Mary Gyang, the minor set ablaze over allegation of witchcraft, being cuddled by her grandmother.

By M. Peter – Jos

Efforts to arrest suspects who allegedly set ablaze two children at Waduruk community, Shen village, Jos South local government area of Plateau state have intensified as the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC has waded into the matter with a view of getting justice for the victims.

The children, 11 years old God’sgift Nyam and about five years old Mary Gyang, it was gathered were accused of being involved in witchcraft activities when a member of the community identified as Useni Sunday fell ill and a certain girl, Veirat allegedly confessed to initiating other children in the community and recruiting them to inflict pains on Useni who died some weeks back.

The duo were recently discharged from a hospital and the Commission which has urged the Police to do the needful to arrest the culprits; frowned at the act of branding people and accusing them of witchcraft, stressing that child abuse of such a grievous nature cannot be overlooked.

However, the State Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Mathias Tyopev explained the efforts being made to apprehend the fleeing suspects saying, “We are yet to arrest the suspects, they are on the run, we have five suspects, the father of the children, the Mai Angwa (Ward Head), the pastor and two other youths, we are sure of getting them soon.”

The Principal Legal Officer, National Human Rights Commission, Kachollom Tachio who is handling the case told newsmen in Jos that the victims, God’sgift Nyam (11 years old) and Mary Gyang (about five years old) were branded as a wizard and a witch and Mary’s biological father and others now at large decided to set them ablaze.

She noted the traumatized children’s rights were abused hence the need to get justice for them as according to her, “On the 16th of December, 2019, we received complaints from one Rita Nyam who is a younger sister to one of the victims’ mother.

“The father to Mary and three other culprits fetched petrol from a motorcycle, poured on the children and set them on fire. Members of the community raised alarm and the mother to God’sgift was alerted. She ran to that compound and saw the children screaming in pain.

“The children were badly injured at that time; completely bandaged, the burns affected their heads, their face areas; God’sgift couldn’t see because his eyes were closed. Mary’s hands were burnt; she still has bandages because one of the hands is still badly injured.”

“The Commission frowns at such act, branding people and accusing them of witchcraft, child abuse of such a grievous nature cannot be overlooked.”

National Human Rights Commission seeks justice for children set ablaze in Jos God’sgift Nyam with his father.

Parents to God’sgift who admitted the said girl mentioned their son as one of those initiated, maintained they have no idea if the boy is a wizard or not.”

According to the mother, Esther Luka, “On that day, I went out; as I was coming back, I saw Mary’s father going with the children. One of the children ran to me saying, mummy, they are taking us to the hospital so that we should go and untie Useni.

“I asked, do you know anything about the sickness, he said no, that he does not go for the witchcraft meeting, not quite long, the child ran back and said mummy, they are back, they have already burnt them.

“I quickly ran to the house, they were set on fire and some people were they trying to quench the fire. On Monday morning; we went to the police station to report before going to the hospital. We were in the hospital when the police went to the village to arrest the people but they didn’t let the police arrest anyone.

“I have not seen any behaviour in him that will make me suspect he is a wizard but I allowed him to go with them because one girl in the compound confessed to being a witch and she mentioned his name that he is among. I asked the boy he said, yes he was with them before but he left them, this thing is not up to two weeks that she said she initiated them before it was revealed.”

The father noted, “There is one of our younger brothers; Useni Sunday in the house who fell sick, some of these children were asked and they confessed that they are the ones who tied him. But before they said God’sgift is not among that some old people, about four are involved. Useni is late now, but some of the children said God’sgift hands are not in the matter.”

The victim, God’sgift, a primary five pupil said, “I have some friends in the compound and in the school that I play with; some of them are Sele, Aaron. Mary is not in our school, we are in the same house. I have heard people say that I am a wizard, it is Veirat that initiated us but I don’t go anywhere with them. I was burnt because I am in a secret group, I was there before but I am no more there.”
Meanwhile, the State Chairperson of the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists, Mrs. Jennifer Yarima who commented stressed, “This is extremely bad, this is one of the harmful practices that we condemn in totality. What are the proofs that somebody is a witch or wizard?

“We have found this to be very difficult to establish. It is unfortunate; there is a conspiracy of silence in that community because if the whole community should keep quiet about something like this, it is unfortunate but the world must know about this so that some of these clumsy acts can stop.

“Part of our mandates is to fight for the vulnerable and these are children who are defenceless, the question we should ask is who initiated them? Nobody is talking about that; I am sure there is a link with an adult but nobody gets to say anything.”