Kids as witches and commodities

 By Casmir Igbokwe

 Published: Sunday, 29 Jun 2008

I was privy to a discussion of two young women recently. One told the other that her menses were causing her stomach upset. She last experienced this some years back when she had not started having children. The other asked her if she had been using contraceptives. She answered in the negative, saying her husband only used condoms. The other woman shrugged and noted, ”My husband does not like condom o!” Even, the two women do not fancy injectables. The assumption is that they have side effects and could make a woman look like an inflated balloon.

In the absence of any form of birth control, two things could happen. The couple could either cuddle their pillows in their different rooms, or sleep together and produce what some people call unwanted pregnancy. Some terminate the pregnancy. Some allow it to run its natural course. Even single girls that play with boys without caution risk this situation as well. When the babies eventually come, they consider many options regarding what to do with them.

One, they may decide to keep them in the family and train them to the best of their ability. When the child grows to a certain level, they either give them out to relations as housemaids or houseboys or they release them to the larger society, where they grow to become social miscreants.

The kids may show some signs of mental retardation or sickness due largely to malnutrition and lack of adequate care. In this case, the parents will likely visit prayer houses or what passes for a church. There, they may label them witches or wizards. Prayer warriors will then start a series of exorcism. ”Holy Ghost fire! Die by fire!” they are wont to chant. They torture, machete, abandon and, sometimes, burn these kids alive.

This is exactly what is happening in Akwa Ibom and Cross River states. Courtesy of a United Kingdom registered charity organisation, Stepping Stone Nigeria, we got to know that over 15, 000 children are suffering this problem in the two states. Abandoned by those who gave birth to them, they roam the streets begging for alms and looking for where to retire at night. Some die off. Some fall into the hands of ritualists and rapists.

The problem is not peculiar to Nigeria. A particular family, which came to London from Congo to seek asylum, allegedly accused a little girl living with them of witchcraft. They tortured her, cut her with a knife, rubbed peppers in her eyes, tied her in a sack for days and finally threw her out of their house. The culprits were later reportedly convicted on cruelty charges.

Kids who escape allegations of witchcraft may end up as articles of trade. Recently, in Aba, Abia State, the police arrested some pregnant girls and their matron, Mrs Grace Erondu (80), for alleged involvement in the illicit trade of trading in babies. At Erondu‘s maternity, a baby boy reportedly goes for N250,000, while a baby girl goes for about N200,000. This woman, who claimed to be a prayer warrior, bathes her girls with alcoholic drinks to exorcise them of evil spirits.

A few days after the Aba arrest, security agents raided another home in Enugu and arrested 22 pregnant girls. Also arrested was the patron of the “maternity,” Dr. Kenneth Akune. The alleged crime blew open when a woman arrested with a day-old baby confessed that she bought it at the so-called maternity for N340, 000.

We are wont to blame poverty for this kind of mindless trade. This is true to an extent. But what kind of poverty will push a parent to sell his baby? Or move him to push her out of his house in the guise that she is a witch? Even wild animals don‘t behave this way. They cherish and protect their offspring against any predator.

Indeed, our society is becoming more conscienceless and savage. And we are the most religious country in the world. The truth is that many of the self-styled prophets and seers in our midst see religion as a big business venture. They trade on the ignorance and feeble-mindedness of people to make their money. You can never visit them without being told of a looming imaginary death, an accident that will soon happen or a child who flies in the night to attend a meeting of witches. Out of panic, the person concerned may offer money to obtain prayers that will seemingly avert the predicted calamity.

We will never progress as a nation if we continue this way. A newborn baby has his own right to life and decent living. Whoever denies him that right should face the full weight of the law. And this is where the government comes in. It must enforce the relevant laws that deal with illegal sale and trafficking in persons, even as it should endeavour to improve the economic condition of the citizens. It should also standardise and publicise the procedure for child adoption.

All the states of the federation should also endeavour to adopt the Child Rights Act of 2003. So far, only 14 states have adopted the law, which is an offshoot of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The convention urges countries to take appropriate measures to protect the child against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions or beliefs of the child‘s parents, guardians or family members.

On their part, couples should ensure they have the number of children they can adequately cater for. Those who cannot control their libido should sit down, like the woman with painful menstruation and her friend, and discuss the family planning method that best suits their belief and condition.

Feedback

Dear Casmir,

I have a confession to make – I love you… Though I am a 54-year-old lady, conservative and proper, I cannot contain myself. Every time I read your piece, I feel like embracing you and pecking your cheeks – Yes! You are “just too much.” I have been “in love” since you were in Cardiff. Your write-ups are incisive and very thorough. Sundays would be incomplete without them. In fact, I read the “last page” first. This goes to show the importance of finding one’s purpose in life. No doubt, Casmir, you were born to write. May your “well” never run dry. Amen.

Mrs. F. Martins, Ifako,

anjolam@yahoo.com.

Dear Casmir,

Thanks for your piece “MTN, free airtime and phone abusers.” It‘s superb. I wonder why our people behave strangely. As a radio and television presenter, I give out my phone number for reasonable clients to book advert appointments. Alas! What do I get in return? Endless flashing, terrible text messages like “are you married?” “Who are you?” “Send me credit” and lots more. They no longer understand simple instruction, “Please call for advert placement only”. It‘s a terrible trend. I think networks should charge for flashing, so that our people can find better things to do with their time instead of disturbing other people‘s peace!

Mrs. Bimpe Atofolaki,

Sango-Otta, 08072324558.

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1 Comment »

  1. Whilst I can’t confess to love you like Mrs F. Martins! I will say that it was an interesting read.


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