By Leo Igwe
The Advocacy for Alleged Witches condemns the gruesome murder of Kwaghange Ugbu and Atuur Shaaja of Gwer East LGA of Benue. The murder of Ugbu and Shaaja happened less than two months after some youths attacked an alleged witch in Shangev Tiev, Konshisha LGA. According to local sources, on Wednesday, September 28, 2022, David Terseer Nongobo, 25, a native of Mbaaku Mbasombo Gwer East LGA of Benue, slumped while working on the farm. He was later confirmed dead at a local hospital. David has recently completed his secondary school education.
In reaction to his death, some members of the community, notably, Aper Iorfa, Ter Tarnongo, Bamo Oraduen, Terhemen Agber, etc stormed the house of David’s uncles, Kwaghange Ugbu and Atuur Shaaja. They accused them of killing David Terseer through witchcraft. They beat and cut him with cutlasses and axes. They tied a rope around their neck and dragged them until they died.
Eyewitnesses said that as they were being tortured, the accused could be heard shouting in the local language: ” We don’t know anything about the death of this boy”. And the mobs were shouting back: “We will torture both of you to death for killing Tersoo with your witchcraft”. Members of their families; their wives ( Mary Kwaghhange and Martha Kwaghange) and sons watched helplessly as the accused were beaten and tortured to death. A family member told AfAW that relatives of the deceased tried to intervene to save them without success. The son of Kwaghhange Ugbu, Sunday, tried to intervene and was told that he would also be tortured like his father if he tried to do so. His younger brother tried to resist the mob but was beaten. The corpses of the deceased were left in the open, at the compound of Ugbu, till the next day. No one was permitted to touch them. On September 29, the bodies were taken and deposited at the mortuary.
AfAW calls on the Commissioner of Police and the Benue state government to arrest and prosecute the suspects and ensure that justice is done. They should send a strong message that jungle justice will not be tolerated in Benue and that those who engage in trial by ordeal and extrajudicial killings of alleged witches will answer for their crimes.
The National Human Rights Commission, the International Federation of Women Lawyers, and the social welfare department should liaise and support the families of victims. AfAW enjoins the people of Benue to desist from witchcraft accusations and witch persecutions. They should realize that witchcraft is superstition. Witchcraft accusation is a crime under the law. The people of Benue should abandon superstitions and embrace science and critical thinking.