Three people have banished their widowed sister from their community for allegedly being a witch.
The incident happened on 30 April in Umunankwo, a community in Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State, south-east Nigeria.
Chidinma Ikeanyionwu, a media aide to the Commissioner for Women and Social Welfare in the state, Ify Obinabo, disclosed this in a statement on Monday.
The widow, Nneka Uzor is a 53-year-old mother of two. She is also a caterer.
Ms Ikeanyionwu gave the names of the suspects as Lazarus Uzor, Anozie Uzor and Valentine Okwuosa.
She said the suspects’ arrest was facilitated by the commissioner, Mrs Obinabo, after a video clip showing the widow being abused and banished from the community went viral on social media.
In the clip, seen by PREMIUM TIMES earlier this month, the widow was spotted being led out of the community by members of the community and two masquerades.
As she walked, the community members hurled abuses on her, while the two masquerades flogged her.
“On this day, Nneka (Uzor) committed an atrocity. She poisoned the food of the community, and she refused to go for appeasement. On that purpose, masquerades have arisen to say a final goodbye to Nneka to the boundary of no return,” a voice was in the background of the video was heard saying.
“Nneka, you shall not come back again (to the community). You have been ostracised. Today, marks her last day (in the community). The masquerade has ostracised her,” the voice added.
Apparently exhausted and weak, the widow collapsed in the middle of a road and the people abandoned her there.
Ms Ikeanyionwu said the suspects were later arrested and arraigned before the Children, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Court, in Awka.
The statement was silent on the details of the charges against the suspects.
When the charges were read and interpreted to the defendants, they pleaded not guilty of the charges, she said.
Ruling on bail application by the suspects, the Magistrate, Genevieve Osakwe, held that the matter was a bailable offence.
Ms Osakwe, consequently, granted them bail in the sum of N700, 000, but demanded that the suspects should provide the traditional ruler of the Umunankwo Community, the parish priest of the community’s Catholic Church or the president-general of the community as sureties.
In her reaction, the commissioner, Mrs Obinabo, expressed satisfaction with the decision of the court, Ms Ikeanyionwu said.
The commissioner assured that she would get justice for the widow and other widows in the state who are going through such ill-treatment.
She warned residents of the state to desist from any form of harmful traditional practices against widows, pointing out that Anambra State Government has zero tolerance for such “inhumane acts.”
Banished widow speaks
Mrs Uzor told the commissioner that she began living in her parents’ house in the community nine years ago after she lost her husband.
The widow regretted that her brothers and other family members had been abusing her since she began living with them in their parents’ house.
On the issue of being banished from the community, she narrated that someone had died in the community and that on the day of the person’s burial, she was invited like others, which made her pass a night there.
She said she was surprised that her brothers and other family members woke her up the next morning at about 5:30 a.m. with the masquerades and subsequently chased her out of the community.
Nkiru Uzor, a sister to the widow, alleged that it was one of the suspects, Lazarus, the immediate past president-general of the community, that instigated the banishment while Nnamdi, another suspect, coordinated the act and also filmed the incident.