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AP Report Highlights Nigerian Boy Doused in Acid by Father after Pastor Accused Him of Witchcraft

Back in August, the Nigeria Weekend Pioneer carried a story about Edet Nwanakwo, a boy who had been disfigured with acid by his own father after being denounced as a wizard by a pastor at a prayer service. The report can be seen in pdf form here, along with a very grim photograph. The report describes him as being 9 years old, although later accounts give his age as 17. After lingering in hospital for some weeks, Nwanakwo died towards the end of September. Sam Ikpe-Itauma of the Child’s Right and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN) in Akwa Ibom State reported:

His sin is the acceptance to an invitation to attend a prayer meeting with a church in Urban [var. spelling “Oban” – RB], near Calabar, Cross River State Nigeria. “When I arrived the church, people were clapping and dancing. I prayed God to bless me and our family including my father; soon the pastor came, turning around, holding my head ‘Do you know that you are a witch?’ he asked me. I told him no, I am not a witch…” ‘He told me that I must confess or he will beat me, even as he slapped me immediately. He handed over a bottle of olive oil to me to be drinking at home. I was annoyed, and went and told my father so that he will arrest the pastor with police.’

To his chagrin, his father merely told him that if he were a witch he would be cast out of the house. That was an understatement. After four days his father told him that they would travel home to see their relatives. The little lad was so elated by this offer. Did Nwanakwo and his father come back truly?

He told CRARN team who visited him at the [University of Uyo Teaching Hospital] in August that his father called a cyclist and whispered to him. They mounted on the bike and moved to a particular road that was bushy up to a distance where there were no houses and stopped there. His father took him inside the bush and pretended that he wanted to ease himself, while the cyclist waited. “He brought out a gallon from a sack bag and forced me on the ground, pressing my legs with his knees, he forced my mouth opened and poured acid into it. I cried and pleaded with him that I am his son; he shouted and called me a wizard and devil. He poured the acid on my face, head and body and ran away. Somebody came and took me to the police.” He said with a clear as is using a wireless microphone

Looking at Nwanakwo’s photograph, the acid burns are very glaring. The boy, who lost his mother four years ago, said he wants justice to prevail. “Even in my grave I want my father and Pastor King of Mount Zion Light House, Urban to be arrested and brought to book.” The Chief Medical Director (CMD) of UUTH, Prof. Emmanuel Ekanem was contacted to know what measure has been taken to ensure that justice is done. “The Head of the Corporate Affairs Unit (UUTH) has contacted the Divisional Police Officer of Ikono LGA who said that his men have been drafted to investigate the matter …” the CMD had responded briefly.

The story has now been picked up by the Associated Press, and is being reproduced widely in US newspapers and elsewhere:

Nwanaokwo said he knew the pastor who accused him only as Pastor King. Mount Zion Lighthouse in Nigeria at first confirmed that a Pastor King worked for them, then denied that they knew any such person.

Bishop A.D. Ayakndue, the head of the church in Nigeria, said pastors were encouraged to pray about witchcraft, but not to abuse children.

“We pray over that problem (of witchcraft) very powerfully,” he said. “But we can never hurt a child.”

The Nigerian church is a branch of a Californian church by the same name. But the California church says it lost touch with its Nigerian offshoots several years ago.

”I had no idea,” said church elder Carrie King by phone from Tracy, Calif. ”I knew people believed in witchcraft over there but we believe in the power of prayer, not physically harming people.”

The AP report goes into further detail about the wider context of children being accused of witchcraft in Nigeria – a subject that has received considerable scrutiny over the past year, since a UK Channel 4 documentary on the subject last November. I’ve blogged on the issue a number of times.

The defunct association with the American church is confirmed by Rosalind Hackett in her book Religion in Calabar: the religious life and history of a Nigerian town (page 102), which tells us that the Nigerian church split away from a denomination called the the Apostolic Church:

Before long the new spiritual church had affiliated with a religious organization in Oakland, California – the Mount Zion Light House Full Gospel Church, and amended its name accordingly to reflect the affiliation. It was not possible to ascertain how this affiliation came about, partly because the relationship is no longer active.

In fact, the affiliation seems to have come about through a group called Federated Pentecostal Churches International, which has a website here. And although the link with the Calabar-based church is defunct, there is still an active link with a “Bishop A.B.U. Akpabio – Nigeria”; this is Bishop Abu Akpabio, who runs a Mount Zion Lighthouse church in Lagos, which in turn is affiliated with “House of Prayer for all Nations, USA”.

The AP report adds that the Mount Zion Light House is part of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, which seems keen to dodge responsibility; according to its president:

”We have grown so much in the past few years we cannot keep an eye on everybody,” he explained.

But [Gary] Foxcroft, the head of Stepping Stones, said if the organization was able to collect membership fees, it could also police its members better. He had already written to the organization twice to alert it to the abuse, he said.

Indeed. And isn’t it time some of the A-list neo-Pentecostal revivalists from the west who enjoy influence in Africa – such as Benny Hinn and Reinhard Bonnke – also speak out?

Name variations: Mt. Zion Light House Full Gospel Church; Mt. Zion Lighthouse Full Gospel Church

14 Responses

  1. “And isn’t it time some of the A-list neo-Pentecostal revivalists from the west who enjoy influence in Africa – such as Benny Hinn and Reinhard Bonnke – also speak out?” That’s really funny. And believe lying scam artists such as Hinn and Bonnke would risk loosing such a sweet gravy train? Not likely.

  2. Reinhard Bonnke has given his life ministering among the poorest of the poor in Africa over the past 50 years. How can you denounce him so quickly and say he has a “gravy train”?

  3. Forgive me for being cynical but all you have to do is look at his public face on the internet. The only thing I see is a perverse push for crusades (how arrogant), revivals, and such. The next largest emphasis is for donations. Convince me that more than 70% of the funds raised are used to actually serve the poor, show me the “modest” house he lives in and the simple lifestyle he models, and I will retract his name. Benny Hinn, on the other hand, is a charlatan.

  4. No, we don’t need a big name like Benny Hinn to speak out….because they will usurp the message with endless fund raising.

    You need a strong spokesperson who is fearless in the face of the church in Africa.

    You need someone who understands the culture.

    And someone who can communicate the message!

  5. Indeed. And isn’t it time some of the A-list neo-Pentecostal revivalists from the west who enjoy influence in Africa – such as Benny Hinn and Reinhard Bonnke – also speak out?

    Funny, when one asks for similar reactions from islamic organisations for similar cases of abuse, the request is generally treated as a form of racism and greeted with shouts of “islamophobia”

    In any case, it’s useful and helpful, whenever one is desirous of engaging in denial, to ratchet up the anti-christian rhetoric ever time there are spats of suicide bombings and church burnings in islamic countries.

    Were Mr Bartholomew truly serious about condemning the abuse and even murder of Christians, he’d be taking to task those who abuse and murder them the most.

    But alas! We need “balance” in our reporting because “balance” is far more important than truth.

    The next time a jihadist-inspired flare-up occurs ( and it will!) between Christians and Muslims in, say, Kano, we’ll see if Barthnotes is even home on Nigeria.

    To be sure, most here understand that these killings are certainly NOT what Christ would want, but can we be equally sure that the sectarian/islamist violence we so often see in Northern Nigeria is not what Mohammed would want?

    Just taking a stab at a little “balance”.

    • OK, we should ignore child witch-killings since it detracts from focusing monomanically on the evils of Muslims.

      Incidentally, I didn’t engage in “anti-christian rhetoric”. The witch-killings and abuse are the result of a complex and specific situation in Africa, they are not due to Christianity itself. However, given the influence enjoyed by various Western revivalists in the country, they are well placed to speak out on the issue, and I think ought to do so.

      Oh, and I’ve written about Islamic extremism in Nigeria more than once. See here.

  6. And this is the part of the world that conservative american Episcopaleans are trying to get their Bishops.

  7. OK, we should ignore child witch-killings since it detracts from focusing monomanically on the evils of Muslims.

    During WWII we were allies of the Soviet “witches” in order to defeat the nazis.

    Have any of these Nigerian witches planted bombs on the tube or threatened to blow up mutiple airliners while in mid-flight? Do you actually think westerners are at all concerned about these witches?

    Montréal, my home town, is having elections for mayor on Nov. 1st. The leading contender, leftist Louise Harel, has allied herself with an outright Islamist , a ‘madame’ Najat Boughaba, who has hosted talks by Yvonne Ridley, has expressed warm support for the iranian Mullahs, is antisemitic and whose close longtime associates are on the record as being in favour of killing homosexuals.

    A typical quote: My hijab is not a handkerchief/ it is my skin/ my modesty, my dignity, my respect/ And if you, old-stock immigrant women ( French Canadian) if you have neither faith nor law/ and you have spent your soiled youth/ passing from one male body to another/ that at least is not the case for me.”

    Yep, I think we should fortget about the witches.

    In fact, I already have.

    • Good evening, June.

      June, I wonder why you are so dedicated to speaking about anything other than the topic of this article?

  8. […] the case of Edet Nwanakwo, the boy who recently died after his father doused him in acid (blogged here). Gary Foxcroft, the British charity worker who has devoted himself to the cause of ending […]

  9. Horrifying, yet inspiring Part II documentary. The worst, if i can say that, was the story of the young boy who had acid poured over him by his own father.
    Can you imagine the pain?? substances so strong they can clean the rustiest of metals. substances so strong that they ate through the skin and even disolves the bone.

    Acid violence needs to end!
    Please support the Acid Survivors Trust International
    http://www.acidviolence.org

  10. […] children being abandoned by their families and subjected to abuse; there have also been deaths. Channel 4 in the UK has run two documentaries on the subject (see here and […]

  11. […] in acid” was reported in the media with photographic evidence last year – perhaps Akpabio thinks it doesn’t count, as it occured across the border in Cross River […]

  12. […] Branches of the Reformation currently in Africa have lead to child abuse/death on the basis that children can become “witches” and are therefore a danger to their family. More on this in this article: http://barthsnotes.com/2009/10/18/associated-press-report-highlights-nigerian-boy-doused-i… […]

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