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Witchkillings in Nigeria

Leo Igwe

Skeptical Briefs Volume 13.2, June 2003

At least twenty-five people suspected of being witches have been killed in Akwa Ibom state in southern Nigeria. A report credited to the Akwa Ibom state police command says that, in February 2003 alone, fifteen suspected witchcraft practitioners were killed in different parts of the state.

According to press reports, some of the victims were clubbed to death based on their confession while others were killed simply because of suspicion by their relatives.

The killing of suspected witches started after some members of the Christian Pentecostal churches accused their congregation’s parents and relatives of allegedly practicing witchcraft and being responsible for poverty, diseases, business failure, infertility, and other calamities.

As a result, some children attacked their parents and other relatives to elicit confessions for their alleged participation in witchcraft. In one of the communities, Itam, there was so much chaos and confusion that the village head had to shut down churches accused of making anti-witchcraft prophecies and pronouncements. Reacting to the whole incident, the governor of Akwa Ibom state, Obong Victor Atta, denounced the belief in witchcraft as superstitious and without rational or scientific basis.

Witchcraft is a common belief in Nigeria and throughout Africa; cases of witchkilling have been reported in other counties including Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, and the Democratic People’s Republic of the Congo.

Leo Igwe

Leo Igwe is the founder of the Nigerian Humanist Movement and currently a research fellow at Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies, University of Bayreuth, Germany.