Officials of Akwa Ibom Government on Monday invaded the premises of a private orphanage in Eket, Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN), and abducted some 19 children who declined an offer of relocation presented to them.
SaharaReporters learnt that government officials tried unsuccessfully to convince the children to move to the state capital in Uyo after they had intimidated the staff of CRARN to submit to their arrogance.
But when the children vehemently refused to leave the centre, the desperate officials changed their tactics and lured the children under the pretext that they were taking them to inspect the new place prepared for them by Governor Godswill Akpabio.
Some of the children questioned the rationale for the movement from the private shelter when many more children who are accused of witchcraft are still on the streets.
The entire operation was led by Attah Ikiddeh, who went along with a handful of officials from the Women Affairs ministry who travelled in a white Toyota Hiace Bus.
Formerly based in the UK, Ikiddeh, it was learnt, runs a non-governmental organisation that is fronting for the government of Akwa Ibom to take over the upkeep of children currently being catered for by the other NGOs that the Governor threatened to deal with for bringing the child witch syndrome to international limelight and “embarrassing” the government. Ikkideh also runs a media racket that Mr. Akpabio uses to spread propaganda.
Mr. Bassey Antia, an official of CRARN told the government’s team that the NGO was relieved by the offer of government to take over the upkeep of the children but wondered why the officials were in a hurry to execute the plan.
“It is impromptu for them to serve us a letter written today and forcefully take away the children under our custody without any form of documentation. That is our only concern, we do not want to appear to be resisting the efforts of government, that is why we complied,” he said.
Members of the community who reacted to the development condemned the forceful invasion of the home by the officials of Akwa Ibom government.
“It appears there is a desperate intention to crush these NGOs that have been keeping these children who were rejected and abandoned by the government. It is the height of lawlessness in a democratic dispensation,” one of them told SaharaReporters.
“These children roamed the streets for years without support, said Effiong, a neighbor of CRARN. “Where was Mrs Eunice Thomas when they were on the streets? he asked.
Continuing, he said, “She is desperate to save and to renew her job as commissioner. The Commissioner has demonstrated gross incompetence in her duty and now wants to use these children to retain her office in the new cabinet, this should not be so.”