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‘Government’s failure necessitated torture rehab centres’

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Inability of appropriate authorities to institutionalise functional mechanism that regulates reformatory homes, otherwise known as rehabilitation centres, has been identified as being responsible for the dehumanising state and proliferatiion of such facilities across Nigeria, especially in the northern parts of the country.

In addition, residents and social analysts described government’s intervention to get rid of many of such centres scattered across the major cities and towns of the north, and existing for years, as long overdue, saying most of the owners set them up to make money than actual rehabilitation work.

A university don, Dr. Maikano Madaki, who is a Deputy Director, (Training), at the Centre for Gender Studies, Bayero University, Kano, insisted that government in the first instance should be held responsible for a failed social justice system.

The former head of Department of Sociology, who explained that the traditional rehabilitation homes in the north were rooted in religious, cultural and application of societal norms to correct minor misbehaviours in juveniles, contended that most of the homes derailed due to emerging crimes among teenagers.

Although he blamed parents for entrusting their children in the hands of unskilled personnel under deplorable conditions inimical to their health and hygienic, he said: “It may interest you to know that these traditional reformation or rehabilitation centres you find around, especially in the northern region, have been in existence for decades.

“When a child violates societal norms, like deviancy and other juvenile delinquency, it is accepted that such offences must attract punishment designed and applied in the name of reformation, correction and rehabilitation.

“At that material time, the operators, although they are not as professional as you may think, the application of the religious, cultural and traditional approach in the correction, left parents comfortable.

“Again, you must also understand that people prefer the local way of rehabilitation due to the absence of institutionalised social welfare from the government that can serve as an alternative centre.

“The only corrective social justice available to parents is prison custody and undergoing such a system comes with prices the inmate must pay, such as stigmatisation, an ex-convict, societal re-entry and many extra-judicial consequences. Apart from being cumbersome and expensive, the person is bound to suffer unintended consequences for serving in the prisons.

“How many parents will want their children to pass through this stigma? Will you want to take your child to the Police for not going to school, playing gamble, smoking or simple theft?”

He continued: “As a result of this, many resorts to the traditional alternative of solving challenges of juvenile delinquencies, such that members of the society violating societal norms and customs, criminal acts and all sorts of vices are taken to these centres, which attract less stigma, are less expensive and traditionally acceptable.

“Just as society changes, we now have new crimes, more traditional correctional institutions with new system, change in structure, composition and mode of punishment commensurate to offenses. And a parent who doesn’t want his/her child to pass through justice system of a jail sentence has to fall in the hands of traditional institutions and your concern rarely is change and not how the change is being carried out.

“Until recent revelation of Kaduna traditional homes came staring at us, some parents care not to know how their children are being fed, how hygienic is the environment, what method of reforms, what assurance the operators have that their children will be corrected and for how long will they stay.

“All these questions should be answered by the parents before you also blame the private operators for dehumanising the inmates.”

The criminologist advocated strict government regulations of private rehabilitation centres to check the maltreatment of inmates, stressing that such centres should be compelled to equip their facilities with basic reformatory tools and professionals.

On his part, a drug and public analyst, Dr. Femi Oyediran, explained that people capitalised on the prevalence of drug abuse in the north to establish rehabilitation centres, noting: “Drug abuse in the northern part of the country is very high. And as a result, a lot of people having ailment associated with the taking of drugs are referred to rehab centres.

“It is not every one of them that opened a centre that has good intention, as some of them established this for ulterior motives, especially to make money.”

He said the buck stops on the table of government at various levels, adding: “If the government can actually make it a duty to create rehabilitation centres where people can be brought back to their normal selves, that will water down or reduce the number of people claiming to have such centres everywhere.”

On why it took so long to expose this menace, he said: “Sincerity of purpose is what is not there. It has taken so long because so many people are involved.”

He admitted that parents and community leaders complicate matters, saying: “There is no parent that doesn’t know what his/her child is doing one way or the other, but a lot of times, the economic situation, poverty make them not to care. In most cases, some youths want to feel high on some things.”

On what should be done to curb drug abuse, he pointed at the proper management of healthcare services in Nigeria, especially chemical and drug management, stating: “We have so many laws enacted, but we are not following them. It has gotten to a situation whereby anybody can go to shops and buy whatever they feel like consuming it.

“There must be proper regulation and enforcement of the laws. The law enforcement agents must also be up and doing, as lots of them are also culpable in this because some of them do take the substances too.”

Similarly, Executive Director of Centre for Media Advocacy for Mother and Child (CAMAC), Mr. 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.

“I even discovered in some of my findings that most of the parents doing this are only trying to do away with the children they are hitherto ashamed of. They would rather push the responsibilities to an Islamic teacher instead of owning up to their failure.”

He said the issue of multiple rehab centres is not new in Nigeria, as they have existed for a long time and it is known to everyone and is meant to transform those who are addicted to drugs and other substances.

“So, nothing is wrong with it at all, only that some people have decided to turn it into torture centres instead. Testimonies from those raided so far showed that they are now running them as centres for rape, inhumane and degrading treatment.

“What we are seeing so far is that the government is rescuing victims from those maltreating and keeping them in camps where the issue of their mental health is not being addressed. I just hope they will not be released back into society in their current state, as that will spell doom for the communities where they will be returned.”

“The truth is not all of them are actually in a state where you have to detain them for too long. As far as I know, issue of treatment for drug abuse victims is not by force; it is a voluntary thing, but these guys are forcing even those whose cases may just be psychological and are putting them in chains and maltreating them like animals.”

A resident of Kaduna, Aminu, confirmed that some centres are still in existence in the state that is yet to be raided, especially in Kaduna and Zaria, urging the government not to relent, insisting: “I know of two in Rigasa that are yet to be busted. I blame the government for sparing them up till now. People just turned it into the routine business.”

The Guardian gathered that Kano State has no data or record of the activities of the private reformatory facilities.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Women Affairs, Alhaja Auwalu Umar Sanda, said an inter-agency committee was being considered to monitor their activities, adding: “Government was not aware of the existence of the homes, because they have not come to register with the ministry.”

She emphasised the government’s readiness to admit new sets of drug inmates into the state-own reformatory centre at Kiru town in Kiru Council.

In Bauchi, Chairman of the Mallam Kawu Youth Rehabilitation and Orphanage Centre, Abdullahi Muhammad Tahir, said his centre does not engage in sexual assault and torture of students, as being practiced in some states.

Tahir told The Guardian that the organisation was fully registered with Bauchi Council, state and federal governments and licenced to operate not only in the state but establish similar centres all over the north.

He said security agencies such as the Department of State Service (DSS), Police, Chief Imam of Bauchi central mosque and other religious bodies had visited the centre and commended them for their efforts.

He claimed that the centre had received “naughty” police officers, army and sons of prominent persons and have released them within six months of the rehabilitation process, saying: “We have rules and regulations in this house, which help a lot in avoiding the alleged problems faced in other rehabilitation centers.

“Here, we don’t allow two people to sleep in one bed, neither do we allow two persons to enter a toilet at the same time. This is a deliberate move to prevent homosexuality.

“The issue of torturing is not happening here; we don’t beat children here. We only hold, counsel and teach them knowledge. Although we chain those who are too violent, we free them within a few days if they change for the better,” he said.

Tahir explained that the major things they do to rehabilitate the naughty children in their custody are prayers and counselling, noting that the centre has sent 21 children to primary schools, eight to junior secondary schools and seven others to university after their rehabilitation.

He warned governments against closing down rehabilitation centres, especially the recognised ones, as they complement the efforts of security agencies in mitigating crimes in the society.


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