By Saheed Ibrahim
Philip Nwokodi, an albino woke up in high spirits on the 25th of June, 2023, to go about his daily business. He never knew death was trailing him as a family member, Mr. Solomon Duruna, had concocted a sinister plan to use him for ritual.
He narrated how “Mr Solomon Duruna from my maternal home paid me a visit a few minutes past 10 pm on that fateful day” Philip narrated to The Hope “When I saw him, I asked why he came to my house without informing me. He claimed he had a meeting with somebody but, unfortunately, they did not round up on time. So, he wanted to spend the night in my place. By 6 a.m., he promised that he would return on the 26th of June, 2023. So, I welcomed him.
“Because he had been in my place two months before that night, but he called me on the phone. The first time Solomon came to my house, he called me to say that he would be visiting the uncle of his fiance and there was no way he could travel from Owerri to Delta. So he would not be able to go home after. So, he wanted to spend the night in my place. That was the first time he came to my house. This time around in which he came on the 25th of June 2023 was his second journey, which was planned for his attack on me.
“I am a designer. I had work so I started designing from that the time he arrived which around 10 p.m till 2 o’clock. So, around 15 minutes past 2, I shut down my system for me to rest for the night. So, lying down, Mr. Solomon went to turn off the light; I asked him to switch on the light because I usually sleep with light.
“He said the ray was disturbing him, and there was no way he could sleep with the light on. For me not to make him uncomfortable, I had to allow it. I then switched on the torch light on my small phone, put it beside me, and slept off.
“When i woke up again; I discovered that my kitchen light was on. So, I asked him why my kitchen light was on, and he said that when he was trying to switch off the room light, he mistakenly switched on the kitchen light. He stood up and turned off the light. I did not suspect anything,” he explained.
Philip explained that Solomon told him around 4 a.m. that he would leave his house by 6:30 a.m. for Owerri for the meeting. He continued, “I slept off again and not up to 5 minutes; I felt a sharp pain in my neck. Waking up, I saw Mr Solomon was on me with a knife. I questioned why he stabbed me, but he stabbed me the second time.
“He wanted to do it the third time but the knife was bent. Then, he used both hands to press my neck to strangulate me. I had to defend my life. So, we started struggling, and in self-defence, I had to hold his manhood to enable him to free my neck because I was bleeding seriously.”
Philip told The Hope that he was let loose after he held Solomon’s manhood in self-defence. He added that he started screaming for help for about five minutes, during which Solomon was still trying to get the knife to stab him again, but his neighbour broke his door and entered the room to rescue him.
The designer narrated that Solomon was first taken to the army barracks before being taken to Okozo SARS station in Anambra State, adding that Solomon claimed he was only dreaming. “I called my people to inform them. I called his mother to inform her.
“His mother stated that he wanted to kill her a few weeks ago, but God helped her through the intervention of the younger sister. Mr Solomon hit the sister with a stool and ran away.”
“From a friend whom Solomon earlier told that if he searched for money and he couldn’t find it, he would go for money rituals, a few other friends with him in Owerri said he left Owerri around five or after four on the 25th of June, coming to Anambra. That means he had other intentions, but now, he hasn’t said anything,” he told The Hope.
He narrated that Solomon’s family had been calling to plead for his release, stating that the police were yet to prosecute him in court but “kept asking me what I want? I don’t know why they keep asking me the question. If there’s any other thing they do with a murder case. I’m no longer becoming comfortable with that,” the 29 years old complained.
One would have believed that the practice of hunting people with Albinism over witchcraft for ritual, power and wealth would have disappeared with the medieval era.
Aside battling health challenges and discrimination, the onslaught on the group for ritual purposes by men of the underworld in Nigeria, especially in the Eastern part, calls for concern and immediate action.
Speaking on the incident, a disability activist and Chairperson of the Association of People with Albinism in Anambra State, Vivian Ezeonwumelu, said persons with Albinism have been hunted for ritual purposes, especially in the Southeastern part of the country, adding that the attacks are mostly underreported.
“Killing of persons with Albinism is not usually in the news, but it happens, especially in remote areas. The rate increased in the Southeast since the pandemic because of the already existing insecurity in the region.
“The killing is mostly not recorded as ritual killing but as killing by the unknown gunmen, which is the general name they give to the killing of people in the Southeast. It happens in Nigeria in general but recently becoming an alarming issue in Southeast,” she said.
Ezeonwumelu called on the government at all levels, security agencies and all concerned to ensure persons with Albinism are protected. “The police should ensure that the perpetrators of these evil acts are put to book. Persons with Albinism should be security conscious. Report any suspicious movement around your vicinity and avoid late-night outings,” she stated.
Also, the Chairman of persons with Albinism in Ondo State, Prince Fagorola, Ayodeji, said he had warned his members not to travel to the Southeastern part of the country due to the high rate of attacks on people with Albinism in the area.
“Ritualists are everywhere, but over there, ritual attacks are commonplace. In Ondo State, I warn them not to accept anyone they do not know well into their homes, and they listened,” he stated.
Commenting on the attacks on persons with Albinism, a traditionalist, High Chief Adekunle Agbotifayo, said people with Albinism, in the past, were hunted because of their unique attributes, with beliefs that they could be used for money, fame and power.
The troubling attacks are not only in Nigeria but in several other countries. A 2014 report by the Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, office of the Canadian charity Under the Same Sun. The article ” Reported Attacks of Persons with Albinism ” showed 129 killings and 181 other attacks on people with Albinism within 23 African countries. The attacks listed included mutilation, violence, violation of graves, and asylum-seeking cases.
A report in 2022 shows that UN Human Rights and the expert mandate on Albinism have received reports of over 600 attacks against children and adults with Albinism.
It is expedient first to sensitize the public to do away with the myths that people with Albinism possess power for fame, power and wealth. Those involved in the attacks on this group of people and accomplices should be immediately prosecuted. Living in perpetual fear has become part of the daily life of persons with Albinism. These heinous attacks must stop.