Nigerian Traditional Leader Revokes Curse on Trafficking Victims

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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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John Naue
John Naue
2 years ago

I went to university Southern Illinois University in the early eighties and there were many Nigerian students because of the oil wealth. Shell Oil fostered a takeover of the civilian government so ‘their’ profits wouldn’t be frivolously wasted on the Nigerian people. Not very many Nigerian international students anymore. I hope that we in the United States can restore a healthy democracy at home and stop the apparatus here that supports worldwide oppression.

Ken BRUNTON
Ken BRUNTON
2 years ago

It’s Nigeria; what do you expect? I’ve seen juju there and these poor uneducated people really believe it. Sad but true.

Mei Mei Sanford
Mei Mei Sanford
2 years ago
Reply to  Ken BRUNTON

That is a gross generalization, and a racist one.
What is powerful to me in this story is that the Oba of Benin and his second in command have placed their own religious and spiritual power in opposition to that of the traffickers. This is not only a symbolic gesture, but a real and concrete one, and it will do good. I thank them.

Karen Atkinson
Karen Atkinson
2 years ago

I agree.. I’m so happy and so glad they stepped forward to deal with the problem as it stands not as it “should” be.