DAKAR - Police in Nigeria say a 60-year-old man burned a young girl to death after accusing her of being a witch. Allegations of witchcraft in Nigeria can be very dangerous.
Police say they’ve arrested 60-year-old Yakubu Vong for luring an eight-year-old girl to his house in the village of Sabon Layi in north-central Plateau State, dousing her with lamp oil, and setting her ablaze.
Plateau State police spokesman Emmanuel Abuh says police believe he attacked the girl because she refused to admit to him that she was a witch.
While much of public religious life centers around Christianity and Islam, traditional beliefs are still prevalent in Nigeria.
Ishaya Bajama is a civil rights activist who works in Plateau State. He says spiritual healers often use allegations of witchcraft to explain mental or physical illnesses that communities might not be familiar with, or might not have the money or ability to treat.
“A lot of things that people don’t have solution for, they are always ascribed to spiritual problems. But a lot of it has to do with social sickness or social misfit," said Bajama.
These allegations are no laughing matter, Bajama says. Poverty, lack of education and lack of medical care often combine to stigmatize people accused of being witches — or worse.
“Who is there to defend her? The easiest way for a society to be free from that responsibility is to name her in such a way that she can easily be nailed and killed so that everybody is free from it," he said.
Abuh says the suspect Vong is in custody in the Plateau State capital Jos.
Ardo Hazzad contributed to this report from Bauchi, Nigeria