In the last few weeks, no fewer than 1500 persons have been rescued by the Nigeria Police from illegal rehabilitation centres in various parts of the country. Significantly, these illegal rehabilitation centres operate as religious homes and parents and guardians send their children and wards to these homes for spiritual impartations and healing. Findings and confessions from persons rescued from these rehabilitation centres sound unbelievable, yet real.
Recently the Oyo state government uncovered an Islamic rehabilitation centre located in Ibadan and freed about 259 people. The report shows a group of mostly young men and teenage boys who were looking terribly emaciated, made up of 191 males, 34 females, 11 children, and 23 sick persons.
A freed captive ,Olalekan Ayoola said that,
“we ate one meal a day and the food was not fit for a dog to eat,oftentimes led to the death of some people”
The crackdown on an informal Islamic school and rehabilitation centre sometime in September after a man who was denied access to see his nephews at one of the islamic schools reported to the police had revealed that many captives have been physically and sexually abused and kept in chains to avoid escaping.
However, the Oyo state police spokesperson ,Fadeyi Olugbenga said that the owner of the centre, including nine people had been arrested and were under investigation.
Nigeria Police have so far discovered and rescued nearly 1,500 persons from these institutions since September this year.
‘PRAYER HOUSE OF HORROR’
Nigeria Police in their major raid operations uncovered prayer houses . Mostly, these institutions exist in the Northern part of the country where Islamic schools known as Almajiris are operated. However, these institutions have been accused of engaging in some forms of abuse and sometimes children have been forced to beg on the streets.
In the Almajiri institutions, some parents assume that their children were being schooled while others send their deviant teenage children or relatives hoping that discipline would be instilled .
In a statement released by the Presidency, “No responsible democratic government would tolerate the existence of the torture chambers and physical abuses of inmates in the name of rehabilitation of the victims.”
The Kaduna state police raided another islamic rehabilitation centre called Mallam Niga’s Rehabilitation centre in the Rigasa area and rescued nearly 500 victims including children in an appealing condition.
Another one was found in Daura , the home town of President Buhari in Katsina state.
It was reported that parents willingly send their wayward children who committed petty crimes and young men who were struggling with drug or substance addiction. However, it was revealed that the place was more of a torture house contrary to what has been portrayed .
The centre consisted of two main buildings, one clean and well-built where children were taught the Koran. And, across the road was the centre’s accommodation – a run-down single-storey compound, made up of five or six dark cells with barred windows and doors around a courtyard.
A former detainee at the centre, Rabiu Nafiu said that upto 40 persons were accommodated in a room sized of 75-sq-ft cell , making the air stuffy because they were jam-packed and also were forced to defecate and urinate in their chains. oftentimes they were taken out for beatings or raped by the attendants.
An eye witness Umaru Yahaya reported that these so-called rehabilitation centres were common in the North, while growing up in Kano in the 1980s and 1990s.
“People believe that these schools have the spiritual power to heal. They don’t mind how much the children are dehumanised, or how they’re treated, as long as their child receives a Koranic education and is rehabilitated,” he said.
However, last year a BBC investigation exposed horrifying conditions in a state centre in Kano, where patients with mental health issues were chained to the ground.
GOVERNMENT AND PARENTS TO RISE UP TO THEIR RESPONSIBILITIES
The negligence on the part of the government to enact agencies that regulate reformatory homes otherwise called rehabilitation centres have so far resulted in the horrifying experiences in such facilities across the country, especially in the northern region.
Dr. Maikano Madaki ,who is the Deputy director Training at the Centre for Gender Studies , Bayero University ,Kano insisted that the government should be held responsible for a failed social justice system.
He added that the traditional rehabilitation homes in the north were rooted in religious ,cultural and societal norms aimed at correcting minor misbehaviours in juveniles. He also blamed the parents for willingly handing their children over to unskilled personnel under deplorable conditions inimical to their health and hygiene.
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Similarly, Executive Director of Centre for Media Advocacy for Mother and Child (CAMAC), Alex Uangbaoje, said “a huge part of the blame should be put on parents who instead of taking their children to well certified psychiatric hospitals for proper care, subject them to torture centres under religious cover.
However, when parents keep turning to centres such as these that say they rehabilitate people in the name of Islam, that is to suggest that the government does not have the capacity to deal with the problem. And when there is no concrete alternative, desperate families will keep turning to religious centres for solutions.