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el-Rufai’s rehabilitation centre taken over by weeds, reptiles

Apart from the fact that the streets of Abuja are still filled with destitute and beggars who seek alms from residents, the centre, which was…

Apart from the fact that the streets of Abuja are still filled with destitute and beggars who seek alms from residents, the centre, which was meant for the rehabilitation and training of these less privileged members of the society, has suffered consistent neglect as a result of inadequate budgetary provisions for the maintenance of the centre.

When Sunday Trust visited the Kuchiko, Bwari, venue of the rehabilitation centre, hostels meant to accommodate the destitutes and other facilities have been over grown with shrubs while the roofs of some of the buildings have caved in.

Attempts by this medium to elicit comments from the principal of the vocational centre, Comrade Bala Musa, were unsuccessful as he was said to be unavailable for comments. However, an official of the centre who spoke to Sunday Trust under anonymity, lamented the deplorable state of the vocational centre. According to him, “When they constructed this centre, we were all very happy that the government is truly responsive to the plight of the ordinary Nigerian but soon after the former FCT minister left office, we were left on our own. Even provisions for feeding of the destitutes are no longer in place. To take care of their feeding arrangements, we employed a local food seller but with shortage of funds, we had to tell her to go. Now, the inmates here go on empty stomachs for several days and only have to live on whatever they can get from good Nigerians who visit them”

Similarly, one of the inmates who gave her name as Aishat Mohammed, explained to this medium that she was brought into the center by men of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board, AEPB, last week and since then, she has been unable to see her eight months old daughter whom she said was being taken to the Abuja Children’s home. In her words, “I was brought here from Life Camp by the officials and since then, they have locked me up here without giving me food or water, I have not been able to see my daughter even after I explained to them several times that I am not a mad woman. Please I need to see my daughter,” she pleaded.

Another inmate of the rehabilitation center who identified himself as Istifanus Sadiq from Nasarawa State, said, “we are dying gradually here. What is the point of taking us off the streets and leaving us here to die when we can take care of ourselves?” Speaking further, he explained that “we are kept here under lock and key and they have refused to feed us. We eat only garri once a day and when we complain, they tell us there is no money to feed us.”

Not long after it was opened, it was to be designated as a national centre that would be entitled to funds from international donors. The idea came on the heels of a visit by the then Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Mr R. de Rato, to the centre.

It was during the visit that the then FCT Director of Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), Hajiya Hadiza Abdullahi, stated that because of appreciable level of success already achieved in the centre, it had become imperative to make the centre donor-driven.

Hajiya Abdullahi explained that the 40-room hostel at the centre was mainly for disabled male apprentices who are undergoing special training in welding, tailoring, shoe production and electronics.

She said the centre would soon introduce handset repairs into its curriculum saying that efforts were being intensified towards purchasing the necessary equipment.

The 40-room hostel at the centre was donated by a philantropic Nigerian who also gave out poultry to the centre as part of his contributions to keep it functional. As at that time, there were no fewer than 50 students at the centre undergoing training in various vocational skills.

The IMF Managing Director, Mr R. de Rato in his remarks stated that Nigeria needed to provide better education for its people especially those living with disability, saying that with a very strong economy, Nigeria can do better. This was as he stated that his visit to the centre was part of the IMF collaborative effort with Nigeria to maintain micro/macro economic development in the country.

However, a visit to the centre last week met with a shocking and demoralizing scenario. The place has been overgrown by weeds while the fence, bathrooms, toilets have all collapsed due to neglect.

During the visit FCT Secretary for Social Development, Mrs Blessing Onuh initiated to assess the state of the facility, lamented what she met there and remarked that the place is no longer habitable except it is renovated.

While speaking with reporters during the tour, the Secretary bemoaned what she described as the shamble state in which she met the centre which was established alongside others by the administration of former FCT Minister, Malam Nasir el-Rufai to train destitutes in various vocational skills.

The FCT Vocational and Rehabilitation Centre at Kuchiko village in Bwari Area Council, according to her, is now a shadow of itself, noting that no budgetary provision was made for its operation since the exit of el-Rufai by succeeding FCT administrations.

Mrs Onuh who expressed displeasure over the keeping of mentally unbalanced people at the centre when she visited the place despite its deplorable condition, directed that the mentally-ill inmates should be taken to a psychiatric hospital for better medical attention.

Her words: “When we remove these beggars from the FCT streets, ideally this is where we are supposed to camp them. We are supposed to train them in various skills and then the mentally challenged would be taken to a psychiatric hospital. That is why I’m here but the place is not in order. That is what the FCT Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed met on ground. Everywhere is in shambles.

She however assured that the place will be fixed in less than 21 days, stating that any beggar arrested will be taken to an alternative centre.

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