Some days ago, a Facebook contact drew my attention to a case of witch-hunting in Mokwa, in Central Nigeria. Mokwa is one of the 25 local governments in Niger State. Video clips of this disgusting incident have been circulating on social media. After reading one of the posts, I asked for details of the incident. But I did not get any reply. I searched for some information online but only saw an academic article, On the Articulation of Witchcraft and Modes of Production among the Nupe, Northern Nigeria by Dirk Kohnert. Kohnert argues that accusations of witchcraft are linked to the dynamics of production among the Nupe. Rich peasants and traders are suspected of witchcraft because they accumulate their wealth without fulfilling their traditional obligations to the poor. This piece only provided some academic insight into Nupe witchcraft. However, the tension and strain that underlie witchcraft allegations find ventilating channels in the activities of self-acclaimed exorcists and healers as in this case.
On August 1, 2020, I searched online for any report on the witchcraft exorcism in Mokwa. Lo and Behold, a link to a post on Naijaworld, The Despicable Acts Happening In Mokwa, Niger State, popped up. The post summarizes the shameful theatrics and atrocities. I shuddered at images of humiliation, torture, and abuse including a revulsive scene where a person, an alleged witch, was forced to urinate into the mouth of another human being. This piece on Naijaworld does not have full details of the author. The page only has a twitter [email protected]
The post reads like a lamentation from a helpless fellow from Mokwa: “I have about four horrible videos that were sent to me. Of women whose clothes were removed and made to fight each other. Some men were completely stripped naked too and made to throw sand in each other’s eye, one of them was forced to urinate in another man’s mouth and made to gulp the urine. All these people are accused of witchcraft by a guy that I suspect is mentally deranged. His name is Hassan, allegedly from Patigi, Kwara state. Another one is a naked man that was paraded and violated to confess and mention the people he has killed with witchcraft. There is another old woman who should be about 80 years old that was beaten and a stun gun was used to deliver electric shock on her to confess that she is a witch. These are some of the despicable things happening in my home town right now. I have taken screenshots from the videos and attached here”.
The text further explains the dubious faith healing claims that Hassan had made:
“The guy claims he cures people miraculously. If you are hypertensive, paralyzed, blind, or suffer from other eye-related diseases, have diabetes, or any kind of disease, he would cure it. The paralyzed ones would walk. The deaf and dumb would be made to hear and talk. Couples who have been unable to conceive would conceive even without having sex, and my people have fallen deeply for this scam. I have been personally involved in sending people to interview those he claimed were healed, and none is true. He even instructs some people to stop taking their medications if they want his miracles to work.”
The author of the post noted that thousands of persons gathered for Hassan’s healing and witch-hunting exercise at a time that the government was trying to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
At the end of the post, there was an appeal for help: “I call on all human right organizations and activists to intervene for my people who have fallen victim to this inhuman and deplorable act of violence against innocent people by Hassan and his enablers. I call on Niger State Government to intervene and arrest the ugly situation and ensure that Hassan and his enablers face the full wrath of the law”.
I rang up the police public relations officer in Niger state. He told me that he saw the video of the witch-hunting exercise, the way that I did. He asked me to call back the following week for more details. But I could not wait because from what I read on social media, the situation was urgent. I called the Commissioner of Police several times but he did not pick the call. I searched online for the contact of any institution, school, or NGO in Mokwa. After several attempts, I came across the contact of a study centre in Mokwa.
I called the number, and the person kindly directed me to the chairperson of the Mokwa Forum, Musa Yesufu. The chairman of Mokwa Forum confirmed the authenticity of the video circulating on social media. He noted that some well-meaning person from Mokwa posted the video to draw the attention of the world to the abominable activities going on in Mokwa. He noted that attempts have been made to stop these abuses but the traditional ruler has frustrated the efforts. According to Mr. Yesufu, over a month ago, one Hassan Patigi emerged claiming to be a healer and to have the power to make infertile women pregnant. He also claimed to have the power to expose witches and exorcise witchcraft. Thousands of people used to convene at a public square at the Etisheshi area in Mokwa as Hassan Patigi engaged in his ‘healing’ and witchcraft exorcism. He had some quack medical officers who conducted tests for women who claim to have become pregnant as a result of his ministration. Some people in the community reported the case to the director of primary health care who tried stopping the quack medical officers without success. The traditional ruler took Patigi and quacks to his premises where they continued to conduct pregnancy tests. The chair of Mokwa Forum further recounted that someone sent the video to the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in Mokwa, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor of Niger state, the Human Rights Commission in Abuja, the Police Headquarters, the state security service and the Chairman of Mokwa Local Government Area. A meeting was convened and the DPO asked Hassan Patigi if he had official permission from Abuja to do what he was doing during the COVID19 period. And he replied in the negative. However, the traditional ruler stood up and defended him, noting that Hassan Patigi was his guest; that he was in Mokwa to heal sick people. Mr. Yesufu made it clear that the support from the Ndalile of Mokwa, as the traditional ruler of the area is called, made it difficult for those at the meeting to sanction Hassan Patigi. So Hassan continued his healing and witch finding activities at the compound of the traditional ruler. I asked the chairman of the Mokwa Forum to send me the video clips, and he did.
In the first video, Hassan Patigi was speaking from a podium before a crowd of people. The alleged witches were standing half-naked or completely naked. Patigi was speaking Nupe language and urging the people to come and see the disgraced witches; that the accused persons have been disgraced because they were witches. He further declared that Prophet Muhammad was guiding him to expose and disgrace the witches in the community. That all the accused persons were a shame to their families. In the second video, Hassan Patigi ordered the alleged witches to go and fight each other. Members of the local vigilante group were at the scene. A local source said that some military and police officers were there. Patigi’s thugs could be seen beating the alleged witches with whips and sticks and urging them to fight each other. Any of them who refused to fight was beaten and pushed to the front of the crowd. Hassan is up at the podium wearing a jersey and throwing sachets of pure water at the alleged witches. At a point, Hassan ordered two of the alleged witches to urinate on each other:
His thugs were beating the accused urging them to urinate on each other. And the two men took turns to urinate on each other.
In another video, Hassan Patigi orders two of the alleged witches to remove their trousers, and he ordered his thugs to beat them so that they could confess to witchcraft. He urged them to confess to killing their relatives. And when they refused to confess, his thugs would beat them. Patigi asked one of them if he was not the one who killed his brother, and he denied. And he insisted that he must confess to doing so. The alleged witch was quiet, and his thugs started slapping and urging him to confess. Hassan was up on the podium singing, and he asked the alleged witches to be dancing around naked, and he was throwing sachets of pure water on them so that they could confess. At a point, the two accused males tried to use their hands to cover their private parts, and his thugs were beating and ordering them not to cover their private organs. According to my informant, Patigi claimed that the sachet water that he was throwing at the alleged witches had healing powers. At the beginning of each day, he prays over sachets of pure, and his assistants would give the healing water to all sick persons including the blind, lame, and deaf. Two other videos captured scenes of witchcraft exorcism at the palace of the traditional ruler of Mokwa, Hassan Patigi accused a woman of witchcraft and the accused, sitting on the ground, could be heard shouting that she was not a witch. At some point, Patigi’s thugs started beating and coercing her to confess to witchcraft.”
I have never heard about Hassan Patigi. I searched online for information about this faith healer. I saw a link to a YouTube video showing him being ushered into an arena. Journalists from Tswangi Television went to interview him. In the video, Hassan said that anytime he pointed to any sick person, the blind, deaf and dumb and the lame, the person would recover. A man came forward and testified that his son had been sick for the past 8 years but as soon as Hassan Patigi prayed for him, he regained his health. A woman said that she could not stand for years, but did so after Hassan prayed for her. The Facebook page of Tswangi Television contains posts and videos on the ‘healing’ activities of Patigi. One of them reveals that Muhammad Hassan Patigi has two wives and a son, and used to have mental issues. At some point, he disappeared from his village and then emerged in Mokwa, where he is “performing miracles in God’s name by healing the cripple, deaf, dumb, blind, etc., and it’s also said that he helps those with infertility to conceive”. The post further notes that there is divided opinion on the validity and credibility of his healing claims, “Some people believe he is not doing real healing but deceiving people, some say he associates with djinns while some say he is doing real healing and that all he does is to pray”. Others have offered suggestions on why people are convening in huge numbers for Patigi’s miracle performances. One of the users said the best way to address this issue, if you want people to stop going to this guy is to fix the hospitals and make them accessible to the masses. Nothing is working in this country and that’s why people indulge in anything that comes their way. You can’t stop people when the government has refused to do their path. If our hospitals were equipped today and people with different illnesses go there and get treated at affordable costs, tell me who will patronize all these people again”. Using the telephone number on its Facebook page, I contacted the director of Tswangi Television to find out his thoughts about Hassan Patigi’s activities. He made it clear that some people in Mokwa believed that he was a healer while others thought he was a fraud. He further stated: “We are in Africa, in Nigeria, and in Nupeland, people are very superstitious. Many have problems that defy solutions, and so they go to anybody who promises to help or heal them”.
As I was compiling this report, a local source sent me a Facebook post where people commented on photos where Hassan Patigi was kissing some women. Somebody commented describing Muhammad Hassan Patigi as a fraudster, an MMM, and ‘419’.
The Advocacy for Alleged Witches calls for an immediate end to Muhammad Hassan Patigi’s witchcraft exorcism and fake healing sessions in Mokwa. What has been going on in Niger state is a national disgrace and a demonstration of social and moral decay. It is disappointing to know that there were some state security officers at the scenes of such disgusting, barbaric, and obscene activities. Hassan Patigi is a charlatan parading himself as a healer. He is said to have a history of mental illness. And from all indications, Patigi needs to see a psychiatric doctor or be compelled to undergo some medical examination. AFAW calls for the arrest and prosecution of Muhammad Hassan Patigi, his quack medical/miracle accomplices, and all those involved in the beating and maltreating alleged witches in Mokwa. The police should ensure that Patigi and his thugs do not conduct any more witch finding and healing exercise anywhere in the region. The government of Niger state should sanction the traditional ruler of Mokwa, Ndalile Mokwa, who has been the enabler of these shameful and deplorable activities. There are unconfirmed reports that the mob killed some of the accused women. AFAW is working with its local contacts to authenticate the report and help rehabilitate victims.