Child Abuse: NGOs want meeting with Governor Akpabio

The child rights NGOs Stepping Stones Nigeria and the Child Rights and Rehabilitation
Network (CRARN) have requested an urgent meeting with Governor Chief Godswill
Akpabio to discuss the recent accusations of fraud that have been made against them. The
two organisations have also emphasized that they remain entirely committed to ending child
abuse in Nigeria .

Gary Foxcroft, Programme Director of Stepping Stones Nigeria, said yesterday “We implore
the Governor to meet with us immediately to discuss the allegations that have been made
against us. We are deeply concerned that Governor Akpabio has been given misleading
information by certain people who have a commercial interest in undermining our work.
There seems to have been a gap in communications between us and it is now urgent that we
meet in order to fill this gap”.

Mr Foxcroft also commented: “We would also like to inform the Governor that we did not
invite CNN to come to Akwa Ibom and to cover this story. In fact, we very much admire the
tremendous efforts that the Governor has made to uphold child rights in Akwa Ibom, in
particular his initiatives to combat abuses of child rights resulting from witchcraft
stigmatisation, and we would like to meet with him to discuss how we can continue to work
together to improve the lives of the children of Akwa Ibom”.

Sam Itauma, President of CRARN, stated “Both of these NGOs are entirely transparent and
accountable organisations. We have nothing to hide, as all of our financial dealings are
publically available, and we would like to invite anyone who wishes to do so to view our
accounts and annual reports. People are also very welcome to visit our centre to see the
condition of the children for themselves, to see the progress that has been made over the last
four years, and to hear about the many successes that we have had in rescuing and reuniting

He adds: “The only objective of our work is to protect Nigerian children from abuse of their
rights. We know that Governor Akpabio is deeply committed to child rights and we offer him
any assistance that he may require to help in this cause”.
The issue of witchcraft stigmatisation as a form of child rights abuse has received increased
attention recently. In June the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child identified overcoming this problem as a
key priority for the Nigerian Federal government, and in July UNICEF published a largescale report which examined how witchcraft stigmatisation affects children across West Africa
Child Abuse: NGOs want meeting with Governor Akpabio
Ayokunle Oloye Newsdiaryonline Mon Sep 13,2010

The group had earlier debunked allegations of fraud levelled on the groups by some
government officials in Akwa Ibom, insisting that they remain committed to fighting for the
rights of so-called child witches in the state and remain open to scrutiny.
Speaking at a conference held by both organisations and the Bar Human Rights Committee,
the Child Rights Unit, Programme Director of Stepping Stones Nigeria, Gary Foxcroft, said:
“Stepping Stones Nigeria refutes these false allegations in the strongest possible terms. As a
registered charity in England and Wales we are accountable to the Charity Commission and
publish our accounts on their website and ours annually. Stepping Stones Nigeria and our
partners are committed to upholding the highest standards in transparency and accountability.
We have absolutely nothing to hide.”

“The Akwa Ibom State government may have been misinformed by uninformed individuals
and those with commercial interests. We therefore wish to request a formal meeting with
officials of the government to help address this misunderstanding,” Foxcroft said. According
to him, Stepping Stones Nigeria and other like-groups working on Child
Rights issues found it shocking that some individuals were out to discredit its activities before
the state in order to promote their own pecuniary interests, even as he added that, under the
leadership of Governor Godswill Akpabio, the state has made significant progress in
improving the lives of children accused of witchcraft through the Child Rights
Act as well as mass literacy which has been boosted through education for all school age
pupils in the state.

“Stepping Stones Nigeria and its partners remain committed to working with the Akwa Ibom
State Government to stamp out this evil practice once and for
all”, he insisted. Commenting on allegations that the child witch issue in Akwa Ibom State
had been “exaggerated”, President of the Child Rights and
Rehabilitation Network (CRARN), Sam Itauma, stated that: “in the last
seven years CRARN has dealt with numerous horrific cases of child abuse linked to the belief
in child witches. Recent reports by UNICEF and the UN Committee on the Rights of the
Child show this problem is real and that it has not been exaggerated at all. We hope that the
state government will give us the opportunity to discuss this with the relevant government
ministries working on this issue”.

Leading International Human Rights barristers from the Bar Human Rights Committee Child
Rights Unit, Kirsty Brimelow said: “Whilst we commend the Akwa Ibom state Government
for enacting the Child Rights Act; there is clearly a lot of work to be done if it is to be
successfully implemented. We wish to support the Governor’s positive work to secure
convictions of those who stigmatise children as witches. All have a common interest in
strengthening the Rule of Law to prevent the mistreatment of children. We are here to explore
the possibility – together with other international agencies -of providing free training to
judges, prosecutors, police and social welfare teams”.