By Ene Asuquo
The Deputy Bureau Chief of Guardian Newspaper South South, Mr. Anietie Akpan has won an Award of Excellence from an international organisation, Safe Child Africa for his contributions to end Witchcraft Branding in Africa.
Akpan emerged overall winner from three selected across the south south zone through documentations of witchcraft branding reports by Safe Child Africa in partnership with Basic Right Initiative Counsel (BRIC).
Speaking on behalf of Safe Child Africa, at the presentation of the award on recently at the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) Press Centre in Calabar,the Principal Counsel of BRCI, Mr. James Ibor said, Akpan was selected by the organisations after a thorough debt review of stories from Cross River and Akwa Ibom, on witchcraft branding, came outstanding from the persons selected.
Ibor who urged other journalists to emulate and continue to push for end to witchcraft branding in Africa said Akpan’s good works and dedication to investing witchcraft branding in the past 35 years of practice earn him the award.
He said, “Without them (Safe Child Africa) there is no Basic Right Counsel Initiative and the good works recorded in Nigeria, the success stories, the documentations wouldn’t have been possible.
“They have been documenting cases on witchcraft branding used for publication and so they decided to do a review in Cross River and Akwa Ibom which three names were outstanding and unfortunately, they all came from Cross River state, that was Agba Jalingo of Crossriverwatch , Ike Uche of the Vanguard Newspaper and Anietie Akpan of the Guardian who emerged the winner.
“When we finished the review and the three names came up, the winner was very clear, it was a debt review because Stepping Stone Nigeria has been documenting stories, reports on witchcraft branding, reports that are gearing towards ending the practice of witch hunt and they considered the language, effect and follow-up of those stories, consistency, in fact, a lot of things were put into consideration, Akpan came the winner. He did not just come first, the gap was so wide and for somebody who was based in Cross River but will make reference to happenings in Akwa Ibom, it is highly commendable.
“No entries were called and he was not even aware because for every story that any of you write on witchcraft, it pups up in our system and theirs and it is downloaded and documented and that was what was used to do the debt review, so on behalf of the Board of Trustees of Safe Child Africa and Basic Right Counsel Initiative, that is their local partner, I want to congratulate Mr. Anietie Akpan for the Award of Excellent and to use this opportunity to encourage you not to discontinue to sustain what you are doing but to encourage your colleagues to continue to push the campaign to end witch hunt in Africa.” Ibor stated.
Speaking shortly after receiving the award, Akpan expressed his gratitude for the award saying he was shocked when the Ibor called to inform him of the award, stating that he was just doing a selfless job out of passion for humanity.
According to him, the award came as a surprise because he never entered into any competition. “I am extremely humbled for this award. In the first place, I was doing a selfless job; I was not prompted by anybody. As far back as the nineties, I used to investigate stories on witchcraft stigmatization, it was very common then, I was doing it out of love, out of passion and out of humanity to ensure that this wicked and dangerous practice is formally eliminated, I never expected any award. I was shocked when Comrade James Ibor called me and said, ‘you have an award’.”
While urging others to be selfless in carrying out their duty as journalists, he said, “Over thirty years I have been reporting on witchcraft practice, I have never been shocked like this before because I did not do any entry to win any award. One massage I have is that, whatever you are doing, be very consistent, be passionate and sacrifice. So I will encourage you all not to be discouraged because one day you will be recognized and be appreciated the way I have been recognized and appreciated today.” He expressed.
On his part, the Cross River Council Chairman of NUJ, Mr. Nsa Gill congratulated the award winner for his dedication and making the profession a proud one for the state union.
He also thanked Safe Child Africa and BRCI for encouraging journalists who showed commitment in carrying out their duties most especially in the fight against witchcraft branding.
He described the winner as a consistent and professional journalist who has shown interest in reporting child maltreatment, abandonment and witchcraft not only in Cross River but in the South South region.
“No one among the three nominated could have emerged as the winner other than Anietie Ben Akpan, because we all as a journalists known his area of concentration.
Oh behalf of the Nigeria Union of Journalists in Cross River , I salute the winner for this well-deserved award of Excellence.” He said.