Drug addicts and restive youths: ‘I foresee that crisis might erupt in the north’
Barely three weeks after a school with about 300 persons, including minors were discovered in shackles, Kaduna State Governor, Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, last week Saturday led a raid on the rehabilitation centre and 147 inmates including 22 females and five children in chains were evacuated, following allegations that the inmates of the facility are being dehumanised and abused sexually.
While denying that his place was a torture centre, Lawal Yusuf Muduru, who established the facility in 2006, told reporters who visited his residence recently, his own side of the story. He said he has rehabilitated and freed over 2,000 persons, including some brought to him for treatment by the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Development some time ago. He also cautioned on the danger of releasing the inmates into the larger society
Kindly tell us your name?
My name is Lawal Yusuf Muduru, aka Mallam Niga and I was born in 1965 at Muduru in Katsina State.
How did you start your rehabilitation centre?
I was into the sale of shoes and there was a day I came to Rigasa and I found some youth at a barbers shop, highly intoxicated and dancing to all sorts of disco songs. Some of them were even falling into the gutter. Then I asked what happened and I was told they were under the influence of drugs. Then I gathered my close friends to inform them about what I saw. Then I resolved that since I have experience in drugs, alternative medicine and Islam, I will open a centre to address the high rate of drug abuse among youths. So those friends of mine obliged to assist and I started. There is one Abdulahi Yakubu who is my elder brother, Daibu Ado, Umar and one Ibrahim. The moment I got a go-ahead from them, I opened this Malam Niga centre. I established this rehabilitation centre in March 2006 and started with just a single student named Hamza. Then I got another student named Aliyu and the third student was Dauda Bukar. This Dauda Bukar, it was a chieftain of Makera that handed him over to me. That was how the inmates started multiplying. And so far, I have rehabilitated and trained over 2,300 youths.
There are procedures we follow before returning the inmates back to their parents or relatives. Those whom their sanity is ascertained and their parents feel they could see some changes, reunited with their families after a while of training them, while some abandoned ones get skill acquisition under my watch. I have rehabilitated and freed more than 2,000 inmates and currently, I have 147 students under me. Among them are 22 females and 125 males, before they were taken away.
In fact, we have an Old Boys association. These are the inmates whom we trained and corrected in the past. I involved so many of them in different jobs. I teach them trade and some amongst them even joined me in the fight against drug abuse.
In fact, for so long my fight against drug abuse has gone international. We have organised about 12 retreats on drug abuse. We paid courtesy visits to all the people that are in authority, ranging from government house to ministries and parastatals and informed Commissioners of Police, the Governor, the GOC 1 Divison and NDLEA on best ways to tackle drug abuse. We hold conferences and meetings on drug abuse.
We often organise shows to campaign against drug abuse and dignitaries usually grace our events. In fact, during the last event, we had the governor of Kaduna state sent a representative over to witness the event. We have been inviting Kaduna state ministries, organisations and the state government to come and assess what we have on the ground in the rehabilitation centre; to come and see how we empower inmates, the types of training we offer them and look at ways to assist us. This is not all about money, but on advice and ways in which we can improve and deliver better services, especially in modern ways.
It was not quite long we heard that Governor El-Rufai sent security operatives to raid the Arabic school and rehabilitation centre here in Rigasa, where inmates were found being chained to generators and tyre rims so that they would not run away. But when I visited the Commissioner of Police last Thursday, I told him that I do nothing of such in my rehabilitation centre.
But still, on Saturday, the governor came in convoy with security men to my centre, interrogating me that how come I’m chaining children? But I explained to him that all I do is teach the inmates trade. I showed them everything. I explained that some inmates do run away from the centre and never return home to meet their relatives and if they run away from my rehabilitation centre, the parents confront me. I also explained that in most cases, the inmates usually run into trouble once they are not within the rehabilitation centre premises, some may even lose their lives and the relatives take me to court if I can’t provide their children for them.
There was even a time when the Commissioner for Women Affairs and social development brought nine persons to me to take care of. She went to the streets and brought mentally challenged people to my rehabilitation centre for treatment. They spent four months with me and she eventually came to pick them up after gaining back their sanity. People can be my witness on this.
With all that I have mentioned, if they are to be fair to me, they are supposed to bring inspectors around to ask what really is happening in my rehabilitation centre. They should have asked the mentally-challenged people brought over by the commissioner to answer whether they are sexually molested or there is anything bad going on here. They are supposed to investigate if truly there are those practicing lesbianism or raping people in this centre.
It’s been long that I have been asking for inputs from the state government on how best to operate with standard practices and improve my centre. We have written severally to the Kaduna state Governor, Mallam Nasir requesting for courtesy visit, to meet him and discuss to chart a way forward. We all know that drug abuse is prevalent in Northern Nigeria and you know, of recent, there was even a documentary on Sweet Sweet Codeine. In Kano and Jigawa states alone, people consume up to three million bottles of codeine daily. I even granted an interview saying codeine is not the only drug that is being abused, there are so many, like up to 20 other substances that the youths abuse on a daily basis.
What I also observed is that in all the 19 northern states in the country, none of the governors took the issue of drug abuse seriously. There have not been any of them who sat and ponder on the future of the youths who consume the hard substances and drugs on a daily basis. The future of the youth is less of their concern. And that has been the reason we have so many restive youths and crises in the north.
It was reported that female inmates were being molested and sexually abused, are you aware that something of such was happening inside your centre?
On the reports that they practice lesbianism and females were sexually harassed and raped, nothing of such was happening here, because I am always on ground. I have my family living here in the rehabilitation centre. I reside in the centre as well and even if an inmate lies on his bed and shifts or we notice any movement attempt, we will beam flashlight to know what is happening.
Even if you want to urinate, you must be granted permission to do so. I actually don’t know where the fabricated reports that females in my rehabilitation centre were sexually molested is coming from. You can imagine, we have successfully rehabilitated more 2,000 persons in this centre, so what will stop them from going to find out from one or two persons among them whether they have been sexually molested or maltreated during their stay here? You know, already you should expect some among those under rehabilitation to say negative things, because they probably want to go back home and resume their old ways. So definitely, if they are asked whether we maltreated them or not, they will say yes we did.
But government should know that as we have about 147 of them here, that some relatives are still eager to bring their wards causing unrest in the public to us, but now that they’ve closed down our centre, those stubborn children that are supposed to be referred to us are still on the streets causing unrest. I foresee that crises might erupt in the north, as a result of drug addicts and restive youths who haven’t gained attention. This is because all the places where people could refer their children to have been closed down.
I am advising the government that from now till the next five months, they should build rehabilitation centers across the state as they have begun to close down the private ones because sooner or later, those released to the street maybe begin to unleash mayhem. So, since they have closed down our own centres, they should build correctional centers everywhere where stubborn children will be referred. For instance, I heard that the other rehabilitation centre, that of Shiekh Hambal where 300 children were evacuated, there was one out of the youths who was reunited with his relatives that stabbed someone to death. According to what I heard, he only spent two weeks in the centre before the incident and was returned home.
There was a plan to arrest the father of the boy, but the father faulted government for returning his son back home, saying that he took him to somewhere for rehabilitation and they brought him back home.
They said you give the inmates smoke to inhale, just for the purpose of sedating them, and not to cure them, is that true?
How can smoke be inhaled just to sedate someone? The reason for inhaling incense should be to cure the person. If a herbalist or traditional medical practitioner gives you an incense, it is meant to cure you.
Some of the inmates were identified with scars on their body, and this according to them are signs of torture. What can you say about that?
Our rehabilitation center is not a torture centre. If you look at the scares on their backs or their body, you will notice that the scares are not fresh. They have been beaten and disfigured before they were brought to us. There is a particular one among them, he has been wearing a rosary on his neck for almost 20 years. I used to say times without number that torture or corporal punishment cannot solve the problem of a defiant child. Some would not have been here if serious beating could actually solve their case.
How were the inmates feeding, do you charge them any fees?
They eat three meals a day and we charge them N25,000 per term. Although the payment varies, some pay beyond that. Some pay up to N75, 000, because we feed them on a daily basis. If you go to a hotel, you will definitely be charged for feeding and accommodation. We have more than 100 persons under our custody and we even charge them less.
What sort of skills do you teach them?
I enrolled so many of them in different kinds of craft. Some are technicians. They are learning mobile phone repairs, some repair refrigerators, radio, blender and television, while some are into carpentry works. They can make executive chairs. We have professional welders and fabricators among them. Some are into shoemaking, computer business and lots more. For the women, they go into tailoring and hairdressing. We even opened an adult literacy school. Some do not know how to read and write, and we have been teaching them. We also teach them Arabic. We graduated so many of the inmates, and, as they become independent, they survive on what they’ve learnt. I was also able to provide a job for some of the inmates as security men. They go to work on a daily basis with a food flask. Every month, I ensured they are paid their stipends. They are the ones securing the Panteka Market. We have those that are still interested in going back to school. They were equally enrolled in schools.
What is your call to the government now?
My call to them is that they should follow the advice given by the Chairman of the Presidential Committee on drug abuse, Gen. Buba Marwa (rtd). He once came to our centre during a tour and lauded our achievements. Gen. Marwa even said he has never seen the type of initiatives we put in place here in any other place. Everything in this rehabilitation centre is on autopilot. In most cases, the experienced ones among the inmate teach the remaining ones. They teach themselves trades.
The Commissioner for Social Development and Humanitarian Services said the centre is not registered, how true is that?
I have shown all my documents to them. You can even see them for yourself. I registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and I have my alternative medicine certificate intact, my security company was also registered too. I have certificate from the Bureau of Religious Affairs (Islamic Matters) as well.
You can see all the awards I have won on the wall. Look at the one from the Catholic, the media and other notable organisations. Even the human right organisation that was petitioned regarding alleged illegalities in my centre gave me an award. All that I am doing is for the sake of God and service to humanity. They are not supposed to come after me this way. In fact, out of the 147 inmates, only 13 do not owe me school fees. The remaining students still owe me. This service I’m rendering is even at my own risk and now they have packed away all my students. Each and every time I have an event I invite security agents to cover them.