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People with dementia are not witches, they need care and support


Author: Dr. Leo Igwe

Numbering: Issue 1.B, Idea: African Freethinking

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: African Freethinker

Web Domain:

Individual Publication Date: August 29, 2022

Issue Publication Date: TBD

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: TBD

Words: 590

Keywords: Advocacy for Alleged Witches, Ann Soberekon, Leo Igwe, mental health, Nigerians, Port Harcourt.

People with dementia are not witches, they need care and support[1],[2]

Dr. Leo Igwe is the Founder of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, the Founder & CEO of Advocacy for Alleged Witches, and the Convener of the Decade of Activism Against Witch Persecution in Africa: 2020-2030. 

The Advocacy for Alleged Witches (AfAW) has urged Nigerians to stop branding persons with dementia witches because this mental health issue has nothing to do with the superstitious belief in witchcraft and magic. This statement has become necessary following a visit to Ann Soberekon’s family in Port Harcourt Rivers state. Ann Soberekon, a grandmother and retired lab scientist, was almost lynched by a mob in Port Harcourt following an accusation of witchcraft in December last year. According to family sources, Ms. Soberekon has dementia and is receiving some treatment at a local hospital. In December, she went to visit a relative but forgot her way back to her residence. For two days, she was missing. Family members did not know if she was alive or dead. They were making contact with relatives to ascertain her whereabouts when a family member got a call that a mob was about to lynch her in some area in Port Harcourt; they suspected that she was a witch. The family quickly sent someone who rescued and brought her home. Ms. Soberekon was lucky. She survived. Many people with mental health challenges who are accused of witchcraft seldom survive. They are usually beaten to death or lynched.

Family members said that Ms. Soberekon had bruises all over her body. When Ann was unable to trace her way back home, she started roaming the streets. Some youths accosted her, stripped her naked, and started beating her with sticks, banana leaves, and stems; they pelted her with stones. According to Ann, one pastor Jeremiah requested some salt. The pastor claimed that if he administered the salt to Ann, she would die immediately. The salt was not administered. But a family member claimed that they gave her some concoction.

In a video that went viral on social media, Ann Soberekon could be seen lying naked on the ground and responding to queries from the mob. Someone described her as ‘a strong witch’; they asked her to provide a list of her fellow witches. They claimed that she was returning from a witch meeting when she crash-landed while flying over an electric pole. Ann mentioned Prof Konya as one of her colleagues but that mob regarded the names she mentioned as some of the members of her witch coven. The crowd misconstrued Ann’s replies and regarded her statements as witch confessions, not utterances by a mentally unstable person. What a shame!

Following her rescue and return, the Konya family asked Ann Soberekon’s family to tender an apology for mentioning her name. When Ms. Soberekon’s family was not forthcoming with the apology, the Konya family used the police to arrest a relative of Ann Soberekon and detained her at the Central police station in Port Harcourt. The police later released her after a day. The family of Ann Soberekon later tendered a public apology to the Konyas. The apology was published in a local newspaper.

AfAW condemns the ill treatment and persecution of Ann Soberekon and other persons with mental health challenges in the country. There is no link between dementia and witchcraft fears and anxieties. Mental health problems have no connection with occult forces or demonic possession as popularly believed. Attribution of dementia to witchcraft is rooted in irrational fear, misinterpretation and ignorance of the cause of disease. People who suffer from mental health issues are not witches or wizards and should not be attacked or killed. People with dementia and other mental health problems are patients with health conditions. They should be treated with love, care, and respect.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Founder, Humanist Association of Nigeria; Founder & CEO, Advocacy for Alleged Witches; Convener, Decade of Activism Against Witch Persecution in Africa: 2020-2030.

[2] Individual Publication Date: August 29, 2022:

Image Credit: Leo Igwe.

License and Copyright


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Pesent. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, In-Sight Publishing, and African Freethinker with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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