By Frank Ulom
A mother of four girls identified as Mrs Martina Okey Itagbor has been burnt to death by a group of angry youths over allegations bordering on witchcraft.
The ugly incident, CONVERSEER gathered occurred at about 7:00 am on June 18, 2023, in Old Netim in Akamkpa Local Government of Cross River State.
Before the incident, the youths (suspected to be gang members) in April 2023 had accused Mrs Itagbor of inflicting illness on a certain youth in the community (Old Netim).
One of the deceased daughters claimed the clan head of Old Netim community, Ntufam Augustine Nyong Orok washed his hands off the accusation and asked her mother to defend herself if she was not a witch.
Itagbor’s daughter said the matter was reported to the Old Netim Police Station, Akamkpa same April 2023 when the first attack was launched on her mother but the police were in fear because a gang was involved.
Our Reporter learned further that what warranted the lynching of Mrs Itagbor was when the youths of the community boarded a vehicle to attend the inauguration of Hon. Okon Owuna, member representing Akamkpa I State Constituency in the Cross River State House of Assembly on June 13, 2023.
“On their way, the youths who were drunk had an accident that claimed two lives on the spot, with several others injured.
“A day after, some of the youths came and dragged Madam Martina out of her house to the main road, alleging she masterminded the accident and death of the two youths using witchcraft.
“The woman was beaten, her fingers chopped off and set ablaze by a greater number of angry mobs, all youths, who watched her burn to ashes on the 18th of June, 2023 at about 7:00 am.
“The police were informed when the act was ongoing but paid deaf ears.
“The act was calculated because after watching her burn to ashes, the youths swept the remnants into the gutters and washed the road.
“They are hunting for her children, too”.
One Christopher Sunday Mbey, a native of Old Netim, Akamkpa, has been fingered to spearhead the murder of Mrs Martina Itagbor.
Reacting to the tragic incident, Amnesty International, a human rights organisation on Friday morning (June 30) condemned the gruesome killing of Mrs Itagbor, calling the Nigerian authorities to investigate and bring the perpetrators to book.
“Amnesty International condemns the brutal killing of Madam Martina Okey Itagbor – who was burned to death in the middle of a road at Old Netim in Akamkpa LGA, Cross River State, over allegations of witchcraft. Nigerian authorities must – effectively and impartially – investigate this horrid incident and ensure that those suspected of responsibility are brought to justice.”
This is not the first time that Cross River State is witnessing such a barbaric act. In October 2022, Mrs Iquo Edet Iyo and four other suspects were killed, and buried in a forest over witchcraft allegations in Ndon Nwong village, Okurikang, Odukpani Local Government Area of Cross River State.
Also, in early June 2023, an unidentified woman in Efondo in Akpabuyo was beheaded by another unidentified suspect from Esuk Mba over alleged witchcraft which has led to a crisis in the area.
In 2018, late Thomas Tawo (aka General Iron), former SA on Forest Security to former Governor Ben Ayade led a mob that burnt 15 elderly persons to death in Boki Local Government Area of the State.
These incidents and several others made the 9th Cross River State House of Assembly, led by former Speaker, Rt. Hon. Eteng Jones William, to pass a bill criminalising profiling a child as a witch or wizard. The bill was assented to by former Governor Ben Ayade.