Nigerian Preacher Sues Atheist for $52 Million for Challenging Her Harmful Ideas
By Hemant Mehta
A preacher and self-styled “Lady Apostle” named Helen Ukpabio, who has been accused of promoting the idea that babies can be possessed by demons — allegedly leading her followers to torture babies — is suing one of her critics for tens of millions of dollars.
In 2009, she sued Nigerian atheist activist Leo Igwe after members of her organization, the Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries, attacked him during a conference he organized all about stopping child abuse connected with allegations of witchcraft. I repeat: She sued him… because her church’s members were arrested that day, which she took to be an infringement of her religious freedoms.
Igwe wrote about his recollections of that incident last year:
It was at this point that other church members descended on me including those who were seated, and whom I thought were participants. They punched me on my chest, head, and waist. They snatched my bag and broke my eyeglasses. Not too long after they made away with my bag and personal items, some police officers arrived, dispersed the crowd and arrested some persons.
Igwe held nothing back in his response at the time, in 2009:
Mr Igwe continues, ‘Helen and her church members want to evade arrest and prosecution by all means. Otherwise how could one explain the reason behind these frivolous allegations and trumped-up charges?’
‘She should be ready to pay damages to thousands of children who have been tortured, traumatized, abused and abandoned as a result of her misguided ministry. Helen should be ready to pay for the damage she has done to many homes and households across Nigeria through her witchcraft schemes and other fraudulent activities.’
A documentary in 2010 also noted that her teachings had led to the “torture or abandonment of thousands of Nigerian children — including infants and toddlers — suspected of being witches and warlocks.”
In 2014, she also sued the British Humanist Association (now Humanists UK) for half a billion pounds after they called for her to be banned from the country for being a threat to child welfare.
Her legal case against the BHA is based on Mrs Ukpabio’s stating that she wrote that a child ‘under the age of two’ who is ‘possessed with black, red and vampire witchcraft spirits’ can be identified by features such as s/he ‘screams at night, cries, is always feverish, suddenly deteriorates in health, puts up an attitude of fear, and may not feed very well.’ Her teachings are to the effect that babies under the age of two who exhibit signs of illness or standard, entirely normal childhood behaviour (such as crying, not feeding well, screaming at night, having a fever) may be possessed by vampire witchcraft spirits. She also teaches that children who stamp their feet may be ‘trying to make signs… to communicate with gnomes, the witchcraft spirit in charge of the earth.’ Ukpabio claims that the BHA misrepresented her by saying that she ascribed these symptoms to Satanic possession and hence has damaged her reputation and livelihood to the sum of half a billion pounds.
In other words, Ukpabio was saying that things babies do all the time were really symptoms of demonic possession, and such a diagnosis often put children in danger depending on the lengths their parents went to in order to exorcise those demons.
All of her lawsuits have been thrown out. They never get anywhere because they’re always frivolous; she’s nothing more than an angry Christian who can’t believe anyone would dare criticize her even though her methods have arguably led to child abuse.
She’s been off the radar since then, but now she’s back, and she hasn’t changed one bit.
Ukpabio’s lawyer sent a letter to Leo Igwe over the weekend alleging defamation based on an article critical of her methods… that doesn’t even have Igwe’s name attached to it. (Igwe tells me he did not write it.)
Either way, the article isn’t anything new; it just summarizes her history and urges Nigerians not to fall for her harmful claims.
The lawyer takes the worst possible interpretation of that and demands ALL THE MONEY.
Our client’s attention has been drawn to your recent Wikipedia published online on the various social media platforms such as Opera News, circulated all over the world. In that article which you published, you alleged amongst others that our client is a self-styled witch hunter. By that you meant and were understood to mean that our client is a witch hunter, killing several children.
Consequently, our client’s businesses namely: the film production shops, the book shops etc have all witnessed a drastically low patronage, resulting in an inevitable loss of huge revenue and membership of her congregation.
Ukpabio demands a retraction, an apology, and “Twenty Billion Naira” — which comes out to nearly $52 million in U.S. dollars.
Hard to imagine she’ll have any success here. It’s a threat. Nothing more. Igwe denies having anything to do with it, and the statements in the piece are based on her own comments and public information — hardly the stuff of successful defamation claims.
Still, the fact that she sues her critics rather than engage their arguments shows you there’s something to their concerns. She doesn’t have any defense. All she can do is try and silence her critics, hoping her followers never hear what they have to say.
(Screenshot via YouTube)