Three young girls sent out of their homes by their families and relations over allegations of witchcraft, were on Friday rescued by the Child’s Right and Rehabilitation Network Children Center in Eket, Cross Rivers state.
CRARN, a center founded in 2003, takes in children abandoned or sent away by their families who accuse them of being witches and bringing ill-luck to the household.
These three particular girls -Esther (13), Blessing and Ima-, narrated the horrific ordeals they went through in the hands of relatives and the public before being sent out of their homes.
According to Esther, the oldest among the girls, she found the two other girls roaming the streets, and upon inquiry, she discovered that they were thrown out of their homes and abandoned by their parents.
Esther took the girls to her uncle’s house, where she gave them food. However, on returning from work, her uncle was much agitated when she told them about the girls and their misfortunes. She pleaded with him for them to reconcile the other two girls with their parents.
Her uncle, however, refused and threw her out of the house after accusing her (Esther) of being a witch.
“I was thinking he was going to be happy and try to help the girls out of their dilemma. I was surprised when he pounced on me with anger and a spank. He asked me to leave his house immediately, so I left the house and did not know where to go.”
“While roaming the street in the middle of the night, and as we sat in an uncompleted building, Ima came with an idea that we should go to CRARN Centre, a place she had been about six years ago. That’s why we came here.”
Ima’s grandmother had thrown her out of their rented apartment in Ekpene Obo -for being ‘a witch’.
Ima said she had been in the CRARN center in 2010, at the age of 5 but left the place after she was reconciled with her grandmother.
According to the young girl, her grandmother treated her well until a prophet told the older woman that her grandchild was the witch responsible for all her misfortunes and business problems.
Blessing, who is the youngest of the three, said her ordeal started when she attended a Friday night prayer session (popularly called Tarry Night) with her family, and two of her siblings were kidnapped by gunmen.
A pastor at a church near the Mary Slessor Health Centre, Effoi – Eket, had told her parents that she was the cause of their misfortune, saying that Blessing used her magic power to cause the kidnapping of her siblings and the subsequent economic downturn in the family.
According to Blessing, her family began to treat her unfairly, torturing and abusing her daily till she was sent out of the house.
The CRARN Centre manager, Carol Akpan, said that they had several new cases of children coming to seek refuge.
Akpan noted that the center could not accept all the children as some are referred to government centers or taken back to their communities and reconciled with their families.