Posted by The Punch on
In a society where the inalienable right to life is held sacrosanct, the events of last November 4, in Ozala, Owan Local Government Area of Edo State, were enough to cause revulsion and public protestation.
In a society where the inalienable right to life is held sacrosanct, the events of last November 4, in Ozala, Owan Local Government Area of Edo State, were enough to cause revulsion and public protestation. It is a reflection of how much life has been devalued on our shores, as neither serious public condemnation nor a whimper greeted the descent to barbarism.
On that fateful day, 27 people, who were accused of being witches and wizards, met their untimely deaths, after they were forced to drink a dangerous concoction prepared by a native doctor specially employed for the purpose. One of the victims, a mother of 10, died after taking the poisonous drink. She was accused of being responsible for the death of her in-law in a motor accident earlier in the year. Another victim, a man, lost his life because he was accused of being responsible for the retrenchment of his elder brother during the Buhari-Idiagbon dictatorship (December 31, 1983-August 27, 1985). How ridiculous!
Every adult Nigerian could remember that the Buhari government, which overthrew the civilian administration of Alhaji Shehu Shagari, had the massive purge of the civil service as one of its cardinal programmes. If the hundreds of Nigerians who lost their jobs during the period attributed their misfortune to witches and wizards, how would the country be perceived in the eyes of the world?
Surprisingly, the Edo State Government has not come out forcefully to denounce this primitive and criminal act. Those who wish to live in the past by relishing the powers of witches and wizards have a right to do so. However, they have no right to breach the right of others and treat with disdain the laws of the land. This is where the law enforcement agents come in. What did the Police do when the news of the barbarity was brought to their attention? The Police not only have a duty to detect and prevent crime, they also have a duty to protect the lives of all citizens.
Section 207 of the criminal code, entitled: Ordeal, Witchcraft, Juju and Criminal Charms, states: “The trial by the ordeal of sasswood, esere-bean, or other poison, boiling oil, fire, immersion in water or exposure to the attacks of crocodiles or other wild animals, or by any ordeal which is likely to result in the death of or bodily injury to any party to the proceeding, is unlawful.” Section 208 prescribes a ten-year jail term for anyone guilty of directing, controlling or presiding at any trial by ordeal, which results in the death of any party to the proceeding.
The traditional ruler of Ozala, in whose palace the savage proceedings which led to the death of these Nigerians were allegedly carried out, should assist the Police in bringing all the culprits to book. The right to life is a fundamental human right guaranteed by Section 33 of the 1999 Constitution. Consequently, unlawful taking of another person’s life cannot be the internal affair of any community.
It is regrettable that all the victims of the tragic exercise were the weak and helpless members of the society. Their relations may thus not be in a position to challenge the brazen violation of human rights involved in the horrifying Ozala palace episode. Here, therefore, is an opportunity for the Nigerian Bar Association, human rights groups and other non-governmental organizations, to firmly demonstrate that nobody may operate above the law and that the poor can also get justice under the present dispensation.
More importantly, Governor Lucky Igbinedion, whose duty it is to guarantee the security of all Edo people, must not allow the culprits to escape with this brazen criminality. The presence of some prominent citizens during the ghastly witch-hunting ceremony should not scare the governor from the path of justice.
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