The Advocacy for Alleged Witches has called on the Inspector-General of Police in Nigeria to investigate the attack on alleged witches in Boki Local Government Area leading to the death of some and injury of others.
Leo Igwe, President of AfAW, in a statement on Thursday said the victims were set ablaze at the instance of an adviser to Cross River State governor.
AfAW also stated that the police were directed not to intervene while the rights violations were going on.
The statement reads in part, "The unfortunate incident took place in Boki LGA in Cross River State. At least a dozen persons, mostly women who were alleged to be witches and wizards were set ablaze at the instance of an adviser to the state governor who hails from that area. This adviser has been identified as Thomas Obi Tawo (aka General Iron).
"This incident happened on Tuesday May 19. A report in a local newspaper says that three chiefs were among those who were lynched. General Iron warned the police in the area to stay away. A local source said that Tawo went around the community with some boys, one of them had a mirror which he used to identify those who were witches.
"Some traditional priests claim they can look into the occult world using a mirror to find answers and solutions to individual and community problems. People invite these supposedly spiritually powerful persons to point out witches and wizards and other evil persons in their families. They usually place the mirror in front of any suspect or ask the person to look into it as they try to certify if the person is evil or not. These charlatans are hired and paid huge sums of money to come and identify witches and wizards
"In response to the incident, I called the Police Public Relations Officer in Calabar but she did not pick the call. It was almost midnight, I decided to wait until morning. The following day, I called the AIG, CP, and PPRO several times but they did not pick the call.
"I eventually got through to the PPRO and informed her about the incident. She decried the issue of witch burning in the state. According to her, the challenge was how to eradicate witch persecution and wondered if AfAW could be of help. I told her that AfAW could help but it would need the police to guarantee security.
"I made it clear that in a situation like that of the Boki LGA, the organisation could not fulfill its objective of educating and enlightening witchcraft accusers and believers, and supporting the victims without the cooperation of the police.
“Interestingly, the PPRO told me that in her place in Edo State, people suspected of witchcraft were taken to the community leaders and given something to drink. That she could not understand a situation as in the Boki LGA where suspected witches were set ablaze.
"I told her that the practice of giving suspected witches some concoction to drink was illegal and should be abolished. The said concoctions are usually toxic substances that lead to health damage or death.
"Through an associate of AfAW in Cross River, I contacted a relative of one of the victims. She confirmed that the incident took place on Tuesday May 19 by 2pm. She noted that before this day, there had been tension in the community due to suspicions of witchcraft. General Iron has been suspecting some family members of trying to kill him through occult means. In fact on one occasion, last year, Tawo slapped and wounded his uncle, Chief Kekong.
"He claimed that he saw the chief in his dream. Weeks before this latest incident, Tawo claimed once again that he dreamt and saw Chief Kekong and his mother in his dream. He claimed that he went to a man of God who confirmed that Kekong wanted to kill him. That the chief wanted to take over the land that he had sold to him. Chief Kekong denied the allegation.
"A relative to one of the victims told me that the father was sleeping the time Tawo and his thugs arrived at the compound. He went inside the house and dragged the father out, poured fuel on him, and set him ablaze. He did the same thing to other suspected witches and wizards including his mother.
"The situation in the community is tensed. It is not yet confirmed the exact number of persons who were set ablaze following this witch-hunting incident. One of the national dailies reported at least 12 people. A relative of the survivors said there were over 13 victims. Another local contact said victims could be up to 20 persons.
"Some of the survivors including General Iron's mother are currently at various hospitals in the region receiving treatment. The police in the area did not intervene while this attack was going one. One of those who were set ablaze, Chief Bernard, was taken to a hospital but later died as a result of the wounds.
"Chief Kekong is at another hospital battling for his life. A relative said the fire affected his private organ and he is now unable to urinate. AfAW is discussing with local partners and exploring ways to support survivors of this violent campaign."