Nigerian children accused of being witches march for the passage of the Child Rights Act, 2008


To have the Akwa Ibom government sign the Child Rights Act into law

Time period

August, 2008 to August, 2008



Location City/State/Province

Uyo, Akwa Ibom and Eket, Akwa Ibom

Location Description

Uyo, where the march took place, is the capital of Akwa Ibom state. Eket is a city in Akwa Ibom where the CRARN child refuge is located.
Jump to case narrative

Methods in 1st segment

Methods in 2nd segment

Methods in 3rd segment

  • Stepping Stones Nigeria delivered a mass petition to the governor. The petition was created by American Kelli Stowe. It had over 1000 signatures.
  • Children sing while they wait for the state governor to appear before them.

Segment Length

4 hours

Notes on Methods

No methods are added in the 4th, 5th, and 6th segments because the action had ended by this time, with the governor declaring that he would meet their demands for the passage of the Child Rights Act. Based on the online petitions present on such websites as, it appears that Kelli Stowe, who is unaffiliated with CRARN and Stepping Stones Nigeria, created the petition and solicited people to sign online. It is unclear how the two Nigerian organizations were notified of the petition and how they may have procured a paper copy of the signatures, if they did indeed present a paper copy to the Akwa Ibom State Governor.


Stepping Stones Nigeria (now Safe Child Africa), led by Gary Foxcroft; the children of Stepping Stones Nigeria


Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network, led by Sam Ikpe-Itauma

External allies



The Akwa Ibom state government, led by Chief Godswill Akpabio

Campaigner violence

Not known


Human Rights



Group characterization

Children accused of being witches
British aid worker

Groups in 1st Segment

Stepping Stones Nigeria
Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network

Additional notes on joining/exiting order

Stepping Stones Nigeria and Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network had established themselves as partner organizations prior to the march. UNICEF did not follow the specific nonviolent direct action march, but it reported on the Child Rights Act in Nigeria for years and issued general statements encouraging all Nigerian states to adopt the policy.

Segment Length

4 hours

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

6 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


2 out of 3 points

Total points

9 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

On the day of the march, Akwa Ibom governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio, announced that he would fulfill their demands for the passage of the Child Rights Act. A few months later, on 6 December 2008, Akpabio signed the bill into law, making it illegal to accuse children of being witches. The law remains weakly enforced. In 2012, the Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network continued to report that communities abused children labeled as witches, and in 2014, Leonardo Rocha Dos Santos of Way to the Nations reported the same. Note also that in July 2009, unidentified armed men, whom some speculate Ms. Helen Ukpabio sent in retaliation against Stepping Stones Nigeria and CRARN for the negative publicity they caused about accusations of child witchcraft, invaded CRARN’s refuge, seeking to kill Mr. Ikpe-Itauma.

Database Narrative

According to 2014 World Bank data, Nigeria is a lower middle income country, where 44% of the population is under the age of 15 years old. In several Nigerian communities, local Pentecostal and Evangelical pastors have accused children of being witches since the late 1990s, including about 15,000 children in the Akwa Ibom state alone. Child witch hunts became more prevalent after the 1999 release of the film, End of the Wicked, which graphically describes the phenomenon of child witches. The film’s creator, Ms. Helen Ukpabio, leads the 150-branch Liberty Gospel Church. She professes that children can become possessed by Satan, which causes them to wreak havoc on their families and communities. Her ideas have spread throughout the nation, leading relatives, community members, churchgoers, and pastors to attribute hardships, such as death in the family, illness, and hunger, to child witchcraft.

Once a child is accused, communities stigmatize alleged child witches. Community members usually attack the child in an attempt to kill the witch inside. They may beat them, attack them with machetes, pour acid over them, and inflict other types of abuse. Priests perform exorcisms or deliverance events in order to try to rid the child of evil spirits. Often they charge high prices for the procedure, which may entail violently shaking the children and pouring potions into their eyes. If the priest declares that the child is still possessed, parents either cast him/her into the streets, or community members may even kill the child. A 2010 report by Gary Foxcroft and Emilie Secker of Safe Child Africa found that 85% of street children in one area of Akwa Ibom State had been accused of being witches. Other data on the specific number of children killed due to witch accusations is unknown.

Two organizations, Stepping Stones Nigeria (now Safe Child Africa) led by Briton Gary Foxcroft, and Child’s Right and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN) led by Nigerian Sam Ikpe-Itauma, partnered in 2005 to save accused child witches. The refuge they established in Eket hosted over 300 children in 2009. From 2005-2008, the two organizations used legislative and diplomatic procedures to pressure the government to pass the Child Rights Act into law. The Nigerian government federalized the policy in 2003, and had it been adopted by every state government, it would have become illegal to accuse children of being witches and would have guaranteed additional human rights. Unfortunately, the state governments could not be persuaded.

Consequently, in August 2008 (the exact date is unknown), Mr. Foxcroft and Mr. Ikpe-Itauma led a nonviolent march with the children of Eket and nearby communities to the Akwa Ibom government house in Oyo, where Governor Chief Godswill Akpabio lived. They aimed to convince the governor to pass the Child Rights Act into law. They brought with them an online petition that a United States human rights worker, Kelli Stowe, started through As Stowe reported on, she had no affiliation with CRARN or Stepping Stones Nigeria. Over 1,000 people from countries worldwide, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Poland, and many others, signed in support of the passage of the Child Rights Act. It is unclear how CRARN and Stepping Stones Nigeria were notified of the petition and whether or not they presented a paper or electronic copy of the petition to the Akwa Ibom State Governor.

Footage from the march, which appears in the documentary “Saving Africa’s Witch Children,” shows children holding signs saying, “We are not witches or wizards” and “Arrest the false prophets.” Some children wore paper hats that read, “Give us our rights.” When the children and the organization leaders arrived at the governor’s residence, they met guards who denied them entrance. The protesters expressed their demands, sang songs about fighting for their rights, and held up their signs outside the gates for four hours.

The governor realized that they were not going to leave, so he decided to speak with them. The children and their leaders entered the state house and sang while they waited for the governor to appear. They presented him with the petition, he promised to meet their demands, and he signed the bill into law on 5 December 2008, declaring it “a giant stride for our children." Thus the children, Mr. Foxcroft, and Mr. Ikpe-Itauma achieved their goal and concluded a successful campaign.

It should be noted, however, that the Akwa Ibom State did not fully enforce the law. Up to ten children continued to arrive at the refuge weekly after the governor enacted the law, and in 2014, The Huffington Post published further reports of child witch abuse. In July 2009, unidentified armed men invaded CRARN’s refuge, seeking to kill Mr. Ikpe-Itauma. In the process, they beat some of the children living there and left three hospitalized. This violence, however, inspired another nonviolent campaign, in which the children rallied for their safety and the safety of Mr. Foxcroft and Mr. Ikpe-Itauma. They marched to local government buildings, including the Palace of the Paramount Ruler of Eket and the Eket Divisional Police Headquarters, to demand safety for themselves and for their caregivers. They also placed placards along Eket roads expressing that they were not child witches, and demanding that the government implement the Child Rights Act it had legalized a year earlier.


Gary Foxcroft's and Sam Ikpe-Itauma's efforts to protect children accused of being witches and their success in getting the Child Rights Act passed caused Helen Akpabio to launch attacks against the refuge homes. In response, the children peacefully protested in 2009, demanding that no attacks are launched against them or Foxcroft and Ikpe-Itauma. (2)


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Itauma, Sam. 2015. “News: Fresh Witch-Hunting In Akwa Ibom State as Government Official Backs Witch-Hunters.” News Articles. Retrieved November 15, 2015 (

Kukolja, Tihomir. 2014. “Saving Witch Children In Nigeria.” The Huffington Post. Retrieved November 15, 2015 (

Oppenheimer, Mark. 2010. “On a Visit To the U.S., a Nigerian Witch-Hunter Explains Herself.” The New York Times. Retrieved November 15, 2015 (

Secker, Emilie. 2012. “Witchcraft Stigmatization in Nigeria: Challenges and Successes in the Implementation of Child Rights.” International Social Work 56(1):22–36.

Stowe, Kelli. 2008. “Petition: Children Are Targets of Nigerian Witch Hunt.” Care 2 Petitions. Retrieved November 15, 2015 (

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Meghan Kelly, 08/11/2015