A woman who survived after she was allegedly burnt by Thomas Obi Tawo, Special Adviser on Forest Security to Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade, has shared details of the horrid experience.
The woman, identified as Kubua Delia, was among the victims of the burning of suspected witches in the Boki Local Government Area of the state by Tawo, popularly known as General Iron in May 2020.
SaharaReporters recalls that on May 20, 2020, an aide to the governor, Thomas Obi Tawo (also known as General Iron) allegedly led a mob that set ablaze 15 suspected witches in Oku community, Boki Local Government Area, Cross River state.
General Iron and his thugs reportedly stormed the rural community, dragged out those identified as witches, including General Iron’s mother and threw them into the fire.
Meanwhile, most of the victims are farmers and elderly persons.
Delia, who spoke with SaharaReporters on Tuesday, through her daughter Theresa, said she had barely returned from the farm on the day of the incident when young men thronged to her house, demanding that she follow them to see their leader, General Iron.
According to her, she had asked the young men why Tawo would want to see her but she was bundled immediately and hit in several parts of her body by the young men, especially on her hand.
She said she was later dumped into a fire that had been set up at the village arena, and that she passed out immediately.
Theresa said, “My mother had just returned from the farm that day, it was in the evening and she had not even entered the house. She sat outside ‘gisting’ (talking) with her sister. She saw a group of people coming and they said they came for her. She asked them why they would come for her. They just said she should follow them.
“As she stepped up and followed them, someone hit her in the hand and leg, they kept hitting her, that was why the bone on her hand got broken. As she got to the junction, they had already set up a fire so they just pushed her inside. She didn’t even know what happened thereafter. They tore her wrapper, her phone got lost. She became unconscious.
“I was called that night that if we hear that she had died, we shouldn’t be surprised because she was unconscious. We didn’t even know what to do. She spent over two months at the hospital.”
Theresa added that her family has no relationship whatsoever with General Iron, the perpetrator as she does not even recognise him.
She further revealed that her mother is gradually recuperating from injuries sustained from the burning.
“She still went to the hospital today, because operation was carried out on that hand, we stayed at the hospital for about two months with a series of X-rays. When we came back, we wanted to go for another operation for the leg, skin grafting but because of the COVID-19 pandemic and we didn’t even have the money because we have spent a lot of money. But by the grace of God, the leg started healing.
“Operation was carried out on the leg and after some months, they removed it and put POP, after a while, we went for another X-ray, and it showed that the hand was not even healing so we were to go for another operation which will cost us about N100, 000 plus other fees and that was the time of lockdown, so we left it. We didn’t even have what it takes to carry out the operation.”
Also speaking with SaharaReporters, Dr Leo Igwe of the Humanists Association of Nigeria said it has been hard to get justice for Kubua Delia.
He said, “Last May, a special adviser to Governor Ayade, they call him General Iron; he said he was in a dream and saw that the relatives were threatening him. He went and consulted, they confirmed his fears and he came to his own community and went from house to house, dragged out people, including his own mother, and set up some fire and set them ablaze.
“Some of them died, three are dead and about 10, 11 of them were wounded, they sustained various degrees of burns. This woman is one of the survivors, she was taken to the hospital and she had a POP and surgery here and there. I went to visit her and sympathised with her. She is one of those we are supporting with some funding to pay medical bills. The support is from the Advocacy for Alleged Witches, a distinct humanist project to combat witch persecution in Africa
“He targeted all the relatives, women and men. Two of the men are dead, one is critically injured. He was going from house to house with a few local thugs who were using some mirrors and anyone they certified as one of the witches, they dragged the person out and threw the person into the fire.
“This was within his own community where he grew up.
“She has a bandage on one of her arms, the wounds she sustained were deep. I think she was supposed to go through some kind of surgery, where they will cut off some flesh and use it to cover that part of the body but she is just hoping and seeing if the flesh will come up on its own.
“There has been a lot of tension also because we have been calling for the arrest of General Iron. He’s just a political thug who rose a bit, he felt insecure, he felt that people were really after him and now came back to the community and anyone identified as ‘one of them’ he threw the person into the fire. Some people survived while a few of them had died.”
Meanwhile, Theresa noted that the financial assistance from the Advocacy for alleged witches had helped lessen the burden of the hospital bills on the family, noting that the contribution went a long way in helping to settle the hospital bills.
She, however, pleaded with well-meaning Nigerians to assist her younger sister in securing a job so the finances of the family may improve.