Two sisters, Aniema Ekpenyong and Mary Ekpenyong, who were branded witches by a prophet in the Divine Zion of God Church in Ikot-Abasi-Effiom District, in the Akpabuyo Local Government Area of Cross River State, have narrated how they narrowly escaped being lynched by the villagers.
The incident happened after their uncle, identified simply as Victor, took them to the church for deliverance.
Thirteen-year-old Aniema, and Mary, 10, who had since relocated to Asanting village in the Ikono LGA of Akwa Ibom State, said they were taken to their new abode after the sad encounter with the uncle.
In an interview with Southern City News on Saturday, Aniema said the issue that led to their being branded witches emanated as a dream from their stepsister.
She said, “Everything started when Adiaha Akpan (stepsister) said she had a dream that Aniema and I came to take her child away and that we wanted to kill her. She told Uncle Victor about the 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.”
Aniema, however, said she tried to run away but was apprehended by the uncle, adding that they used all kinds of cruel methods to get them to confess in affirmation, but to no avail.
“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.”
It was the timely intervention of a worker with the Cross River State Local Government Service Commission, Mr. Okon Edet-Bassey, that saved the situation.
Edet-Bassey, it was learnt, rushed to the scene and warned the uncle and all others who tortured them that he would take legal action if anything happened to the kids.
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.”
Also, Executive Secretary of Basic Rights Counsel Initiative, Mr. James Ibor, said, “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.”