Witches Drag Akwa Ibom Government To Court

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Governor Udom Emmanuel said the Akwa Ibom State Government has been taken to court by “witches” for building a Christian worship centre in the state. The multi-billion naira worship centre which is ongoing in Uyo has been criticised by many who felt it would have been better to use the money to tackle the many development needs of the oil-rich state.

But Mr Emmanuel has always argued that it was necessary for Akwa Ibom, “as a state named after God, to build a temple for God. “All (the) witches and wizards came together and took me to court that we are building a Christian Worship Center,” the governor said on Saturday at a media chat that was broadcast live on radio and television. The programme was also streamed live on Facebook.

“They say they are atheists. The case is in the court, we won them but they have appealed,” the governor added. Mr Emmanuel, who recently hand-picked one of his cabinet members as his preferred successor in the 2023 governorship election, was responding to a reporter’s question if God truly revealed to him his successor as he claimed. While answering the question, he veered off to talk about how “witches” sued him and the government.

“Communication between a leader and God is different from what any other person would see or understand, people must understand that,” Mr Emmanuel said about God “revealing” who should succeed him as governor. The governor’s remark about “witches” appeared to have overshadowed all the other things he said about his administration, as several people from the state took to Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms to talk about “witches”. One of Mr Emmanuel’s aides, Aniekeme Finbarr, quickly took to Facebook to offer clarifications to the governor’s remarks.

Mr Finbarr said Mr Emmanuel was referring to a lawsuit filed by the Atheist Society of Nigeria against the Akwa Ibom State Government in 2019 to stop the government from building the worship centre. The court had dismissed the suit and awarded a N500,000 cost against the atheist society. “It sounds extremely funny but it is true. There are actually real legal attempts to stop the building project,” Mr Finbarr said.

According to Nigeria’s criminal law, it is an offence to accuse any person of being a witch. Akwa Ibom, with about five million population, is predominantly Christian, with many holding superstitious beliefs and attributing almost every occurrence, including ill-health, job loss, and a failed marriage, to some “evil forces”. Children in the state, mostly from poor families, have been branded witches, kicked out into the street, while some have been tortured and left to die.

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