The Flip Side Of ‘Death by Juju Poisoning’ Verdicts…from an untrained coroner’s notes.


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‘Juju’ (evil magic) poisoning is the most common unofficial cause of death in Nigeria. There are that many “untrained coroners verdicts”, that I can’t keep up anymore. I’m also guilty of voicing myopic views on causes of death, especially when it involves a loved one. Without autopsies, deaths are quickly attributed to juju (especially those that occur after the ingestion of foods and drinks). Although there are scientifically proven cases of deaths by poisoning, I can’t help but wonder about some innocent people, who have been punished for crimes they may not have committed.

Take the case of Nina, Njide and Amaka for example (all names changed)…

Nina and her 2 year old daughter Njide visited Amaka (Nina’s childhood friend). Amaka had cooked her signature peanut soup, which Nina loved. Amaka’s mum is from Ghana so her friends were always treated to tasty Ghanian dishes. Soon after eating the meal, Nina noticed that Njide’s lips were swollen. She was gasping for breath, and crouching on the floor holding her abdomen. Within minutes she was unconscious. Unfortunately, Njide died before she got medical help.

Untrained coroner’s verdict: Amaka poisoned Njide with juju. She was a murderer. She was jealous of Nina because she didn’t have children of her own. Amaka was nearly killed by Nina and her family. As far as they were concerned, she gave Njide juju to eat. Amaka is still ostracised till this day. Her husband has divorced her.

....and the case of Jude and his friends

Jude was 33 years old. He lived in Lagos with his wife and son. He was healthy and took pride in keeping fit. One evening, he went out with his friends to a bar. He ordered goat meat pepper soup. Whilst eating, he suddenly held his throat. He couldn’t speak, cough or breath. He looked like he was being strangled. He lost consciousness and was later pronounced dead in hospital.

Untrained coroner’s verdict : Jude died from juju poisoning. He was murdered by friends who were jealous of his recent promotion to a manager in the bank. Those friends had to move to other towns. Their wives and children are mocked and called murderers.

The flip side

Njide may have suffered Anaphylaxis, which is a severe allergic reaction. Her body’s immune system could have overreacted to the soup. Maybe she had an undiagnosed allergy to peanuts. Since peanut is listed as one of the common causes of anaphylaxis in children and adults; her eating Amaka’s peanut soup may have inadvertently killed her. Moreover her symptoms were classic signs of anaphylaxis. It was unfortunate that there were no emergency services available in that situation, because anaphylaxis is usually a medical emergency.

Conversely, it is possible that Jude choked to death. The meat may have blocked his airway, preventing him from breathing properly. When he choked, his airway may have been partly blocked, which I doubt because he could have cleared it by coughing. It was more likely to have been a severe blockage which prevented him from coughing or breathing. Since he didn’t have help to dislodge the meat, he lost consciousness. I look at Jude’s death with sadness because if his friends knew what to do, I’m almost certain they would have done more. When he lost consciousness, it was possible that his throat muscles relaxed. Administering rescue breaths and chest compressions at that time may have saved him.

Sometimes, lack of knowledge and confusion can lead to death. Choking and severe allergic reactions are some of the ignored causes of death in Nigeria, especially if it makes more sense to give a juju verdict. Please click on the following links for more information. Knowing much can save many. 

Read more about Anaphylaxis.