Thursday, 7 February 2013

Nigeria: Witchcraft and Oil Spills

Nigeria is a country located in western Africa and has an estimated population of 162.5 million people (Source: Trading Economics). It is considered to be an LEDC, a Less Economically Developed Country. One of their key industries is oil exportation and it brings a lot of money into their economy.
But did you know that there is a link between the oil industry and witchcraft? In this blog we’re going to have a look at the link between the two. 


What is witchcraft? 

Looking back in history, there are many tales and articles that mention witchcraft.  One of the most famous ‘tests’ to prove somebody was a practicing witch was to throw them into a lake. If they sunk, they had been wrongly accused but if they floated, they were a witch and would most likely be killed. 

This may be a thing of the past for many of us around the world however unfortunately for some countries, people are still being accused of witchcraft, and in Nigeria’s case, it’s the children.  

Oil Spills in Nigeria

As we have already mentioned, the oil industry is very important to Nigeria, but it has its problems. One of the main concerns is the infrastructure of the industry, which is based in the Niger Delta. The fields are all very small which means there are a lot of pipes, the majority of them being over ground, connecting them together. 

The general maintenance and up keep of these pipes is not very good which means that they have started to corrode which leads to leaks that spill across the land. The environment is being badly damaged because of this and is making a lot of the land uninhabitable. According to Amnesty USA, local people and NGOs are reporting that the pipes in the Bodo area have not been replaced since 1958”

Oil spills can stretch over a vast area which is why they have such a serious effect on the landscape. Many plants and animals suffer and crops are killed because of the pollution in the ground and water. The people who live in the area suffer from various health problems as a result. 

So how does this link to 'witchcraft'? 

Unfortunately, the people in Nigeria don’t have such easy access to the technology that we do so many of the adults are left uneducated. Only the first six years of school are compulsory. Many Nigerians living in the Niger Delta don’t realise that the problems they have such as illnesses, death and famine are because of the oil leaks.  They blame the oldest child for 'witchcraft', which they believe can cause death in the family.  Their beliefs in witchcraft are influenced by corrupt Church leaders who want to profit from so called 'exorcisms' and cultural beliefs in black magic. 

As Stepping Stones Nigeria explains, “This fear stems from the belief that a spiritual spell can be given to a person through food and drink”. They go on to say that their soul leaves their body to be initiated into witchcraft.

The Reality of 'child witchcraft' in Nigeria

Unfortunately for the accused children, they are exposed to traumatic punishment from the people around them. Shockingly, some of them are chained up and tortured in churches to try and get them to confess, some are poisoned to death and others are publicly humiliated and murdered or abandoned. 

There are groups that have been set up to fight for the rights of these children including ‘Stepping Stones Nigeria’. Not only do they help the abandoned people by giving them food and clothes and medical treatment for their injuries but they are trying to educate the people of Nigeria to stop these acts of violence and hopefully change their attitudes towards witchcraft.  

Stepping Stones Nigeria are also trying to raise awareness about child witchcraft and these acts of violence that may not be well known to the rest of the world.
References on 'Witchcraft' in Nigeria

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