EKET, Nigeria (AFP) – Jeremiah, 10, stares blankly at a window, tears rolling down his burn-scarred cheeks recounting how his father doused him with petrol and set him ablaze accusing him of witchcraft.
He is just one of hundreds of children in southern Nigeria's Niger Delta oil region thrown out of their homes, tortured or even killed after they are branded witches by a new crop of self-styled religious leaders.
Around a dozen phony pastors have been arrested -- one on murder charges after he confessed in a documentary film to having killed 110 child witches. He now says he killed only the witches inside the children, not the children themselves.
At a centre in Eket, Akwa Ibom's oil town, Jeremiah and over 170 other children -- aged between 18 months and 16 years -- have sought or been brought to emergency shelter. Many bear scars of physical torture -- machete cuts, burns or a nail drilled into the head.
It has been more than a year since Jeremiah fled from his home, but he suffered months of abuse at the hands of his parents after he was accused of sorcery.
"We were having a revival at church one night when from nowhere, the pastor's wife stood up to say I was a witch," recounts Jeremiah.
He was immediately locked up at the pastor's house, starved and assaulted with clubs as part of the exorcism exercise.
When he moved back home his father tied a noose around his neck and led him to a nearby school grounds, but apparently developed cold feet.
In minute detail he recounts how over several weeks, his parents locked him up in a room and starved and flogged him. That was before the father torched him, accusing him of being behind his losing a job with an oil firm.
Nigerian pastors, AFP 69 Comments
[3/6/2009 6:27:25 PM]
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