The Sun, Tuesday, May 31, 2011, JOE EFFIONG, UYO
That is the story of Uduak Eyo, 14-year old JSS Three pupil from Esit Eket local government area of Akwa Ibom state, who has refused being, or being called a witch because she says she is not. But her parents would not have any of that. So they have chased her out of the house.She says she wants to study Theatre Arts and become an actress; but her parents have a different idea. They want her to be a witch. In fact they have already pronounced her qualified for that vocation; or is it profession?
Uduak is one of the 250 children now sheltered by Akwa Ibom State Government through the ministry of women affairs and social welfare, at the Uyo security village, near Ibom Hall, Babangida Avenue.
A majority of the kids are those evacuated from Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN) centre in Eket which was hitherto run by one Samuel Itauma. The centre was involved in picking children from the streets, especially those chased away by their parents on the excuse that they were witches and wizards.
Daily Sun met the kids at their meal time and from the way they ate, sometimes going for second or third round, it appeared they had longed for a decent meal for days, especially as their erstwhile guardian, Itaumah, has not been available to take care of them. Efforts to find out his whereabouts have not yielded any positive results so far.
The children, however, expressed their appreciation to CRARN for the sacrifice made to sustain them for years; but stressed that they were happy to be in the state government’s care as they are now being taken better care of than when they were in CRARN Centre.
Uduak said her friend, Bright Bassey, who said she is an orphan, and also from Esit Eket, told The Sun that they were better off in the present location because it has better accommodation and security as the six-bungalow facility is properly fenced round, coupled with the promise that they would soon return to school.
They revealed that they felt rejected and dejected at their former location, CRARN when suddenly the owner of the centre was no where to be found making them†††feel insecure.†††“Since we were abandoned by the management of the centre, we were roaming about with nobody to feed us in most instances.
“With the concern shown towards us by the State Government by evacuating us to a decent accommodation, we are very grateful to the state government and the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare.”
The commissioner for women affairs, Mrs Eunice Thomas, which ministry has virtually relocated to the village, said the allegation that the state government forcefully evacuated the children from where they used to live comfortably was false, because upon being informed that the children were abandoned by Itaumah, the ministry decided to swiftly move in to evacuate them to a comfortable and more decent environment.
There were also rumours in the internet that government brought the children to Uyo for ritual purposes, which Thomas refuted and urged the public to discountenance such information.”This place is not hidden; anybody is free to come and interact with the children.”
Thomas also threw more light on the 21 children that government earlier rescued from the open vicinity of the Eket stadium and the dilapidated Qua River Hotel.
She said government intervened when the inhuman condition of the children were brought to its notice, especially when the children were noticed to be prone to intrusion and other harm.
The Commissioner for Information and Social Re-Orientation, Mr Aniekan Umanah warned that government would not hesitate to deal with parents who abandon their children as he reminded them of the existence of the Child Rights Protection Law which the present administration enacted.
Umanah also gave the assurance that government would do all in its ability to ensure that the children are secured and catered for.† He called on parents to show greater interest and love and care for them as they are the future leaders of the State.
The children, who were seen playing football in the open yards of the security village, later queued to get their evening meals. It did not matter whether anybody called them witches, the business was survival first, they play as every child of their age would do. One final question for Uduak: “But Uduak, are you a witch?” She laughs, and shakes her head; “No, I’m not.”