Nigeria Humanist Movement leader Leo Igwe comments on the arrest of suspected ritualists in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria

Leo Igwe is a well-known human rights advocate, specialized in campaigning against witchcraft and cruel ritualistic practices. I mentioned him before on this site (see my June 24, 2018 post on Superstition in Mozambique) and also elsewhere, when he spoke out against ritual murders in Africa: in his home country Nigeria in 2004, in Swaziland (nowadays called Eswatini) in 2008, and in African countries in general in 2010 and 2012. Recently, the infatigable human rights campaigner was again in the spotlight when condemning ‘money ritual’ practices in Nigeria, calling the criminal acts ‘useless’ and trying to persuade ritual killers to give up their ‘useless’ practices.

I wish to commend Leo Igwe for his tireless efforts to end these cruel, criminal and senseless practices. The world and Africa in general need more Leo Igwe’s to condemn and end ritualistic murders on the continent (webmaster FVDK).

Nothing like ‘money rituals’, ritual killers are killing in vain – Nigerian human rights advocate Leo Igwe

The leader of the Nigerian human rights group reacts to the recently reported arrest of suspected ritualists in the Boluwaji area of Ibadan, Oyo State.

Published: September 24, 2021
By: SaharaReporters, New York

The Nigerian Humanist Movement has urged Nigerians to stop believing they can get rich or become wealthy through the killing of fellow citizens for money rituals.

NHM, a group that advocates the principles of humanism, urged Nigerians to understand that the notion of ritual money and wealth is completely baseless and invalid.

The rights group was reacting to the recently reported arrest of suspected ritualists in the Boluwaji area of Ibadan, Oyo State.

Reports emerged during the week that members of the Western Nigeria Security Network, codenamed Operation Amotekun had arrested suspected ritualists, who were in possession of the body parts of a 73-year-old man.

The suspects, during interrogations, had told operatives of the security outfit that a Muslim cleric, whom they identified as Alfa Salam Salam, asked them to get some human body parts for rituals.

But in an interview with SaharaReporters on Thursday, NHM, through its National Director, Leo Igwe, said irrational conceptions of how to make money or become wealthy and successful often lead to killing of innocent people in vain.

“I don’t think there is any way the claim ritual money is validated, at least in a way that can be confirmed by a third party.

“For example, if you want to make money using human body parts. Do you want to make it in naira, or dollars or pounds or euros? Actually, if it is true that you really want to make money through rituals, why are Nigerians not making money in these foreign currencies that I mentioned that have more value than naira if we are to go by that. That’s number one.

“Number two. We know very well that the Central Bank or an affiliated bank agency is responsible for printing currencies and they come with specific numbers. In other words, if we have to account for the money these people say they are making through rituals, where are they getting the numbers that tally with what is in circulation?

“Let assume you go and bring it from the vault of First Bank, what happens to that branch where the money disappears from? What happens to the Branch Manager? Are they not going to account for it? If that’s the case, you know how many branch managers of banks would be crying out every day that money has disappeared?

“We have not heard from any of these commercial banks that they are looking for money. Now, even if it disappears, how are we not going to probe the way that it was stolen?”

Igwe further argued there is a possibility of people stealing public money and hanging it around a money ritual that does not exist.

“My point is that let’s put all these superstitions aside and accept that some people actually steal to make money and tie it around money rituals. People can actually make money by conniving with bank officials in a way we don’t know and start flaunting it that they did money rituals. It doesn’t make sense!

“So what am I trying to say? It doesn’t make sense at all. It is important for us to begin to openly challenge this claim. The reason is that our young people are dying. Honestly, I’m in pain. I’m not joking. When I see how young men are killing their fathers, mothers, and relatives in the name of rituals for money, I cry because it is an illusion.

“It is baseless and does not exist anywhere. Instead of providing them with evidence-based ways of making money, they will tell them to go and bring the heads of their family members,” he added.

Source: Nothing Like Money Rituals, Ritual Killers Are Killing In Vain – Nigerian Humanist Movement

Confronting Superstition in Postcolonial Mozambique

The Nigerian human rights advocate and humanist Leo Igwe wrote a very interesting article on the background of superstition in Mozambique. He explains the belief in superstition and the fact that Mozambicans resort to occult practices:  “It’s all related (if not caused) by the lack of effective state interventions and leadership.” As he argues, “(…) in the absence of modernity, people in Mozambique and elsewhere in the region invoke magic and superstition to help process the existential challenges and uncertainties that they face in their everyday life. (…)

I have a very high opinion of Leo Igwe. For ten years or more I’ve been reading his thoughts, experiences and views. He’s a well-known human rights activist. I would wish there are many many more Leo Igwe’s! Therefore his opinions matter.

Leo Igwe critically examines the modernity arguments, referring to scholars such as Peter Geschiere, Jean and John Comaroff. But how right are they? One could easily reverse the question. Is state intervention the critical factor? What if it did not exist? To what extent it would have been decisive?

In my opinion the real explanation for the phenomenon of superstition lies in the fact that the people concerned have not been educated in the proper sense.

Education, education and once more education! I cannot emphasize enough the importance of modern education. It’s the only long term solution for the problem of superstition. In the short term, the State should do its work: enforce the respect for the rule of law and hold those who are suspected of human rights violations and ritualistic murders accountable for their heinous crimes!

More on Leo Igwe later.

Webmaster FVDK

Published on February 26, 2018
By Leo Igwe, Conatus News

In Mozambique, murders of albinos, bald men, and other superstition-fueled crimes are common. Where do these ritual killings come from? 

Recently, there have been reported incidents of harmful acts that are connected with traditional beliefs and practices across the region. For instance, some people attacked traders and fishermen for ‘tying the rain’. They alleged that the victims controlled rainfall in the area to benefit their businesses. The practice of rainmaking and unmaking in found in other African societies. Fortunately, the police intervened and warned the perpetrators against making such false accusations.

In another instance, ritualists killed five bald men in the district of Milange because their head supposedly contained gold. It is not clear how and when Mozambicans started associating bald heads with gold or magical wealth. Similar superstitious narratives have led to violence in other African cultures. For example, in Nigeria, those who believe that the hump contains some ‘precious mineral’ attack people with a hunchback.

Mozambique, however, has been particularly susceptible to ritual murders in recent years. People living with albinism (PLA) have been hunted down and killed in Mozambique for their body parts. The body parts of PLA are used to prepare magical substances that ostensibly bring wealth and good fortune. In September 2017, ritualists killed and removed the brain of a 17-year-old boy.

People Living with Albinism (PLA)

Mozambicans who suffer ailments or death impute witchcraft, and those who are accused of witchcraft are frequently attacked or killed. In 2011, at least 20 people were murdered for alleged involvement in witchcraft in Mozambique. Some of those arrested for attacking or lynching alleged witches were even schoolteachers. It has thereforebecome pertinent to explore how these manifestations of superstition and magical beliefs are related to the idea of modernity or the postcolonial context. Why has the spread of modernization not resulted in the disappearance of superstitious beliefs and practices in contemporary Mozambique?

A Reaction to modernity?

Some scholars such as Peter Geschiere, Jean and John Comaroff have designated the manifestations of occult beliefs in contemporary Africa as part of the dividends of Africa’s encounter with modernity. They have argued that modern changes have fractured Africa, and disrupted the lives of people within Africa. Ritual beliefs, and superstition-based practices, argue Geschiere and Comaroff, are ways that Africans make sense of these changes.

However, the modernity argument needs to be critically re-examined. First, how is accusing traders and farmers of holding the rain or killing PLA a way of making sense of modern changes? Does modernisation propel people to make witchcraft accusations and lynch alleged witches? How is the crisis wrought by modernisation (whatever that means) connected with magical imputations and ritualistic beliefs? Where is the logic in the argument that modernity is the raison d’etre of the growing visibility of occult beliefs in the region? Are modern phenomena not supposed to be oppositional to magic and superstition?

There is no doubt that modernisation has brought about significant change in African societies. The introduction of state bureaucracy, the school system, science and technology, neoliberal economics and the media has led to social, economic and political adjustments in postcolonial Africa. But occult beliefs and practices predate modernity in Africa. Africans have been using narratives of magic to make sense of their lives and social organisations before the introduction of state bureaucracy and other modern institutions. Modernisation has not led to the total disappearance of magical beliefs. So, is it justified to postulate that the manifestation of superstitions in postcolonial Africa is because of modernity?

In contemporary Africa, people make active use of both the magical and modern. Modernisation has provided Africans with an additional facility and resource in making sense of experiences. Where African people cannot use or access the modern, the magical is deployed. If the modern does not suffice, superstition is relied upon to supplement. People try to explain their misfortune using science and logic or by applying material and naturalistic resources. But where the material and natural are unhelpful and unsatisfactory, where they do not provide the answers and solutions, the supernatural and spiritual is used.

Superstition and magic are waxing strong and manifesting forcefully in places like Mozambique despite the modernisation process because there is some purpose that these ritualistic beliefs and practices are serving which modernity has not addressed.

State Failures

In Mozambique, the state has failed in helping the citizens to meaningfully manage the shortage of rain and other existential uncertainties and anxieties. The required education or awareness is lacking. The state has not provided evidence-based information or response to the problem of limited rainfall especially to people in rural communities. According to a local source, elderly persons in the country languish in poverty: “They do not have access to basic health services, transportation and housing. Most elderly persons do not enjoy psychological and material well-being. They live in deplorable conditions, abandoned by relatives, accused of witchcraft and with little or no income”.

The state of Mozambique has been unable to put in place effective poverty alleviation programs for the citizens. There is no functioning social support system to cater for the poor, and the unemployed. So people try to make sense of their unfortunate situations using whatever they can lay their hands on whether they are material, immaterial or mixed. No incentives are extended to farmers and fishermen who are struggling to earn a living. They bear the brunt of poor harvest without state support or subsidy. Traders and others managing various businesses are left to cope with the harsh economic realities.

Conclusion

Due to the lack of effective state interventions and leadership in these critical areas, Africans resort to occult practices to make sense of their lives and experiences. In the absence of modernity, people in Mozambique and elsewhere in the region invoke magic and superstition to help process the existential challenges and uncertainties that they face in their everyday life.

Source: Conatus News, February 26, 2017

Also: The Moravi Post, February 27, 2018