Stepping Stones Nigeria Terminates Link to CRARN

An announcement from Gary Foxcroft of Stepping Stones Nigeria concerning the Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network, a Nigerian organisation which runs a hostel for children who have suffered abuse as a result of witchcraft allegations:

As a valued supporter of Stepping Stones Nigeria, and in the spirit of openness and honesty, I have taken the decision to inform you of some unfortunate news. It is with great sadness in my heart that I need to inform you of the termination of the partnership between Stepping Stones Nigeria and our Nigerian partner agency- the Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN). This decision, which has not been taken lightly, was unanimously made by me and the SSN Board of Trustees on 17thFebruary. Out of gratitude and respect we then decided you should know this news as we felt that it may be important to you.

…Recently Stepping Stones Nigeria was deeply concerned to receive a number of  unproven but  very serious allegations regarding the conduct of one of CRARN’s senior staff members. In line with our child protection policy and Memorandum of Understanding SSN immediately demanded the suspension and removal of this staff member whilst an independent investigation took place to determine the truth behind the allegations. When it became clear that CRARN would not promptly and effectively comply with our requests the SSN Board of Trustees moved quickly to terminate the partnership with immediate effect. We regret this action has had to be taken; however we must ensure that all of our partners adhere to the highest standards of child protection, accountability and transparency…

The full statement can be seen hereNEXT has further details:

…the Director of Stepping Stones Nigeria, Gary Foxcroft, said that the recent allegations against the CRARN staff member and the organization’s failure to take appropriate action to enable an independent investigation to take place necessitated the termination of the partnership. “Stepping Stones Nigeria has invested significant effort and resources into our work with CRARN over the last 5 years… We are in no way prejudging the outcome of this situation, but we feel that swift action is required,” he said. “As Director of SSN (Stepping Stones Nigeria), I have no hesitation in giving this decision my full backing… We will now look forward to strengthening our existing partnerships and develop new ones to help more children in the Niger Delta access their rights and realise their full potential.”

…CRARN said that it appealed to officials of Stepping Stones Nigeria, who wanted to invite European Union human right lawyers for an investigation, to consider their memorandum of understanding before inviting any third party since it is a matter to concerns children.

CRARN does not explain why the plan to bring in an outside investigator should be unreasonable. Instead, it claims that SSN had planned to terminate the relationship before the allegation was made:

Bassey Ukang, CRARN’s administrative officer, said that plans by the UK group to sever ties with them had been hatched over a month ago according to a letter they received inviting them to a meeting in Ghana where one of the key agenda was the termination of the partnership. “CRARN actually did not buy this idea given the huge amount of money made on the heads of Akwa Ibom children, mostly those from the CRARN centre,” he said. “While trying to negotiate that, they came up with uncanny sorts of allegations which they claim involved some key staff and want those staff to relocate to an unknown place in Abuja while their phones and laptop confiscated….”

Ukang also hints at legal action.

This news will of course delight certain powerful local evangelists who are keen to discredit anyone who speaks out against the idea of child-witches, as well as politicians and journalists who wish to downplay the consequences of child-witch stigmatisation. However, SSN has clearly made the right decision: we all know from bitter experience that any organisation which has access to children must remain extremely vigilant of unsuitable adults who might seek to involve themselves in its work. Attempting to gloss over a problem now would lead only to disaster – and tragedy – later.