‘Please re-unite us with our children’
• Parents Of Rescued Children In Kaduna Protest, Demand Their Release From Police Custody
• ‘Some Pay Up To N95, 0000 To Enrol Stubborn Children’
Parents of children found in shackles at an Arabic boarding school in Rigasa of Igabi Local Council of Kaduna State have called for their release from police custody.The Kaduna State Police Command on Thursday raided a home allegedly used as an Arabic boarding school called Ahmad Bn Hambal Islamiyya and evacuated about 300 persons, where minors were alleged to have been sexually abused and the adults subjected to daily recitation of the Holy Quran and prayers, accompanied with torture, an allegation the institution has denied.
Trouble started brewing when a man identified as Hassan Muhammad went to the school to visit his children but was denied access into the premises and was told to come back in three months time. Muhammad, who said he promptly reported the matter to the Police, added: “There is no school in the world that will deprive you access to your children. So, when I reported this to CP (Commissioner of Police), he asked me to come to Rigasa and lodge a complaint. When we entered, we saw what happened. They chained the children in the leg and hands.
“So, my appeal to the government is that all this fanaticism that is happening in Nigeria should be checkmated. They should check all these religious structures and make proper investigation about this. They are deceiving us under the guise that they are learning Quran and what is happening is not Quranic.”
But some parents of the children, mostly women, who stormed the school gate yesterday morning where security was beefed up at the school’s entrance, were seen crying and calling on Police authorities to reunite them with their children.Two Police vans were stationed in front of the school, with heavily armed policemen inside the vehicles.The Guardian gathered that the school specialises in admitting people, among them adults with mental ailments and stubborn children brought by their parents or custodians for rehabilitation and Quranic knowledge.
A source, who does not want his name in print, explained that most well-to-do parents pay as high as N95, 000 to enroll their children and subsequently pay recurrent fee of N55, 000 per year, adding: “Those parents who are poor and have no money get their children enrolled for free.”
One of the parents, who identified himself simply as Ibrahim, said: “I have a son who smokes and drinks that was taken to the school for rehabilitation. Now, he is among the children in Police custody. I am not happy with what happened.” Shafa’atu Zakari has six children in the school, whom she said were addicts and couldn’t control their behaviours; hence she took them to the school to acquire Quranic knowledge. She noted: “We brought the children to the school because we don’t know what to do with them.
“Presently, four of my children were among the students evacuated by the Police. We demand for their release, because the founder of the school, Mallam Ismail, is doing everything possible within Islamic teaching to rehabilitate them for us.”
Maryam Fatika, whose four children were attending the school and are now with the Police, said: “There was nothing going wrong in the school, because we took our children there ourselves, so we don’t know why the Police raided the place.
“My children have never complained to me about abuse or anything. But we are aware that they are being punished if they did something wrong, because they are very dangerous and stubborn kids.”
A father, whose son, Jibril, has been in the school for six years, stated: “The boy became a threat to us his parents, so we took him to the school for rehabilitation and to God be the glory, he has changed. I used to visit him anytime and took food to him and I have never seen anything wrong going on in the school.
“My worry now is that we don’t even know where they took our children to, which is why we are appealing to government and the Police to return our children to us and we are also okay with the way the children are being handled by the Islamiyya authorities.”
A next-door neighbour to the school, Ahmed Balarabe, also denied the allegations of sexual abuse against the school authorities by the Police, saying: “I share a fence with the school and my two sons attended the same school before their graduation and they never told me anything of such. “Being a neighbour that always entered the school, if such a thing is happening, I should have known.”
One of the Directors of the school, Mallam Mohammed Auwal El’Zubair, also denied allegations made by the Police, saying all children were brought with the consent of their parents.“No responsible father will take his child to where he would be molested sexually. We only teach these children Quran and we expected the Police to investigate us well before invading the school. “So, we are seeking for justice from the authorities concerned and we leave everything to God who knows what we are doing,” he said.