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The shocking rehab houses of horror

Relief came to our severely distressed nation when President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the Nigeria Police Force to more swiftly intensify the busting of all illegal…

Relief came to our severely distressed nation when President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the Nigeria Police Force to more swiftly intensify the busting of all illegal correctional centres in the country. We had all been shocked to the marrow when fake correctional centres continued to be discovered and exposed from city to city – many in the Northern States, revealing their hideous individual nightmares. In nearly all of them, inmates had been detained for years and subjected to torture, sexual abuse and sheer dehumanisation. The stories of woe narrated by every inmate were bizarre and unbelievable. That a sordid spectacle of this nature could exist in this day and age spoke volumes of the depths to which our national decadence had descended. It was upsetting.

President Buhari gave the order just as the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, had personally led agents of the Kaduna State Police Command to raid the so called correctional home, known as the Mallam Niga Rehabilitation Centre, at Rigasa, Kaduna. It was instead a torture centre, amazing that it even carried a sign-board to acquire some form of legitimacy.  In Kaduna alone 147 inmates made up of men, women and children were rescued. The number included foreigners from Cameroon and Niger Republics.

Earlier late last month, up to 300  detainees, made up of male children and adults were discovered in a similar supposed correctional centre at the same Rigasa, in Kaduna State. More such centres have been busted in Daura, Katsina State. In all, Police took custody of seven “teachers” of the centre with the proprietor parading himself as Mallam Ismaila Abubakar, an Islamic teacher. But the victims revealed that instead of learning, they had been held by force against their will in handcuffs, chains, and leg irons, being tortured and sodomised. Several of them were chained to vehicle rims. Viral videos of the spectacle have added to Nigeria’s infamy, underlined when the CNN recently exposed a slave trade ring in Libya, and we found to our shock that being sold in the slave auctions were several Nigerians.

It has remained a major concern that such torture homes are said to be found operating openly in many cities of particularly the North of Nigeria, and had been running for years as normal and legal institutions. It now begs the question – how did this come about? What challenges did the torture homes metamorphose to address? Several inmates admitted that they were of bad behaviour and had been brought to these homes by their parents or relatives in the belief that the behavioural difficulties of children would be addressed. Clearly, many Nigerian parents sent their wards there after trying unsuccessfully to address challenges of drug and substance abuse and general criminal tendencies by the children. It is common knowledge that drug abuse has been a debilitating phenomenon in the North. We can not hide this truth. There is hardly a family that is not having to deal with offspring tragically addicted to drug and substance abuse. This forced parents to wilfully commit their children to any such facilities and even pay regularly for this mischievous upkeep. The ploy is first to relieve themselves of the burden and then to hope that indeed their children would be rehabilitated and in truth taught the Quran. It is a sad shame that for all these years, the so called correctional centres were a mere fraud. Our children had alas been committed not to any correctional facilities, but to squalid dungeons.

It is necessary to view the wider perspectives of this development given the high level of the societal damage of drug abuse in Nigeria. All over the country, what the First Republic Regional Governments operated efficiently as Remand Homes have totally collapsed and are no longer operational. Although the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency has a rehabilitation component, gaps in the funding of the agency have adversely affected this very vital component to the extent that we can say no such provision exists to adequately cope with the prevailing scenario. In effect, the problem is quickly transferred to the Prison Service by securing quick convictions of arrested miscreants on drug laws, to instantly commit them to languishing in our already overcrowded prisons. Where parents are cooperative and have means, the victims are released to them to restrain and seek alternative solutions, apparently through committal to these illegal homes that we have only now found. President Buhari needs know that there is a problem whose solution is not the mere closure of these illegal correctional facilities alone. The drug abuse epidemic, far bigger than we have seen, needs to be systematically dealt with. Although the Buba Marwa Report just submitted to President Buhari has not been made public, it would be worth it to urgently look into the submission with a view to implementing the recommendations advanced. Being the latest such work, implementation of some or all of the recommendations is urgent. Government should begin first by getting State Governments to revive their moribund Remand Home facilities nationwide to address rehabilitation of drug victims professionally. While NDLEA is assisted to beef up its rehabilitation component, it would be wise to immediately establish Federal Correctional Facilities in the six geopolitical zones of the country to address what we must accept, is indeed a crisis situation, beyond the government’s casual perception. The ongoing closure of the illegal gulags that our people have committed their children to out of folly may be popular, but Government should not basque in any sense of achievement amidst the current applause without determining where to hold the abnormal inmates being rescued. The rescued inmates will naturally return to old habits of drugs and crime making worse, our already bad situation. There is work to be done that involves not just government alone, but even includes the participation of public spirited philanthropists to address the gaps that fake correctional facilities attempted to fill.

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