Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Coalition of NGOs ask Akwa Ibom to publish findings of witchcraft commission

Press Release-- A coalition of leading international and Nigerian child rights NGOs have called upon the Akwa Ibom State Government to publicly release the findings of the Commission of Inquiry into Witchcraft Accusations.
The Commission, which was inaugurated in November 2010 to investigate the prevalence of witchcraft accusations in Akwa Ibom State, found themselves overwhelmed by the scale of the response to its call for memorandum. According to the Chairman of the Commission, Hon. Justice Godwin Abraham a total of 34 memoranda from individuals, NGOS, government, faith-based organizations and other institutions were received, and evidence was heard from over 70 witnesses. Amongst these were presentations from UNICEF, the Federal Government and the Catholic Church, which highlighted evidence of high rates of child abuse in Akwa Ibom State due to witchcraft belief.
Responding to the recent submission of the findings to the Akwa Ibom State Government, Barrister James Ibor, Executive Secretary of Basic Rights Counsel Initiative said: “In order for the findings of the commission to recognised nationally and internationally as being of merit, there is a great need for the State Government to make them publicly available. As such we call upon His Excellency Chief Godswill Akpabio to send a strong signal of his commitment to child rights by publishing them”.
The coalition had previously commended His Excellency Governor Chief (Dr) Godswill Akpabio for taking the visionary action to establish the Commission and for confirming the responsibility of government to take swift and effective action to protect the rights of children who have been accused of being witches. They had also worked tirelessly to provide evidence to the Commission and feel that that they have the right to view the full report. Indeed according to Edjo Okonubin, Advocacy Officer of Stepping Stones Nigeria Child Empowerment Foundation: “In order for the findings of the commission to be seen as legitimate and objective there is a great need for the findings to be made public. We know that international agencies such as Human Rights Watch, the BBC and the UK government are monitoring this situation and if the findings are not released people will think there is something to hide”.
This was echoed by Gary Foxcroft, Director of the UK-based NGO Stepping Stones Nigeria who stated that: “As a coalition we remain committed to working with the Akwa Ibom State Government to implement the findings of the commission and repair some of the damage that has been done to the reputation of Akwa Ibom State by the ongoing allegations of the abuse of children due to the belief in child witches. However, in order for effective collaboration with the state government to occur, it is very important that the findings are made publically available.”

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