Mudiaga Affe writes about nine-year-old Emmanuel Ironbar, who was sent away from his home in Calabar, Cross River State, by his stepfather over allegation of witchcraft

Where Emmanuel slept for months before Nyang came to his rescue

Nine-year-old, Emmanuel Ironbar is currently experiencing a hard time that some adults have never faced.

Emmanuel was sent out of his home by his stepfather, Mr. Ubong Akpan, for allegedly being a witch.

He told SUNDAY PUNCH, “I have slept outside for some months now. I cannot remember how long that was before I was rescued. I was never sent to school, but I take my younger siblings to school, every day on the request of my mother. I also wish to go to school.”

Emmanuel was sleeping outside buildings around No. 28B, Yellow Duke Street in the Calabar-South axis of the Cross River State capital. His stepfather’s action was reportedly based on a claim from a church that the nine-year-old was a witch.

Emmanuel’s case is not the first in Calabar and other parts of the state.
These sad tales have become common episodes in Cross River and Akwa Ibom states as several kids had been killed over allegations of witchcraft.

The case of Emmanuel became public following a Facebook post by one Chris Inyang, who resides where the nine-year-old lived.

Emmanuel, who is now in the custody of Basic Rights Counsel Initiative in Calabar, is pleading to be enrolled in school.

The boy, who now enjoys watching movies on TV, urged the government to arrest his father, Okokon Ironbar, for abandoning and rejecting him.

He said, “My father runs his business at the Etim-Edem Park in Calabar. My mother married another man after she left him. She has three other children for my father. She also has a boy and a girl for my stepfather. In all, I have five siblings.

“I was staying with my mother before my stepfather sent me parking because they claimed I was a witch. When they sent me out initially, I was sleeping beside a church. I later moved to an abandoned shop. I was always afraid at night.

“Sometimes, my mother would sneak out of the house to give me food whenever my stepfather was not at home. I want government to arrest my father because he was the one that neglected my mother. He never cared about our welfare. I have never been to school because I was never given the opportunity. I wish to go to school.”

Inyang said he saw the boy in the neighbourhood for some time but didn’t know he was sleeping outside until his (Inyang) children drew his attention to Emmanuel’s plight.

Inyang told our correspondent that he pitied Emmanuel when he saw him and initially contemplated adopting him but for the tedious official process associated with such move.

He added that to prevent any evil from happening to him, he went on social media to draw attention to his plight.

Inyang said, “I gave him food and money few times. I allowed him to fetch water free of charge in my compound. I saw him take his siblings to school many times. I was sad when I learnt that his stepfather branded him a witch and threw him out of his house.”

SUNDAY PUNCH observed that the kiosk where Emmanuel slept before he was rescued was an eyesore.