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Trafficking trial girls' ritual claims typical of Nigerian belief in magic, expert tells trial

Canterbury Crown Court
Canterbury Crown Court

The jury at a trial of a man accused of using witchcraft to traffic children into the UK has been given a lesson in juju magic.

Former security guard Osezua Elvis Osolase, 42, is alleged to have used religious rituals to try to force the girls from Nigeria into prostitution in Europe.

Osolase, 42, of Beaumont Drive, Gravesend, has denied 13 offences of trafficking, rape, false imprisonment and sexual activity with a child.

Now anthropologist Dr Hermoni Harris has told a jury at Canterbury Crown Court about how many people in Nigeria believe in magic powers.

Dr Harris, an expert in Nigerian religions, said the concept of gods and deities in the African country was universal in its south central states.

"There is a concept of a high god," she said. "Individual ethnic groups will have slightly different names. Under the high god there are lesser gods, like the god of iron, god of water or the goddess of whatever; a whole range of gods and goddesses which vary from region to region. Under them are spirits."

She told the jury one of the gods many believed was associated with the taking of oaths was Ogou or Ogua – the god of metal and warfare.

The jury has heard from one of the alleged victims that she was made to swear an oath in Nigeria not to reveal who was bringing her to the UK – while Osolase – who she knew as 'Uncle' - tapped a metal stick during the ritual.

Dr Harris added: "Oaths are taken in his name because he is thought to be an angry god and if you break your oath then you are certainly in trouble. He is an important god."

The three girls - now aged 15, 17 and 18 - claim they were either made to undergo juju rituals - involving taking away underwear, nail cuttings, and cuttings of pubic and body hair, having the skin cut and blood taken - or made to swear an oath.

"blood is taken because it is thought to contain the essence of the person's individual power…” – dr hermoni harris

The expert said: "The rituals these girls describe are very typical. Blood is taken because it is thought to contain the essence of the person's individual power.

“By taking someone's blood you hold and control somebody's very essence and their power," she added.

Dr Harris added by taking someone's hair and pubic hair, the belief is the person then controls the mind and the sexuality.

She added: "To understand witchcraft and juju you have to see how these people look at and understand the world. On their own they would appear just superstitions but throughout most of Africa there is a belief underpinning their religions which is there is a visible world and an invisible world."

She said many believe magic and religion were "parts of the same continuum" and power came from objects.

"With juju magic, objects or creatures are invested with power through incantation or ritual. Witchcraft is someone has a power which can affect people for ill or for good. Spiritual power is neither good nor bad in itself but can be used for either.

"Juju, or what we call magic, is when objects or creatures are invested with power."

The trial continues.

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