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Police and Investigating Witch-bloodletting in Ebonyi State

The Guardian Nigeria: The new Ebonyi State Commissioner of Police (CP) – Aliyu Garba

By Leo Igwe

The case of Okechukwu Nweke, accused of harmful magic and tortured to death in Ezza North in Ebonyi state, has once again demonstrated the incompetence and lack of diligence in the Nigeria police force. This sordid reality is once again manifesting itself. Mr. Nweke was last seen on August 28, 2021. On this day, a lynch mob abducted him, dragged him to the village square where he was severely beaten. Nweke’s was later thrown into the Akadoro river. His body has yet to be recovered. His alleged murderers went through his phone and transferred five million naira. The case was reported to the state police command in Abakiliki and a police investigative officer (IPO) was assigned to handle the matter. Unfortunately, almost six months since the alleged killing and disappearance of this young man, nothing has come out of the investigation. It has been one excuse after another. A source in Abakiliki told the Advocacy for Alleged Witches, that Nweke’s family members ‘mobilized’ the police to go and carry out an arrest of the suspects.

But the police were unable to arrest the suspects. The IPO claimed that the road that led to the village, Inyere, was impassable. So he, along with his team, had to turn back and return to their station in Abakiliki. However, some locals who know the Inyere community very well said that this was not the case; that the police officers made this claim to kill the matter. Some community leaders were among the suspects and must have bribed the IPO and the police command in Abakiliki.

AfAW contacted the commissioner of police who pledged to look into the matter. After meeting with the CP, the IPO sent letters inviting the suspects for questioning, which was in December last year. The IPO sent the letter through Mrs. Rose Nwankwo, who is the coordinator, Imoha Development Center, Ezza North. She is also from Inyere community and is also aware of the case of Mr. Nweke. Incidentally, none of the suspects has reported at the police station. Local sources have confirmed that the suspects received the letters because some of them had called relatives of Mr. Nweke asking to know who included their names in the list of suspects.

Some of the suspects and their allies have invited Nweke’s relatives to the village for a meeting. But the relatives have declined to attend any meeting. At the moment, no measure is being taken to facilitate the arrest of these suspects. There is no movement on the investigation of the alleged murder and disappearance of Mr. Nweke. As in other cases of witch bloodletting, if the police refused to take further action, the matter would fizzle out. The alleged murder and disappearance of Nweke would not be accounted for. The torture of Mr. Nweke did not happen in some dark corner in Ezza North. It happened in the open, in the public, and was captured in a photo.

The state, zonal, and federal police commands should understand that they must ensure that the suspected killers of Mr. Nweke are arrested, investigated, and eventually prosecuted. The police should not allow the matter to die. They should stop giving flimsy excuses for delaying and compromising the investigation of this case. The family of Mr. Nweke needs justice. They want to know what happened to their son and brother since he was last seen in August last year. They need answers and closure to many questions: Is he still alive? Is he dead? If he is dead, what killed him? Who killed him? When? where? and how?

Police in Ebonyi, please do your duty!

Leo Igwe
Author: Leo Igwe
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Leo Igwe
Leo Igwe
Leo Igwe (born July 26, 1970) is a Nigerian human rights advocate and humanist. Igwe is a former Western and Southern African representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, and has specialized in campaigning against and documenting the impacts of child witchcraft accusations. He holds a Ph.D from the Bayreuth International School of African Studies at the University of Bayreuth in Germany, having earned a graduate degree in Philosophy from the University of Calabar in Nigeria. Igwe's human rights advocacy has brought him into conflict with high-profile witchcraft believers, such as Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries, because of his criticism of what he describes as their role in the violence and child abandonment that sometimes result from accusations of witchcraft. His human rights fieldwork has led to his arrest on several occasions in Nigeria. Igwe has held leadership roles in the Nigerian Humanist Movement, Atheist Alliance International, and the Center For Inquiry—Nigeria. In 2012, Igwe was appointed as a Research Fellow of the James Randi Educational Foundation, where he continues working toward the goal of responding to what he sees as the deleterious effects of superstition, advancing skepticism throughout Africa and around the world. In 2014, Igwe was chosen as a laureate of the International Academy of Humanism and in 2017 received the Distinguished Services to Humanism Award from the International Humanist and Ethical Union. Igwe was raised in southeastern Nigeria, and describes his household as being strictly Catholic in the midst of a "highly superstitious community," according to an interview in the Gold Coast Bulletin.[1] At age twelve, Igwe entered the seminary, beginning to study for the Catholic priesthood, but later was confused by conflicting beliefs between Christian theology and the beliefs in witches and wizards that are "entrenched in Nigerian society."[1] After a period of research and internal conflict due to doubts about the "odd blend of tribalism and fundamentalist Christianity he believes is stunting African development," a 24-year-old Igwe resigned from the seminary and relocated to Ibadan, Nigeria

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