There is hardly any street in Calabar, Cross River State capital without a church where gospel messages and prayers spew forth regularly, yet fetish and diabolical activities are pervasive and have strong influence on a large size of the population.
The average resident of the ancient city is familiar with strange occurrences which in other places are dismissed with the wave of the hand. For instance, domestic pets like cats, which are cherished by their owners for their beauty and friendly nature, are believed to possess diabolical powers to attack at will in Calabar. The sluggish creature, tortoise, is seen a harbinger of evil messages while the vulture, a bird of prey, is regularly sent on evil errands. Insects like the millipede are manipulated to settle scores.
For example, a few weeks back, the city witnessed the bizarre sight of a tortoise adorned with fresh leaves on its back at about midday, moving on the middle of the popular Eta Agbo Road with a 'letter' in its mouth and heading towards the Eta Agbo Layout, a highbrow residential area, "to deliver an evil missive".
The tortoise saw both pedestrians and motorists deferring to it and giving it right of way. It took some bold young men to haul stones at the tortoise to stop it on its track.
Some months back, some cats allegedly congregated in a house in the middle of the night to mew the name of a tenant who refused to relocate after the landlord had issued quit notice to her and her husband. "It happened in Abang Asang Street Akim, where a lady used a razor blade to cut the body of their house help for stealing meat from the soup pot.
This did not go down well with the landlord who issued a quit notice to the lady and the husband. But they refused to heed the man's orders, prompting him to send the cats to them at midnight and everyone in Calabar knows that cats are witchcraft agents that can kill with ease", a resident of the area, Madam Akong, told Sunday Vanguard.
In August last year, which was the peak of the rainy season, residents of 4b Edim Otop Close, Calabar were said to have woken up one morning to behold a giant sized vulture, standing in the centre of the compound with a letter in its mouth believed to have been sent to one of the tenants.
A tenant in the compound, Miss Janet Obongette, told Sunday Vanguard, at that time, that Anietie, a co-tenant had been involved in a local thrift called Ususu with friends. "One taxi driver and Etete who reside some streets away were engaged in Ususu with Anietie but Anietie did not keep his own side of the deal as he refused to pay others after he had collected their money. That may be the reason they sent him the message of death which the vulture brought this morning", she said.
According to the lady, the three friends agreed to contribute N50, 000 each quarter amounting to N150, 000 which was to be handed over to each of them in turns in order to boost their businesses. The taxi driver collected first and Anietie collected second. June was to be the turn of Etete but he was not given the money even after the taxi man had handed his share to Anitie to add his and give to Etete.
"Anietie told Etete that he had a patient in hospital and had to spend part of the money to settle the bill and gave Etete N60, 000 instead of N100, 000. Etete rejected the money and insisted on nothing but the complete sum. And when the complete sum was not forthcoming after several requests, the last resort was to send the vulture and Anietie had to respond fast", she added.
In another incident, one Margaret Asuquo allegedly had her apartment invaded by thousands of millipedes when she could not return the N1.8 million alleged bride price paid on her by her estranged husband. The embattled man invoked the services of millipedes which formed a big heap in the parlour of the woman's house and emitted a stench, prompting her to flee the apartment.
A source, Pastor Linus Saviour of Assemblies of God church, the Ekpene Obio Street district where the woman worshipped, said the husband, simply identified as Mike, threatened her ex that if she failed to return the money, she was going to see what would happen to her, and after a few days, millipedes invaded her home.
"I have told her to return to her home and that we would pour chemicals and kill the millipedes but she is too afraid to listen to me," the pastor said.
In yet another bizarre incident, for failure to pay two years rent, and refusing to pack out, a tenant in Calabar recently woke up in the middle of the night to behold a vulture in his room.
Mr Joe Bassey, who resides on IBB Way, Calabar and was engaged in a running battle with his landlady, following his inability to pay his rent for two years amounting to N80, 000, could not sleep again that night nor did he spend another night in the house.
The caretaker said he had been visiting the man virtually every day to demand for the rent but "each time I come here, he is either hiding somewhere or the wife would be intimidating and harassing me by asking if they were the only debtors on earth, as if that was the way to pay one's rent".
Another source in the compound said Joe, who was always bragging that the landlady would do nothing, fled the house along with his wife and son in the night, leaving behind the vulture. "He was always bragging, telling anyone who cared to listen that he is from Akwa Ibom State and that the woman could not do him anything. Now he has run away. Why did he not wait? Maybe the next time, it would be death angel that would visit him," the co-tenant said
An elder in the city Offiong Edem told Sunday Vanguard that such fetish practices were common in the olden days when there were no security agencies like the police or even the courts where one could seek justice or redress.
"But these days people still indulge in those fetish acts which are very potent because of frustration with the police and courts because when you report a matter to them, what you get is 'come today, come tomorrow' and this makes people wary of the police and the courts, thus making people to resort to such traditional justice methods".
He said other traditional justice systems people resort to in Calabar are Mbaim, and Ekpe Itaiba where a ghost can be sent to attack enemies. "The ghost would not be seen by the person it is about to attack until a slap lands on the face of the person and such person would always die within a few days", Edem stated.