Monday, 3 March 2014
Clampdown On Child Rights Activists In Akwa Ibom State: Leo Igwe Arrested By Police On the Orders Of Gov. Akpabio
SaharaReporters has confirmed the arrest in Akwa Ibom State, of another child rights activist, Mr. Leo Igwe.
Mr. Igwe, a leader and representative of International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) in Africa, was arrested by the police in Akwa Ibom State earlier today as the state governor Goodswill Akpabio begins clamping down on activists involved in the rescue of children accused of witchcraft.
Mr. Akpabio had vowed to jail the activists for bringing his administration into disrepute over the campaign against the harmful traditional practice, which violate the rights of children in the state.
A family member told Saharareporters that Mr. Igwe and his colleague, Ernest Asuquo, are currently being held at the anti-kidnapping unit at the police command in Uyo. The men are being held incommunicado and have not been allowed to speak to any member of his family or his lawyers.
Mr. Igwe, along with Sam Ituama, who runs a homeless shelter for rescued child “witches,” have been working on the campaign against child abuse in Akwa Ibom State. The successful campaigns have exposed the depth of the harmful practice in the state. But it has also pitched the activists against the state governor, who recently accused them of “corruption”.
Yesterday, Saharareporters reported on the governor’s attempt to railroad Mr. Ituama into the dock in a separate trial of someone else in which he had merely been invited to testify.
Mr. Igwe, for his part, has led a statewide campaign and has freed many children who were accused of being witches. A few days ago he freed a child who fled persecution because of the accusation by her family that she was a witch and was found living with a lunatic.
Speaking to SaharaReporters from Washington DC, Mr. Igwe’s younger brother, Uche, said, ”We are outraged and we urge the Akwa Ibom State government to immediately and unconditionally release these activists (Leo and Earnest) who are helping to advance the rights of abandoned children and who are fighting relentlessly for the abolition of the inhuman act of killing innocent citizens in the name of belief.”
SaharaReporters tried reaching officials of the Akwa State government to obtain their reaction but was told a majority of them were already in Abuja for the Peoples Democratic Party presidential primaries holding tomorrow to pick the ruling party’s presidential flagbearer.