A Hatchet Job by The News Magazine
How a local Nigerian magazine and a ‘witchcraft’ church are spreading lies and perpetuating witchcraft scam.
My attention was drawn to a story, ‘One Big Scam’ with a rider ‘How a Briton and a Nigerian who run two non govermental organisations are telling barefaced lies to fleece donors over the Akwa Ibom child witchcraft affair’. The story, written by one Babajide Kolade-Otitoju was published in March 8 edition of The News magazine. Babajide, a senior reporter with The News started by explaining how Gary Foxcroft of the UK based charity, the Stepping Stones Nigeria and Sam Ituama of the Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network connived to ‘demonise’ Helen Ukpabio and made her a big hate figure around the world.
He said the duo used a documentary which was broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK with some doctored portions of Helen’s film, The End of the Wicked, to draw global attention to the witchcraft problem, and raised money which they used to enrich themselves, without taking care of the kids in whose name the money was raised. The News published interviews granted by the governor of Akwa Ibom state, the Commissioner of Police(CP)and Gary Foxcroft.
I am not a journalist, but you need not be one to know that what Babajide Kolade-Otitoju did was a hatchet job. The whole story drips with bias, ignorance, lies, half-truths, contradictions, superstition, insensitivity, pettimindedness, malice, mischief, blackmail and irreponsible journalism. Anyone with a modicum of objectivity, and who has been following the child witchcraft affair in Nigeria particularly the ignominous role of the dangerous charlatan and owner of the Liberty Gospel Church, Helen Ukpabio, would definitely know that Kolade-Otitoju was commissioned to do this dirty and disgusting job. Hence The News carried out a shoddy investigation -without depth or balance- and twisted all the facts and figures to suit their terms of contract.
According to Kolade-Otitoju, the story was meant to expose the scam of Foxcroft and Ituama. And my question is this. What is the connection with Helen Ukpabio? What is the relationship with how this shameless woman has been turned to a hate figure worldwide. Kolade-Otitoju said the ‘scam activities of Foxcroft and Ituama made Helen who was once ‘a subject of admiration’ (by who?)a figure of derision and a purveyor of falsehood, and ‘one who makes money hoodwinking the helpless and labeling children as witches’. But is Helen not a propagator of lies, deceit and superstition? Is this evangelical throwback not exploiting guillible minds and fueling witchcraft related abuses in the country? To The News Magazine, the answer to these questions is in the negative. Because according to Kolade-Otitoju, Helen did not label children witches in her films, instead ‘the goal of Ukpabio’s The End of the Wicked was to show that though children and adult alike could come under the influence of witchcraft, with Jesus Christ in one’s life, one is insulated’.
Insulated indeed. I mean is the guy who wrote this story intelligent at all? What is the difference between labeling a child a witch and claiming that a child can come under the influence of witchcraft? If a child comes under the influence of witchcraft, that child is what.....? If somebody is possessed(as Ukpabio claims) by the spirit of witchcraft, that person is what? Or may I ask, who is ‘the Wicked’ in Ukpabio’s The End of the Wicked?
Witchcraft is superstition. So, it is a lie that a child can come under the influence of witchcraft. It is a lie that anybody can be possessed by the witchcraft spirit(whatever that means). It is pure nonsense that having Jesus Christ in one’s life would insulate one from the influence of witchcraft. It is a lie that some people like the Ukpabios of this world have the power to exorcise witchcraft. These are the lies and falsehood, the myths and misconceptions charlatans and stone age pastors like Ukpabio have been spreading and using to hoodwink guillible and ignorant folks.These are the lies and falsehoods at the root of the problem of child witchcraft in Nigeria particularly in Akwa Ibom and Cross River states. And Helen Ukpabio has built her ministry and entire business empire-the Liberty Gospel church and other Liberty bla bla bla....on the witchcraft scam. Instead of exposing this scheme which Ukpabio has been using to deceive and extort money from believers, The News magazine went ahead and published a photo of Helen Ukpabio and underneath, they wrote,’scandalized’ And my question is this-Scandalized by what? Who has scandalized who? Is it that Kolade-Otitoju and his colleagues at The News do not know that the civilized world is scandalized that this mischievious witchunter has not been brought to justice?
Kolade-Otitoju dismissed the documentary as product of con artists, even without interviewing those who produced the documentary. Well I dont know how he expected the people who were implicated by the film to say any good about the documentary and those behind it. I think Kolade-Otitoju needs to let us know how he knew that the portions of Helen’s film were doctored and superimposed on the documentary.
It is obvious that the so-called Bishop Williams implicated himself ‘unknowingly’ by saying that he had killed over 100 witches. One does not need some special intelligence to know that his statement with the police and what he told The News were part of his desperate attempt to escape justice. Willaims did not know that his claims would backfire!
Concerning the accounts and the money raised to help child witch victims, Kolade-Otitoju presented his case so incoherently without the necessary details and background required to make a case for a scam.
Obviously he wanted to establish a case for a scam by all means.
First of all Stepping Stones did not deny that they had not raised money to tackle the problem of child witchcraft in the Niger Delta. They acknowledged how much they had raised so far and how much had been sent to assist child victims. Gary also noted that they still had some reserve. I can confirm that apart from CRARN, SSN supports other child witchcraft related projects and programs in Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Cross River States. Those who donated money to SSN gave it to them to manage. And their records have shown that they are doing just that. So what is the scam in the way SSN is handling the affair? But Kolade-Otitoju made it look as if the money raised by Stepping Stones Nigeria went into the pockets of Gary Foxcroft -or Sam Ituama -who was using it the way he liked. If Kolade-Otitoju, in the course of his investigation found out that SSN was a registered charity in the UK, and that it was SSN, not Gary Foxcroft who was raising money on the internet for child witch victims, why did he portray Gary as a crook who had made a fortune out of the misfortune of Nigerian kids?. It is the likes of Helen Ukpabio, not Gary Foxcroft or Sam Ituama who have made fortune out of plight of Nigeria’s ‘witch children’.
Can Kolade-Otitoju substantiate his claims that Gary ran out of money when he was in Nigeria and used the child witchcraft affair as a financial ladder? Could he tell us how the abused children were catered for by SSN and CRARN before the production of the documentary?. I think that Babajide and the editors of The News should be ashamed that it took a foreigner to draw the attention of the world to this huge problem, and to raise money to fight this cultural scourge. And instead of commending Foxcroft, who had risked his life for these children, for his courage and commitment. Instead of proffering some constructive suggestions and criticisms, The News joined forces with Ukpabio and her goons to undermine such a noble venture.Taking care of the children at CRARN is a lot of work. Sam and his colleagues have been doing their best, and they should be commended. And even if there are challenges and shortcomings in what they are doing, the way to help them is not to call them scammers.The way to help them is to offer them your support, advice and expertise. The number of children at the Center has been increasing. And these are children of different ages and with different needs. But if this is only challenge CRARN and Sam Ituama had to contend with, then there won't be much tp worry about. The whole situation is being compounded by the fact that Helen Ukpabio has been trying several means to eliminate Ituama and close down CRARN. She has brought several legal suits and police actions against Ituama, Foxcroft and other child rights campaigners. Ukpabio has been trying several means to undermine this humanitarian project. And part of the money sent to CRARN to take care of the children goes into paying lawyers, ensuring the security of the staff and the children, and attending to several police actions instituted by this crazy woman. Does it mean that The News did not find out all these in the course of their investigation?
Does Kolade-Otitoju not know that Helen Ukpabio is in court with Sam Ituama, Gary Foxcroft and others? To do this story, Kolade-Otitoju interviewed Helen’s lawyer Victor Ukutt, whom I know must have supplied him with all the materials he used for the story, but why didnt The News interview the lawyer of Ituama. Also the bias of Kolade-Otitoju was evident in the way he introduced the governor’s interview. According Governor Akpabio, the story of witchcraft in Akwa Ibom was a bit blown out of proportion, and in his commentary on the interview Kolade-Otitoju said that the Governor affirmed that ‘the matter was grossly exaggerated’. Anyone who understands English very well would know that Kolade-Otitoju misquoted the Governor. A matter that is a bit blown out of proportion cannot mean the same as a matter that is grossly exaggerated. That is why the cowardly interview of the Commissioner of Police aligned with what Kolade-Otitoju wanted. From what he said, it is obvious that nothing would come out of the prosecution of Bishop Willaims. The CP had already said they had no case. And Kolade-Otitoju never wondered why in a state where thousands of children had been killed, abused and abandoned by parents and pastors, and a legislation had been enacted by the government to combat the problem, there had not been a single successful prosecution of an offender. Doesn't that raise questions about the competence of the CP and the standard of policing in Akwa Ibom state? It did not surprise The News that the CP had openly admitted that there was no case against the only person being prosecuted in the state for murder and abuse of children? But that was not his mission. Kolade-Otitoju’s mandate was to do a hatchet on the child witchcraft project in Akwa Ibom state. And he did just that.
Further Reading http://barthsnotes.wordpress.com/2010/03/12/nigerian-journalist-backs-helen-ukpabio-with-attack-on-charity-protecting-children-accused-of-witchcraft/