Nigerian children accused of witchcraft were burnt and beaten

HUNDREDS of Nigerian children have been severely beaten, burnt or killed after being accused of witchcraft, a British charity will tell an inquiry tomorrow.

Charity Stepping Stones Nigeria, based in Lancaster, has compiled a dossier of more than 250 cases of severe violence against children accused of being witches in Akwa Ibom state.

Children as young as two have been burnt, poisoned, buried alive or chained up for weeks because their families believed they were witches, according to the report.

Among the cases are those of an 11-year-old boy who died after acid was poured over him and a girl left permanently disabled after a nail was driven into her head.

In September last year a man attempted to bury six-year-old twin boys alive in "revenge" for the death of his wife.

The charity will present its evidence to the Commission of Inquiry into Child Witchcraft at the Nigerian High Commission in London.

Charity's founder Gary Foxcroft, said that the children were often from broken homes and exhibited a personal characteristic that set them apart.

"They might be very intelligent or suffer from learning difficulties,'' Mr Foxcroft said.

"Some of them will have physical complaints such as epilepsy, bed-wetting and sleepwalking.''

Belief in witchcraft has been long established in Nigeria and other African countries, but until the late 1990s it was women and the elderly who tended to be accused.

Today some families blame their children for everything from sickness to a father's drunkenness. Many allegations come from pastors who charge for "exorcisms."

"After the child has been accused of witchcraft - sometimes by a pastor - he will carry out long-winded deliverances or exorcisms to cast out the witchcraft.

Sometimes children will be chained up in the churches and made to fast for many weeks or they'll be beaten and tortured in order to extract a confession," Mr Foxcroft said.

Herald Sun, May 05, 2011