Disowned by family, rescued by an ‘Angel’- The story of Children labelled Witches and wizards in Cross River State.


Cross River State First Lady gives Hope to children labelled witches and wizards in the State.

IniobongUdo Inyang was a baby when her mother died mysteriously. She hails from Ikot Akpan Abia, Uyo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.

Since she did not grow to know who her mother was, she had no option than to stay with her paternal grandmother in Calabar as agreed by the family. Not too long after, her grandmother and other relations threw her out of the house, accusing her of witchcraft.

Helpless and searching for survival, Iniobong roamed the streets of Calabar. She slept every night in an abandoned truck, kiosks and shops falling prey to the whim and caprices of her natural environment. She survived on the magnanimity of passers-by who now and them tossed some naira in her way.

She finally fell prey to wicked men who raped and infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and was at the point of death in a pit where she was dumped when the Calabar Urban Development Authority contacted the staff of Destiny Child Centre in Calabar, Cross River State to come to her rescue.

Today, she is being rehabilitated at the Destiny Child Centre and has since returned to school with the intervention of Mrs. Obioma Liyel Imoke, wife of the Cross River State governor.

In like manner, Idongesit Nnana Umoren who hails from Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State, had no option than to stay with his grandmother in Edimotop in Calabar. He, too, was driven out of the house by his grandmother, uncle and other relations who accused him of being a wizard.

He recounts his ordeal: “I was staying with my grandmother when my uncle in town told my grandmother that I was a wizard and I was responsible for the misfortune in the family, that my grandmother should not waste her money training me.  One day, at night, I ran out of the house because they were maltreating me and labelled me a wizard. I met Endurance and Prince on the streets, we worked together. One night, we slept in an abandoned vehicle. The vigilance group members took us, tied us with rope and carried us to the Chairman’s house. The next morning, they said we turned to cats in the area; we were thoroughly beaten with machetes and given deep cuts, before we were released. Finally, through the Calabar Urban Development Authority, we were brought to Destiny Child Centre. I was treated at the centre, given shelter, food and I am now back in school through the intervention of  Mrs. Imoke.”

Since 2009, Idongesit has been rehabilitated and reintegrated at the Divine Child Centre and he is back in school.

Like Iniobong and Idongesit, less- privileged children in Cross River State, especially those labelled witches and wizards by their parents and guardians from Akwa Ibom State, as well as children sold out as house-helps, maltreated and tortured, are in one way or the other resettled and rehabilitated at the Destiny Child Home.

The owner of Destiny Child Centre, Mrs. Obioma Imoke, said “the home is for resettlement, rehabilitation and re-integration of street children.”

She said the home, which started on October 11, 2009, was put up because of the increasing number of children living on the streets of Calabar, which to her, was unacceptable.

Her words: “My main focus is to complement my husband’s commitment to taking governance to those who need it most. I got a call from UNICEF saying we have street children in Calabar.  I said no, that this is Calabar, clean and green, a tourism state. UNICEF said it was going to send someone to you to take me to where these children were.”

She continued: “ I was taken to the back of Okoi Arikpo’s house and I saw 36 children there. I interviewed some of them, some said their parents had died and their aunts did no want them. Some said their parents and guardians labeled them witches and wizards, maltreating and torturing them that they were responsible for misfortunes in their families. A set of kids, four in number, left their mother because she was extremely abusive and violent.   Majority of children in the Destiny Child Centre are from Akwa Ibom. They run away and hide in the streets of Cross River State.

“Quite frankly, it was not a very good sight. One of the things I did was that we were able to give them food daily. Because they needed food, people were using them to make money to get food. They were running drugs. They were doing all sorts of things just to be able to make money. So we established a resettlement home for the reintegration and rehabilitation of street children. We moved them into that home on October 16, 2009, and at present, there are over 100 children in the home,” Mrs Imoke revealed.

Some of the children at the centre who spoke with The Guardian expressed joy, thanking God for the existence of the centre, while also calling on well-to-do Nigerians to borrow a leaf from the governor’s wife.

Culled from The Guardian