By Leo Igwe
Studies have noted that the police in Africa cannot tackle witchcraft accusations; the police refuse to protect the accused because police officers believe in witchcraft and allow their personal witchcraft fears, and anxieties to determine their work and profession. Scholars have put forth this argument not only to explain the manifestation of witchcraft accusations in contemporary Africa, but also to justify the inability of modernity to diminish and neutralize allegations of witchcraft. However, some cases from Nigeria, Ghana, and Malawi indicate otherwise and show an imbalance in this argument and explanation.
These cases clearly illustrate that this understanding of the manifestations of witchcraft beliefs is one-sided and does not reflect the situation of policing and how modernity relates to the phenomenon of witchcraft accusations in post-colonial Africa. Let us take a recent case from Malawi. An online news media, Zodiak reported it. It states: “Police in Neno have been keeping an 89-year-old man at Zalewa roadblock for three weeks after an angry mob descended on the granny at Kasamba village in the area of Senior Chief Symon on allegations that he bewitched his grandson”. A police public relations officer, Austin Kamwendo, told this news media “that the man, Binwell Chabwera, was staying with his grandson since his childhood but on the 26th of August the grandson died after a short illness”. The officer further explained that “soon after the death of the grandson, an angry mob wanted to kill Chabwera accusing him of having a hand in the death of his grandson”. The police are appealing to the institutions that take care of the elderly to come to their rescue because they can no longer afford to feed the man due to financial constraints, and his home village is still hostile.
As this case shows, the police protect the accused and try to address cases of witchcraft accusation. The police take measures to ensure that accusers do not harm alleged witches. But, as this case from Malawi has illustrated, the police are limited in their powers and abilities. Police powers vary from rural to urban areas. The police have and exercise more powers in the capital Lilongwe or in the city of Blantyre than in other places. There is more police presence in urban than in rural communities. In urban centers, the police posts have more resources, officers, and equipment to do their work. But in rural communities, they are constrained. Police officers are few and far apart. The police are in a better position to protect and defend the accused in the city centers than in villages. The police respond to witchcraft accusations based on their ability and capacity. The police use their facilities to ensure that accused persons are not attacked or killed. In this case, the police provided the accused some refuge at a checkpoint. They shieled him from attack and harm. However, after three weeks, the police are appealing for help because they could no longer cater for him. The police in the area were getting overstretched. Hence, the police asked those institutions that take care of the elderly to come to their help.
The Advocacy for Alleged Witches commends the police in Malawi for protecting the accused. Such an instance indicates that the police fulfill some role in protecting the accused. Alleged witches are innocent and need police protection. The laws of Malawi guarantee their rights, safety and protection. However, the AfAW has noted the importance of institutional synergy in the fight against witch persecution in the region. Institutional energy is necessary because no one institution can do it alone. African governments and people need to pool resources together, fill in existing gaps and maximize existing facilities to end witch persecutions in the region. As the case from Malawi has demonstrated, the police need to work with homes for the elderly, orphanage centers, and other agencies to address the problem. The police, courts, other governmental and nongovernmental institutions should collaborate in combating and ending witchcraft accusations and witch persecutions in the region.
Dr. Igwe directs the Advocacy for Alleged Witches which aims to end witch persecution in Africa by 2030.
Witch Persecution And Reintegration Of Victims In Benue State
By Leo Igwe
Pa Justin Kyado, a 90-year-old man, was accused of witchcraft last year. Some mob abducted him in the middle of the night, beat him up, and set him ablaze. Kyado survived and on September 9, returned to his community in the company of advocates from Benue state. In his report, the AfAW director in the state, Dooyum Ingye, said, “Last year, the Advocacy for Alleged Witches (AfAW) took up the case of Pa. Justin Kyado who was accused of witchcraft. He was severely burnt by some family and community members. AfAW helped Pa. Kyado receive proper medical attention and also facilitated the arrest and trial of his persecutors. As a post-intervention policy, AfAW continued to monitor Pa Kyado’s progress. Pa Kyado has been staying with his daughter since the attack”.
A year after the attack, Kyado with the help of AfAW returned to his village, Tse Agena, Mbavur, Mbadzoho Gwer East Local Government Area of Benue State. His return is AfAW’s first case of reintegration since it was founded in 2020. Advocates seized the opportunity to engage community members, especially the youths on the illegality of witch persecution and the need to adopt a scientific approach to explaining incidents of death or illness. As a tradition, people consult local diviners when people fall ill or pass away. These diviners point accusing fingers on relatives. The accused are brutally attacked or murdered. Those who attack or murder alleged witches are seldom arrested or prosecuted. In the case of Kyado, it was different.
Since some suspects were arrested and charged in court, relatives have been pressuring Pa Kyado’s family to withdraw the case so that they could settle out of court. They asked Kyado to return to the community and pledged not to harm him or engage in witchcraft accusations or persecutions. Our AfAW director in Benue reported what happened. “AfAW advocates arrived at Pa. Kyado’s hometown by 11:40 a.m., 9th September 2023. Pa. Kyado’s family and community members were already gathered at the family compound waiting. Terhemba Kyado, Pa. Justin’s younger son, welcomed and introduced everyone present. Thereafter, the local chief Zaki Akende Tagher introduced the AfAW advocates and the purpose of their visit to the community. Previously, the local chief’s attempt to get the perpetrators bailed was rejected by the court. The rejection was premised on the brutal assault on Pa. Kyado, insensitivity to his condition, and the constant threat to the life of his daughter, who was nursing him and working with AfAW to ensure that justice is done. Pa. Kyado’s family and their lawyer argued that they should be granted bail on the condition they agreed not to harm Pa. Kyado or any member of his family”.
As the AfAW director further explained: “The head of Pa. Kyado’s kindred expressed displeasure over the attack on Pa. Kyado. However, he pleaded that the family of Pa Kyadoo, AfAW, and their supporters, should withdraw the case as the perpetrators and their families were ready to adhere to any safety condition for the victim. In turn, AfAW’s Benue Director insisted that all the community members must refrain from all accusations. The kindred heads agreed and promised to end witch accusations and persecution in their community. Also, the head of every family in the community promised to abide by the resolution. As their tradition demands, the Benue AfAW Director handed Pa. Kyado to the local chief, Zaki Akende Tagher who in turn, handed him to the head of the kindreds, and then to the elders of his family. While handing Pa Justin over to the elders, Zaki Akende Tagher said, “Wanwene ka orya, ka orbatsav ga” meaning “Your son is an elder, not a witch”. This process creates a chain of care, responsibility and accountability for the victim’s safety and life”.
Pa Kyadoo’s return provided an opportunity for some community outreach. AfAW’s advocates addressed community members, especially the youths. One advocate told the youths that old age did not make a person a witch; that old people were not witches. He said: “If people are sick, consult medical doctors, do not consult local diviners, do not suspect or attack old family members. Do not forget that as youths you will grow old someday so you also stand the risk of being accused of witchcraft”. He asked them to seek scientific explanations for illness or other events to eradicate accusations of witchcraft and prevent the horrific and degrading treatment associated with witch persecution. Community members were urged to reach out to Benue AfAW advocates for more understanding of the events or happenings around them.
At the end of the event, the local chief assured AfAW that he would ensure that nobody engaged in witch-hunting or accusations in the community. The AfAW advocates presented some shirts to Pa Kyado and his family. In addition, Pa Kyado was presented with a sum of 50, 000 naira to help him resettle in his community. AfAW will monitor the situation to ensure the safety of Pa Kyado in the coming weeks and months.
Dr. Igwe directs Advocacy for Alleged Witches, which campaigns to end witch hunting in Africa.,
UNICAL Replaces Dean Suspended Over Alleged Sexual Harassment
Amid an investigation into the allegation of sexual harassment against Prof Cyril Ndifon, the former dean of the faculty of law, the management of the University of Calabar (UNICAL) has announced his replacement.
Last week, Benedict Otu, the president of the Law Students Association of Nigeria (LAWSAN), led some female students in a protest, demanding the sack of Ndifon.
The protesting students — clad in their white shirts and black skirts — were chanting “Ndifon, go! go”!
Some of the inscriptions displayed on the placards read: “Professor Ndifon let the girls with big breasts breathe stop suffocating us”, “Enough of law school list manipulation”, and “Professor Ndifon must go for our sanity”.
The authorities of the institution began a probe into the allegations and also announced the suspension of Ndifon.
But according to NAN, Florence Obi, the university vice-chancellor, approved the appointment of Rose Ugbe as the new dean of the faculty of law, on Tuesday.
A statement by Gabriel Egbe, the varsity’s registrar, revealed that Ugbe’s appointment took effect from August 22, 2023.
The statement added that Ugbe’s administration would run until a permanent officer is elected.
She is expected to take up the office’s responsibilities and will oversee the faculty’s academic programmes.
Ugbe is also expected to “promote healthy relationships among staff and students and create a positive faculty teaching and learning environment”.
Other responsibilities include “supporting faculty members in their research activities and collaborating with the university administration to implement and actualise the institution’s vision”.
FRSC Presents Celebrity Marshals, Warns Youths Against Reckless Driving, Drugs, Others
By Esther Kainebi-Daniel
Actor and filmmaker, Femi Adebayo was among others presented as celebrity marshals to the public by the Federal Road Corps (FRSC) Lagos Sector Command as part of activities to mark the International Youth Day (IYD).
With this year’s IYD theme as ‘Green Skills for Youth: Towards a Sustainable Sustainable World’, the FRSC in collaboration with International Initiative for the Advancement of SDGs in Africa (IIASDG) and Winstarbel Communications, organised a special event tagged ‘Road Safety Youth Hangout’, which drew a segment of the youth population from various walks of life like tech, music arts, and entrepreneurship, among others.
The hangout was sponsored by Lotus Bank, Flour Mills Nigeria (FMN), and Sovereign Trust Insurance (STI).
Speaking at the event, the Chief Host, FRSC Lagos Sector Commander, CC Babatunde Farinloye who was represented by ACC Esther Uzoma said:
“Today’s program is very important because 70 percent of victims of road crashes are youths. So if there is anything that is taking away the life of our youths, we have to address it.
“We are talking about the impact of road crashes and what we need to do to avert calamity. Drinking and drug abuse are some of the things that distract our youths, the emergence of the phone is another distraction so they need to be informed so as not to get involved in road crashes.”
The sector Commander noted that for Africa and indeed Nigeria, the youth constitutes about 50 percent of the population. Therefore, adequate attention must be focused on them in order that they can reach their full potentials.
On the unveiling of the celebrity marshsls, whose induction ceremony is slated for a later date, Farinloye revealed: “Celebrity marshals are part of the FRSC Special Marshals and are those people who have volunteered their time to carry out road safety work with us.
“They are not paid like the regular marshals. They voluntarily key into this humanitarian work which is a work of saving lives.”
“We can remember Da’Grin, if he was alive today, maybe he would have been a member of the FRSC celebrity marshals. Nobody is exempted from impact of road crashes so everyone is needed,” the sector commander added.
Asked what the agency is doing to curb the abuse of alcohol and drugs among drivers, the FRSC boss said “through the relationship of FRSC with NURTW, there is no motor park where they sell alcoholic beverages and they are complying with it.
“We also do public enlightenment every morning into motor parks that we call Early Morning Cry to tell them the problem that goes with drinking and driving.”
Admonishing the youths at the event, the secretary to the State Government (SSG), Lagos, who was the Special Guest, Abimbola Salu-Hundeyin, who was represented by Omotayo Gbajabiamila, stated that the International Youth Day day is celebrated worldwide to focus on the opportunities and challenges which come with the youth. She oted that youths require orientation and should be more aware of their activities.
She said, “Do not take drugs, limit your going out because when you are tired and you are driving, there can be accident. You should know that your future lies in your hands. All the things that will not make you succeed and live long, leave them.”
On other factors leading to road crashes, Salu-Hundeyin said, “We have badly trained drivers, everybody just wants to get on the road. Then many gadgets like tyres, brake, people don’t check and they get easily distracted on the road.
“Some of our law enforcement officers do not have the right attitude to deal with situations, so there is this impunity that people have. Adults should pay attention to their children as no child is too old for you to speak to.”
Counselling youths on the importance of problem solving to life impact, the guest speaker, Dr. Lanre Olusola, a foremost life coach, said: “If you want to make money or leave a legacy in this world, solve problems. The problem you want to solve, tie it to the skills, knowledge, and the passion that you have.
“If you do, you will live a fulfilled life and prosperous life. When you know where you are going and have seen the picture of your desired future, then make the right decisions.
“As you live a selfless life, don’t forget that self-care is number one thing that you need to stay alive. Take care of yourself.”
In his brief remark, the newly unveiled Celebrity Marshal, Femi said: “The Road Safety Youth Hangout is to awaken the awareness of our youths to be conscious of their lives. For me, this is an excellent event which I am excited about.”
“The fact speaks for itself. We have had cases of sudden death caused by the use of substances and we have seen so many celebrities that we love whose sudden death has happened by these harmful substances.
“We don’t want anyone to end their lives like that. So my advice to youth celebrities and youths in general is to avoid these substances especially when you will handle automobiles and other forms of communication,” he added.
Other celebrities who performed at the event include comedian Demolaismyname; music artistes May D, Dresticks, Kholy Jay, among others.
Counselling youths on the importance of safety, Dresticks said, “Safety first in everything. You have to fix your mind to stay alive. A lot of horrible situations can be avoided when we maintain safety first.”