Inside Niger’s miracle centre where ‘witches’ are stripped naked
*Self-styled prophet subjects residents accused of witchcraft to inhuman treatment
*His actions pure abuse of human rights — Activist
*LG chair reveals plans to banish him from domain
*Rights abuse allegations not true, says Aide
Videos of gross abuse of human rights in a so-called miracle centre in Mokwa, Niger State have been trending on social media in the past two months. They include those of men and women stripped naked after they were accused of witchcraft. Bizarre scenes in the videos include women being forced to confess their alleged evil deeds at gunpoint and men being forced to urinate on one another.
The opening scene in one of the videos features two men fighting naked while a singer described as the healer Mallam sings for them. The two men engage each other in a fight until they became tired, after which they were made to confess their sins. In one of the confessions, someone is seen in the background slapping the confessor until he admitted to being a wizard. The other man who “refused to confess completely” was given another opponent to continue fighting with.
The two men who were fighting in the opening scene and gave their names as Danjuma and Mohammed are also made to dance naked while the self styled healer Mallam throws sachets of ‘pure water’ at them.
Another scene features two women who within seconds were stripped naked while every attempt they made to cover their unclothedness in front of a mammoth crowd was rebuffed. Even the one of the naked women who tried to cover her face was prevented from doing so as she was forced to remove the hands she masked her face with.
Another scenario saw an old woman being tortured with a stun gun to confess that she is a witch. The woman, who looks like one in her 80s, is seen being stunned in the back to force her to confess that she is a witch.
The foregoing are only a tip of the violation of human rights being perpetrated by Hassan Muhammad Nnafene Patigi who claims to be a prophet with ability to heal all kinds of diseases, including stroke, leprosy, blindness, deafness and dumbness, as well as provide remedies for infertility, kleptomania and stillbirth, among others.
It was gathered that Patigi first arrived in Mokwa with claims that he could heal all kinds of illnesses and make barren women productive; a claim that endeared him to many of the town’s residents. This, The Nation learnt, he did for some time before he veered into branding people as witches, stripping them naked, and compelling them to admit that they are witches.
Patigi is then said to make the accused persons undergo all manner of obnoxious treatments like asking people to urinate in their mouths, stoning them with sachet water and causing them to fight themselves naked in public.
Patigi is also accused of asking those who are searching for the fruits of the womb to bring the sum of N11,000 and make them to count the money repeatedly until they are exhausted. The women are then made to hold hands with their husbands for hours before they give the money to Patigi who would pray on it and ask them to come back to collect the money after some days.
Those who give birth to stillborns or witness premature births are made to count charcoals until they are exhausted while those in need of spouses are made to count stones until they are fagged out.
Mokwa residents no longer at ease with him
The foregoing deeds of Patigi were said to have been tolerated by Mokwa residents until he began to brand people as witches and wizards, on account of which many began to suspect his credentials as the Mallam or Sheikh he claimed to be.
Some Mokwa residents who spoke with our correspondent said they were no longer comfortable with Patigi’s style, especially his use for vulgar languages and how he seems to always single out women to torture and taunt them.
One of the residents, who identified himself as Kasim Umar, said that the self styled prophet had tortured a lot of people in his presence as one of those who go to watch them tortured or humiliated until it dawned to him that what the ‘prophet’ was doing was not right.
Umar said: “Hassan (Patigi) tortures old women, married women, young girls and men accused of witchcraft with shocking gadgets. He hauls sachet water at them when they refuse to say what he wants to hear.
“He asks some of his boys to beat them with sticks and even strip them naked. When he does some of these things, people think it is funny, so they laugh at the victims.”
A woman who gave her name as Saida believes that it is wrong for Patigi to force people to confess to practising witchcraft, saying that she no longer goes to the arena to watch the shows.
She said: “Everything he is doing or has done is not Islamic. Hassan would ask music to be played by his DJs. How can someone who calls himself a prophet go about with DJs? Sometimes, he would ask that a beat be played without lyrics and he would sing to it. It is not Islamic at all.
“When the music is played, he goes around dancing and those who are apparently hypnotised are pushed outside and made to undertake shameful acts. I wonder how people that are made to do undergo these would live with other members of their community without being taunted or embarrassed.”
Uthman Mokwa, one of the cameramen engaged to cover his activities, has had to pull out when the scenes were becoming too obscene. Mokwa, who said he was never Patigi’s supporter, said he withdrew his services because he could no longer bear the sights that confronted him on a daily basis.
Explaining Patigi’s mode of operation, Mokwa said: “Whenever he claims to be doing healings, he would point towards the gullible miracle seekers and turn in a circle while standing on a table. Sometimes, he claims to be using his eye contact to heal people.
“After doing it for about five minutes, he would ask those who had been healed to come out for testimonies. His boys will then give such people the microphone to tell the crowd how they were feeling before and how they are feeling now.
“If any of them says he or she did not feel better, he would chase them out of the line and ask me to delete that part from my camera.
“My major problems with him are, first, the torturing of people accused of witchcraft. I was moved to tears seeing the way an old woman who said she was not a witch tortured and asked to confess. Hassan (Patigi) stood by, watching her being tortured. As young as I am, under that condition of torture and helplessness, I would confess to anything.
“My second problem is the way he strips people naked. These people are human beings and it is wrong.”
Prophet or law breaker?
Dawod Usman, a journalist who also trained as a lawyer, said that everyone has his or her own perspective about the controversial mallam, adding that his condemnation is based on the weight of one’s justifications.
Speaking about the legal implications of Patigi’s activities, Usman said that what is happening at the miracle centre is nothing but a “a massacre of human dignity, considering the that human dignity is a central objective and normative value system established by the Constitution, which is also epicenter to the preamble of Universal Declaration of Human Right 1946.”
He stressed that the human rights basically means that every Nigerian has a right not to be subjected to torture or inhuman/degrading treatment, and no Nigerian should be held in circumstances that amount to slavery or servitude.
He said: The Northern Nigeria penal system where Hassan Patigi is staging witchcraft “exorcism” expressly provides in Section 216 (a) of the Penal Code law of Northern Nigeria that: ‘whoever by his statement or actions represents himself to be a witch or to have the power of witchcraft, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to two years or with fine or with both. By virtue of the above provisions, witchcraft is a punishable offence in the Northern Nigeria penal system.
“However, Hassan Patigi is not recognised by any law as a judicature or judgeship to administer such law whatsoever. And it implies that any pronouncement made by Hassan on any person whatsoever is inconsistent with any provisions of the law, and to the level of that inconsistency is null and void.
“Any Magistrate court, Area court or Upper Area Court in the northern part of Nigeria, including the Federal Capital Territory, is a proper venue for commencing an action against a witch in that the penal code is applicable only in this region as opposed to the Southern, Western and Eastern part of Nigeria where criminal code is in operation.
“Hassan Patigi Miracle Centre Mokwa is therefore a non-jurisdictional place to entertain and administer justice on any offences of any ruling whatsoever. Just like any other criminal action in the northern part of Nigeria, an action against a witch can be instituted by: First Information Report or Direct Criminal Complaint. The second mode is applicable in other northern parts of Nigeria except the FCT).
“It is worthy of note that stripping an alleged witch naked before a large crowd of spectators is not only diabolical by the civility of all the international and domiciliary law put together against the violation of human rights and dignity of the human person, it is socially deplorable, societally condemnable, logically despicable, humanly intolerable and legally actionable.
“Among all the laws that regulate humanity and human transaction, the law that upholds human dignity is “sui generis” that is classical in its own kind. Therefore, every human being needs to enjoy decency of living devoid of any modicum of deprivations except one occasioned by the instrumentality and supremacy of the law.”
We told Patigi he’s acting against the rule of law – LG chair
No longer comfortable with Patigi’s activities and the way he conducts his services, the Mokwa Local Government Council may ask him to leave the council to somewhere else. Our correspondent gathered that he has already been invited to the council secretariat several times for issues bordering on his conduct.
The Chairman of Mokwa Local Government Area told The Nation that what Patigi is doing is clearly against the rules of the government, especially the gathering of large crowds, which he said is against the preventive measures taken by the government against COVID-19.
He said that several letters had been written to the Mallam and the District Head of the community where he carries out his activities and they had been invited for a meeting.
“When he came, he said he was giving help to the people. We have no problem with that, especially if people need help. But now, with the complaints we have received, he is going beyond the stipulated rules and we won’t accept it.
“We are doing our best to see that the rights of our people are intact. We will not fight him, we will only dialogue with him, and if he refuses to change his ways, we will allow the law to take its course. If he wants to practice, it has to be within the rules and regulations of the state and the confines of human rights.
“We have sent a letter to him and we have invited him to come for a meeting. I will let you know the outcome of the meeting when it is held.”
We’ve not delved into the matter yet – Emirate
The Secretary of the Emir of Bida and the Etsu Nupe, Abdulmalik Usman, told The Nation that the palace was yet to delve into the matter, although several complaints about the activities of Mallam Patigi have got to the palace.
Usman debunked insinuations that the palace invited Hassan to warn him about his activities, stating that the only time Hassan came to the palace, he came to pay homage to the Etsu Nupe.
He said: “The palace has not invited Hassan (Patigi), but several complaints have been received about him.
“There was a time he came to Bida and paid a courtesy call to the Etsu Nupe in the palace. Because of the busy schedule of the Emir, he couldn’t see him in good time. He waited, and after some time, he saw His Royal Highness, greeted him and he left.
“There are lots of complaints about his activities and people say there are videos flying around, but I haven’t seen the videos yet. They said he strips women naked, I have only been hearing these but I haven’t seen any video yet.” The Palace Secretary said the Emirate might not invite him because he is not from the Emirate.
“If the Etsu Nupe wants to call him to order, he will send to the Emir of the place of where he comes from and tell his Emir to call him to order,” he said.
It is purely traditional matter, says DG, Religious Affairs
The Director General of Religious Affairs in Niger State, Dr. Faruk Abdullahi, told The Nation when he was contacted regarding his agency’s stand on the issue, that the issue is purely traditional and not religious.
“From the position of my agency, what we see here is a traditional issue and not a religious issue. My agency deals with religious issues and not traditional issues,” he said.
He also confirmed that he had been getting a lot of calls regarding the issue, wondering why people were calling him instead of the security agencies or the government.
“I wonder why people keep calling me. What is happening in Mokwa is not within our jurisdiction and for that (reason), we cannot delve into it.”
Allegations of human rights abuse not true — Patigi’s aide
Our correspondent made frantic efforts to get Patigi to speak about his activities and the various allegations leveled against him, and to ask if he knows that his activities were a violation of human rights, but the efforts yielded no result.
After repeated efforts made to have an audience with him, one of his aides assured that the reporter would be able to meet Patigi on October 1. Unfortunately, it rained heavily on that day before the reporter could depart Minna for Mokwa, rendering the Minna-Bida and MInna-Zugeru-Bida roads impassable. The reporter was forced to disembark after sitting in the vehicle for more than three hours.
Reaching out again to the aide identified by Truecaller as Mohammed Mokwa, he said that he was not in a position to speak on the matter. He, however, said the allegations against Patigi were not true.
The Reporter asked to speak to Patigi on the phone, and she was asked to call back later. When she eventually did, she was told that the Patigi would only speak with her physically. The reporter’s explanation about the conditions of the road from Minna to Mokwa did nothing to change Mokwa’s stance as he insisted that that Patigi would only speak with her physically.