Nigerian humanist, Leo Igwe, facing the threat of spurious charges

  • post Type / Action Alert - Live
  • Date / 14 July 2020

Moves by notorious witch-hunter Helen Ukpabio to once again pursue Nigerian humanist, Leo Igwe, through the courts for alleged ‘defamation’ should be seen as they are – a clear attempt to stifle legitimate criticism – and be dismissed, Humanists International said today.

Leo Igwe, Chairman of Humanist Association of Nigeria and Founder of AfAW (Advocacy for Alleged Witches)

Leo Igwe stated:

“Helen Ukpabio’s witch hunting activities are well known locally and internationally. They are well documented in both popular and academic literature. Instead of demanding compensation and apology from me, Ukpabio should rather compensate, make restitution and apologize for her infamous, despicable witchcraft exorcizing activities.”

Leo Igwe is the Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Humanist Association of Nigeria and a renowned activist against witchcraft-related persecutions who has faced harassment, attack and prosecution for his advocacy against harmful superstitious practices.

On 11 July 2020, Igwe received a letter from lawyers acting on behalf of Helen Ukpabio. In the letter, Igwe is accused of making statements prejudicial to Ms Ukpabio, which have impacted her social and economic standing.  The lawyers give Igwe 14 days to retract all articles deemed defamatory, publish an apology in all outlets in which his writings have been published and pay 20,000,000,000 Naira (approx. US$ 52.7 million) in compensation. There is no evidence to connect Igwe to the offending articles listed in the letter and Igwe denies any connection to them.

Andrew Copson, President of Humanists International

Andrew Copson, President of Humanists International, said:

“Helen Ukpabio is once again harassing our respected colleague, Leo Igwe. It is clear that Mr Igwe did not write the ‘offending’ articles. Once before, the courts have recognised that her grounds for pursuing damages against Mr Igwe are nonexistent and we have no doubt that they will do so again.”

Ukpabio is a Christian fundamentalist and a Biblical literalist, who founded the Liberty Gospel Church to fulfill her ‘anointed mission’ of delivering people from witchcraft attack. Ukpabio organizes deliverance sessions where she identifies and exorcizes people, mainly children, of witchcraft. Headquartered in Calabar in Southern Nigeria, the Liberty Gospel Church has grown to be a witch hunting church with branches in Nigeria and overseas. 

In 2009, an estimated 200 of Ukpabio’s followers stormed a seminar on witchcraft and the rights of the child at which Igwe was due to speak. After the police intervened, Ukpabio filed a petition against Igwe and others claiming 200 billion naira ($.1.3 million dollars) in damages for allegedly violating her fundamental right to believe in witchcraft. The court dismissed the petition in December 2010.

In 2014, she brought a libel case against member organisation Humanists UK and the Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network (WHRIN) for £500 million. The case coincided with the decision of the UK Home Office to reject her visa application on child protection grounds. 

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