About four months ago, the famous witch detector, Helen Ukpabio appeared in the news. And once again her name was mentioned with vile. The question that a lot of social media users were left to ponder is, “Can Nigerians ever forgive her for the havoc she wreaked in some families and homes across the country?” If yes, (which is greatly doubted), will they ever forget?
The buzz around her may have died down a little, but a recent post on Twitter brought it back. Nigerians have gone ahead to share sickening memories from that era.
The uproar on social media started when the second son of the Mount Zion queen, Mrs. Gloria Bamiloye, took to his twitter page to talk about the foreign series “Lucifer”. Joshua Mike Bamiloye talked about the subtle messages films like Lucifer pass across. His intention was to warn people to be careful and mindful of the kind of content they consume. He, most certainly, did not expect the turn that thread took.
Typical of the banters on Twitter, some people were quick to shun him. They accused his parents’ films of playing a role in the witch-hunting that claimed the lives of a lot of children. But then some others think it is a mistake.
They cleared the air and all that accusations were redirected Helen Ukpabio. Different people in their tweets recounted their experiences and none of them was good. All that that experience brings to mind is that a killer is still at large.
Controversial for her teachings about witchcraft and demonic possession of children, Helen Ukpabio is the founder and leader of Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries in Nigeria. She is originally from Cross Rivers State but was born and raised in Imo State. She is married to Dr. Elijah Ukpabio, an indigene of Cross Rivers State and they have three children.
For a time, the preacher spread the fear of child witches in Nigeria with her teachings and “deliverances”. She used her sermons and prophetic declarations to incite intolerance and persecution of alleged child witches and wizards. Thousands of children have been killed, tortured, or maimed. And the surviving ones have been rendered homeless and are constantly preyed upon.
How are the child-witches detected? She has a simple diagnostic tool that can detect a witch: “A child under two years of age that cries at night or deteriorates in health is an agent of Satan.”
These condemned children are often subjected to isolation, abandonment, ostracization and discrimination. They are usually tortured in churches to extract confessions from them. And then they are murdered in cruel ways.
Petitions for her arrest and prosecution has been made in the past. Even travel bans have been placed on her. But every time they came up, she counter attacked. She is known to have employed brutal force in defending herself, her beliefs and her operations. And all of that puts a question mark on her brand of Christianity.
People believe that she is only revered because she exploited the local superstitious beliefs of the people in the Southeast. She particularly held on to those related to spiritual or demonic possession or witchcraft.
Now her organization has grown throughout Nigeria and West Africa. As a matter of fact, the child-witch hunt movement has spread into the Nigerian Diaspora in Europe and America. With her headquarter in Cross Rivers, she visits other regions in the country and outside the country to conduct deliverance.
It is surprising, however, to find that she had and still has ardent followers and believers in Nigeria and in the UK. Parents of the children who have been accused of demonic possession have nothing but praise for her. They believe she is their savior and seize every opportunity to stand up for her.
In the social media space, there is the before and after picture of the a boy-child (Hope) that was adopted by Anja Ringgren Loven on the 30th of January, 2016. People claim that he is one of the children that was ostracized by his family because of the claims made by the likes of Mrs. Ukpabio. The truth is that he is one of many.
As a way of bringing her activities to light and demanding justice for all the children that have been maimed and killed in her operations, a documentary was released recently. This film demonstrates the scale of the problem caused by the continued labelling of children as witches in South Eastern Nigeria. It also depicted the untold hardships that the practice has brought on thousands of children in that region.
Well-meaning Nigerians in Nigeria and in the Diaspora are beginning to beg for the attention of the Federal Government, NGOs, National and International Human Rights Organisations. There is need to put a stop to those practices and support the likes of Anja Loven in her rescue mission.
Organizations like the one Helen Ukpabio runs cannot be left unchecked. The rights of children are constantly trampled on. And this also questions the participation of parents too. How do you explain parents involvement in the murder of their children only because some preacher asks them to?
Where lack of education is a huge factor for rise of this practice, poverty can not be overlooked. Parents, in that region, give birth to more children than they can raise, and they blame this children for asking to be treated as humans. They run away from their responsibilities and accept any opportunity to get rid of their children.
Children’s rights, everywhere in the world, include the right to health, education, family life, play and recreation, an adequate standard of living and to be protected from abuse and harm. Everyone who falls short of this should be prosecuted and be made to suffer.