Oba Ewuare II, A traditional leader in Benin in Nigeria’s Edo state, has dismissed the curses placed on trafficking victims by voodoo priests.
The curses — known as “juju” — were intended to intimidate Nigerian trafficking victims by convincing them that their families would die or become ill if they disobeyed their traffickers, reported abuses to the police, or failed to repay their debts.
Nigeria’s anti-trafficking agency, the NAPTIP, welcomed the move. “This is a very strong weapon to support anti-trafficking … because our belief system is strongly rooted in traditional worship. This belief in juju has been a strong impediment to our prosecution. You can’t prosecute when nobody comes forward to say this person did this to me,” said Arinze Orakwue from the NAPTIP.
Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:
Most Nigerian women trafficked to Europe come from Edo, a predominantly Christian state of about 3 million people, which has a long history of migration to Italy, the IOM said.
Before leaving, they must sign a deal with the traffickers, incurring thousands of dollars of debts. They then seal the pact with a juju ritual performed by a spiritual priest.
“(The Oba) first released all those bound by juju … the juju has been neutralised,” David Edebiri, the second-highest ranking chief in the Oba’s cabinet, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation via phone.
“Those who take money from people to help them to Europe without passing through immigration … anybody who does will have a curse on his head,” said Edebiri, 89, who was at the palace with other Benin chiefs when the Oba issued his decree.
Juju priests and heads of shrines — traditional leaders in Benin — were also present at the ceremony.
Edebiri explained that the Oba made addressing trafficking a priority after seeing the international scrutiny of Edo state in the media.
“We saw our place being portrayed in the international media as a den of illicit activity. There is going to be a drastic reduction,” he said.
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