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Human Rights Groups Call For Arrest of Renowned Witch-Hunting Pastor, Helen Ukpabio

Human Rights Groups Call For Arrest of Renowned Witch-Hunting Pastor, Helen Ukpabio

Widespread international and national outrage and disbelief have greeted this week’s announcement that the widely discredited pastor, Helen Ukpabio, has commenced her witch-hunting activities once more in Cross River State, Nigeria.

Titled: “ Freedom from Witchcraft Attacks”, Ukpabio will be preaching to her followers from 8th – 12th May about how they can “gain freedom” from witchcraft attacks so that they can be “happy, elevated and healthy”.  According to her and the Liberty Gospel Church that she runs the “covens are in trouble” and the “witches are on the run”.

Ukpabio’s witch-hunting activities have been widely linked in a variety of UN papers, academic studies and TV documentaries to the high rates of children being accused of witchcraft in Cross River State and Akwa Ibom State in Nigeria.

According to Barrister James Ibor, Lead Counsel of the Basic Rights Counsel Initiative: “ Helen Ukpabio’s continued witch-hunting activities not only bring shame and embarrassment to Nigeria, they are also illegal. The Child Rights Law in both Cross River State and Akwa Ibom State now criminalises the act of accusing children of witchcraft. Furthermore, Section 210 of the Nigerian Criminal Code criminalises the act of “accusing anyone of being a witch or having the power of witchcraft”.  We, therefore, call on the Commissioner for Police to arrest Helen Ukpabio and any other person promoting beliefs that lead to the abandonment, torture and murder of innocent children”

In 2021, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a historic resolution on the elimination of harmful practices related to accusations of witchcraft and ritual attacks. The resolution calls on state parties to take action to prevent such atrocities from being carried out and, in particular, calls for more action to be taken to combat the malevolent activities of pastors such as Helen Ukpabio.

In 2022, the Pan-African Parliament even went so far as to label Ukpabio a “pastropreneur” who “is believed to have contributed to the torture and abandonment of thousands of children in Nigeria”.

Leo Igwe, Director of Advocacy for Alleged Witches said: “ These renewed witch-hunting activities by Liberty Gospel Church once more promote the misguided belief that children can be witches. Such harmful beliefs and practices lead to children we have worked with being macheted to death, set on fire, drowned and/or forced to drink poisonous concoctions in order to dispel the perceived “witchcraft”. Such beliefs and practices have no place in the 21st century and government and police agencies need to uphold the law to ensure justice for the innocent victims of this horrific abuse”.

On an international level, visits by Helen Ukpabio to the USA and UK have seen protestors taking to the streets to demonstrate against people like her being allowed into the countries to promote beliefs that incite violence against children. A particular high point for such protestors came in 2014 when the UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, deported Helen Ukpabio from the UK on the grounds that she was a threat to public safety.

Speaking from the UK, Gary Foxcroft, Chair of Safe Child Africa said: “ The activities of fake prophets such as Helen Ukpabio have demonstrably led to some of the worst human rights atrocities seen in the world today. Despite this, she has shown zero remorse or willingness to stop her religious profiteering. Her renewed witch-hunting activities in Calabar are not only illegal, they also paint a negative picture of Nigeria to the international community. As someone who loves Nigeria and it’s people, I personally find this saddening. We therefore call on state agencies to do the right thing and arrest Helen Ukpabio, so that Nigeria may help uphold its International, National and State-level legal obligations”.


Human Rights Groups Call For Arrest of Renowned Witch-Hunting Pastor, Helen Ukpabio

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