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Skeptical Africa Dispatches: Abuse of suspected charm users must stop in Nigeria

Filed under: International News,Special Comments |
By Leo Igwe
Belief in the potency of charms persists in many parts of Nigeria, and Africa despite the spread of modern education, science and knowledge. The very idea of charm still evokes fear in the minds of too many people.
Due to this superstitious idea, people, in reaction, torture and abuse those who are accused of using such magical materials to harm.  Suspected users of magic especially killer magic are routinely attacked, disgraced, and subjected to trial by ordeal. In some cases, they are killed. Meanwhile, torture, and other forms of degrading treatment are against the law in Nigeria. Unfortunately, the police rarely intervene in such cases, and perpetrators are not usually brought to book.
In this case, people stripped naked a man who was accused of using magic to kill some people in Rivers State in Nigeria. According to the report, this show of shame took place in a market square. From the photos, many people actually watched on while the man was dehumanized. They made the man to swear an oath and later gave him some concoctions to drink.
The belief is that the concoction would kill the man if he were guilty as alleged or if he indulged in such practices again. How concoctions fulfil this function remains unexplained. There is no information regarding what was used in preparing the concoction, which the man drank. Usually harmful and health damaging substances are used in preparing the concoctions.
Given that this incident took place in a local market, the question is: Where were the police in Okrika in Rivers State? What were the local and state authorities in these places doing while this disgraceful incident was going on?  Very often Nigerians, nay Africans get upset when people especially in the Western world categorize and treat them as backward and barbaric. Well this is a classical case of an incident that reinforces this stereotype. This is inexcusably a barbaric act. As long as Nigerians and Africans continue to allow such primitive and shameful practices to take place within their communities, people across the world will continue to look down on them. They will continue to see Africans as backward people.
Tell me which part of the civilized world today that still takes seriously the belief in charms to the extent of subjecting a suspected user to such an inhumane and degrading treatment. How many societies today will sanction that their members be stripped naked in public for allegedly using a killer magic?
As the report clearly shows this exercise took place in public. It happened in a market square and nobody tried to stop and get the police or the law enforcement agents to intervene. What does that tell us about the people in the community and the Nigeria Police? What does that tell us about the Nigerian state’s responsibility to protect its citizens?
The belief in charms has no basis in reason, science or in reality. Nigerians should abandon this archaic baseless idea. It is a form of superstition that should not be associated with 21st century Nigerians and Africans. There is no evidence at all that one can use charms to kill or harm anybody. Those who torture and abuse suspected charm users must be brought to justice. The police in Okrika in River State (in Nigeria) should investigate this incident and ensure that those who abused this suspected charm user are made to answer for their crimes.

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