘‘My father was very happy to see me again after abandoning me for more than three years on the streets because one soothsayer, by name  Alex Otong from Obughu, bought by my stepmother told him that I was a wizard; and responsible for his illness,  the poverty and misfortune in the family….’’

The Junior Secondary II student said he was sitting in his late father’s house, mourning his death that fateful day when the hoodlums led by two of his stepmother’s brothers, by name Silas and Peter Inwang cordoned the house and started beating him with machetes, cables, rods, spine-sticks and ‘mbritem’ a local sugarcane-like plant while questioning him why he returned from exile only to kill his father; assuring him that he was seeing the sun for the last time in his life. The beating which started about 12:00 pm last Wednesday lasted for about four hours when he finally fell into a state of coma after they used ax to break his head. The attackers abandoned Asuquo in in his pool of blood when they presumed that he was dead.

Asuquo Edet bowing his axed head

Asuquo Edet, bowing his axed head

He disclosed that he was only woken up in the evening around 7:00 pm by a woman, who frequently visits the area for business; who asked him to leave the house before the cult men discovered he was still alive, as they would not hesitate to renew their attack or kill him immediately. Master Asuquo said he wobbled into the nearby bush where he hid himself for three days eating just raw cassava to survive before he came out to meet the Good Samaritan woman who gave him Five Hundred Naira (N500) to pay his way to the CRARN Children shelter, about a 160km away from his hometown.

 He strongly fingered his stepmother who had ten children to his late father as the mastermind of the attack on him. Adding that, while he was being brutalized, by the dare devils, they persistently poured urine and combine (a local gin mixed with marijuana) on him which burned him like fire all over his body.

Asuquo Edet's battered body

Asuquo Edet’s battered body

“They beat me with wire, machetes, horsewhip, rods and spine-sticks, and even poured urine and ‘combine’ on me until I did not know what was happening to me again! I only found myself lying on the floor overtaken by blood when one woman by name Uno Edet (name changed for security reason) who visited our village, woke me up and asked me to leave immediately otherwise I would be killed; as the men were bragging and saying I should come back and destroy lives.  So I went and stayed in the nearby bush for three days. When I came back she gave me Five Hundred Naira (N500) to use for my transport, and told me that those men came and set my father’s house on fire so that it will burn my corpse, thinking that my corpse was still lying there.”  The sobbing Asuquo said

On arrival at the CRARN Children Shelter, he was given first aid before taken to the Immanuel General Hospital Eket for treatment. But the Doctor on call insisted that given the extent of injuries on his body, he must get a police report before he could be attended to. The CRARN Centre Administrative Officer, Mr. Nsidibe Orok told this reporter that Asuquo was currently receiving treatment at the Immanuel General Hospital, Eket at moment.

Asuquo's axed head

Asuquo’s axed head

A senior police officer in Oron Area Command who did not want his name in print, however, said investigation will commence when the victim’s health improves. He expressed worry over the new surge in child witch related abuse in the state, and promised the command willingness to deal with abuses of like nature.

“Let his health gets improved, we will investigate the matter. I can assure you that this command will not fold its arm and watch children being brutalized in the name of witchcraft or whatever guise.” The police chief assures.

US Ambassador to Nigeria Commissions Mega Fish Project at CRARN Centre Eket

27 Aug

By Don Oliver

Ambassador Terence P. McCulley and Consul General Jeffrey Hawkins cutting the Fish Project tape at CRARN Centre

The United State Ambassador to Nigeria , Mr. Terence McCulley, on Saturday
commissioned an ultra modern fish project at Child’s Right and
Rehabilitation Network (CRARN) Centre, Ikot Afaha in Eket, the major oil
city of Akwa Ibom State in Nigeria.

Speaking at the commissioning ceremony, Ambassador McCulley stated that the
US government was prepared to support groups and organisation that work
towards enhancing the quality of lives of the vulnerable and the less
privileged members of the society.

“We will continue to give our support to organisations and community that
pay greater attention to alleviating poverty in the midst of its community
and gear up quality lives of the under privileged people, the women and
mostly children who need helping hands, who crave for support and comfort.”

The Ambassador commended CRARN for paying greater attention to the
underprivileged children and women who suffer torture and other forms of
horrendous abuses in the hands of those who owe them a duty of protection
and love. He acknowledged that his office had been following the good work
of CRARN for quite a long time and found it worthy for its support; and
promised to give further assistance to organization and the community.

Barrister Pius Madaki-CRARN Attorney addressing the US Ambassador to Nigeria

A community leader and former Eket chapter Chairman of the defunct NPN,
Apostle Okon Harry Ekpuk expressed the community’s deepest appreciation to
the Ambassador and his team for selecting the Eket community as one of the
beneficiaries of their projects. Apostle Ekpuk averred that the fish
project will go a long way in touching the lives of the ordinary people.

“His Excellency, the US Ambassador to Nigeria, let me at this moment
express out profound appreciation to you and your team on behalf of the
people of Eket Community and its environs and to state categorically
clearly that this project is a huge one, and will so strongly touched the
lives of the ordinary people of this community and beyond and we will do
everything humanly possible to protect and sustain it. Our community is a
humane and hospitable one, so our is culture…. ” Ekpuk said

Apostle Ekpuk who spoke glowingly of the good work of CRARN said despite
daunting challenges, the organization was still working hard to save live
of children. He urged CRARN to continue with its services to humanity for
which he said holds abundant, nature and God’s reward.
“As you can see, CRARN is not only a blessing to this community, but a
huge asset to world and entire human race, given its philosophy, advocacy
work and humanitarian record of saving and indeed transformation of
children lives and the aged ones beyond its scope of operation.”

In his response, the principal attorney to CRARN, Mr Pius Madaki expressed
gratitude to the Ambassador for citing a project of such magnitude at the
CRARN Children Centre; and expressed the willingness of the organisation
to train the community to replicate it in various communities. He said the
fish project will no doubt propel a lot of ordinary people to be
self-reliant.

” It is my strongest belief that this project will touch the lives of the
disadvantage children, foster parents, the ordinary people and the
community towards becoming self-reliant…” Madaki asserts

According to the project coordinator, Mr Akpan Umoh, the pond has four
compartments ( One Nursery pond, one Transition pond and two Raising
pond) which
has the capacity to nursing 8000 fingerlings and raising 15000 mature
catfish, was constructed and completed in July 2012 with support from
US government

Ambassador Terence McCulley and his team at CRARN Centre Eket

He maintained that the organization would not lose focus in its quest to
enlighten the society on mental reconstruction, superstition and
witchcraft belief; rescuing and
rehabilitation of stigmatized children.

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