Thursday, February 26, 2009

'Bishop' who claimed he'd killed 110 child 'witches'

'Bishop' who claimed he'd killed 110 child 'witches' is arrested in Nigeria
By Mail Foreign ServiceLast updated at 3:59 PM on 04th December 2008
A Nigerian man who claims to have killed 110 child "witches" has been arrested by police in south-east Nigeria.
"Bishop" Sunday Ulup-Aya told a British documentary film team he "delivered" children from demonic possession.
But after his arrest, he reportedly told the police he had only killed the "witches" inside, not the children.
Mr Ulup-Aya was arrested after a child rights campaigner led police to his church and negotiated a consultation fee for an exorcism.
He has now been charged with murder.
Five others have been arrested since the weekend and the state government says more arrests are planned
Sam Ikpe-Itauma, of the Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network, said: "So many people here believe that children can be possessed by demons that there is rarely any action taken against those who claim to deliver the children in violent exorcisms."
He says he has been working for six years to bring the attention of the state government to the children being abandoned, sold to traffickers, or murdered, but it was not until a documentary team from the UK showed the film last month that an arrest was made.
Rights campaigners say fraudulent pastors or "witch doctors" in some parts of Nigeria convince parents that their children are possessed and will bring misfortune such as divorce or disease so they can extort money to perform exorcisms.
Some accused children fall into the hands of child trafficking networks after being handed over by their parents.
"We are working on the orders of the state governor to arrest all those involved in all forms of child abuse and trafficking," Akwa Ibom state's commissioner for information, Aniekan Umanah, said.
Umanah said "Bishop" Sunday Ulup-Aya, arrested in Mbo close to the Atlantic coast with six other suspects, had claimed in a documentary to have killed 110 children beset by evil spirits.
"I am not denying that I am a witchdoctor, but what I killed are witches in my patients with herbs, not children," Ulup-Aya said while in detention.
Akwa Ibom is one of Nigeria's top oil-producing states but poverty is pervasive and many are superstitious.
The state has the highest incidence of child-trafficking in Africa's most populous nation and belief in witchcraft is widespread.
Child Rights Rehabilitation Network, which is spearheading the rescue of children accused of witchcraft in the state, said Ulup-Aya may be part of a network of human traffickers.
"No corpses were discovered in his church, but two kids held captive for supposed deliverance, as well as some fetish items, were taken from there by the police," said Ikpe-Ituama, who led a security team that raided the building.
Akwa Ibom State spokesman Aniekan Umanah denied they had been embarrassed by the documentary into acting.
"Nobody knew about him, he lives in a very remote village," he said.
The state has cared for child victims of abuse, but has not been able to track down abusers because of "lack of documentation", he said.
Exorcism victims seen by CRARN in the past include a child who had nails driven into his head.
Earlier this week Mr Ikpe-Itauma said a six-year-old child was brought to their rescue centre after clambering out of a fast-flowing river.
"The boy's uncle was experiencing painful swelling in his legs," Mr Ikpe-Itauma told the BBC.
"He concluded the child was a witch and had placed a curse on him, so he took him on his bicycle to the river and threw him in."

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