With the latest raid of a traditional rehabilitation centre carried out by the police in Yola, Adamawa state capital on Wednesday this week, the last count of such centres may not have been heard. The police arrested two persons and freed 15 inmates during this raid. It would be recalled that the raids on such centres began on Thursday, September 26, 2019 when the police in Kaduna evacuated 190 inmates (77 children and 113 adults) from an Islamic school called Imamu Ahmad Bn Hambal School located at Layin Maidubun Tsumma in Rigasa Community of Igabi LGA of Kaduna State and thereafter arrested seven teachers.
The police, which raided the Islamic school alleged that children were kept in dehumanising conditions, cramped in rooms, with some of them in chains. Others had big scars and injuries on their bodies. Proprietors of the school denied the allegations; saying all the children were there with the consent of their parents. ‘The parents signed a form before their children were enrolled in the school. The parents bring food for their children daily and they also know the condition they are in’, said Shehu, a preacher in the school. Facts that emerged later showed that operators of the school use it as a rehabilitation centre for reforming the character of delinquent children.
Barely three weeks after the raid on the Imamu Ahmad Bn Hambal School in Rigasa area took place, another traditional rehabilitation centre known as Malam Niga Rehabilitation and Skills Acquisition Centre was busted in the same Rigasa community on Saturday, October 19, 2019. The centre is located at Kwanar Gurguwa in Rigasa community. In this raid, 147 captives including men, women and children were rescued. The detainees comprised of 125 males and 22 females, among whom four were foreigners from Cameroon and Niger republics. Most of them were found in chains.
Although the proprietor of the Malam Niga Centre, Lawal Yusuf Muduru, claimed to have a licence to operate the complex, it was reported in the media that Governor Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai of Kaduna state who was at Malam Niga’s rehabilitation home alongside the police discovered that the detainees were not being kept in good condition. About seven of the inmates were alleged to have been sexually molested by other inmates. What a problem-solving that creates another bad scenario!
The discovery of and rescue of more detainees from illegal rehabilitation centres had almost become a daily experience, particularly in the past week. This may not be unconnected with President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive after the raid carried out at the Malam Niga Rehabilitation Centre, at Rigasa. President Muhammadu Buhari had told the Nigeria Police Force not to relent in its efforts to bust all illegal correctional centres in the country. The President said his administration had zero tolerance for criminality and human rights abuse such as the enslavement of children in fake rehabilitation centres. After busting Malam Niga’s centre in Rigasa, others include the clampdown on a rehabilitation home in Daura; the raid of the Qur’anic and Rehabilitation Centre, popularly known as ‘Makarantar Malam Niga’ located in Kofar Durbi area of Katsina metropolis; and the shutdown of another one in Zaria from where11 inmates were evacuated and four teachers arrested by personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, on Tuesday, October 22, 2019. The counting, no doubt, shall continue in the weeks ahead.
Some obvious realities that emerged from the raids carried out on the local rehabilitation homes so far identified include the fact that detainees were subjected to cruel conditions, which suggests that proprietors of such centres lacked requisite professional knowledge, skills and competence to manage a rehabilitation home. Investigations conducted by reporters suggest that most of the detainees found in the local rehabilitation centres are either drug addicts or young boys and girls with maladjusted personalities whose parents or guardians desperately needed a correctional intervention from wherever they could find one.
It is bad, and therefore sad, that a large chunk of children transiting to adulthood have become addicted to drugs and hard substances that are injurious to health. It is equally bad that detainees were exposed to dehumanizing conditions in most of the centres busted. It is worse, that proprietors who had no licence to operate behavioural reform homes illegally established and operated such facilities. However, it is worst for government to have abysmally failed to provide amenities where juvenile delinquent children could be competently managed by professionals who as social welfare workers, behavioural psychologists or trained counsellors have the capacity to provide necessary counselling and correctional services. Native speakers of Hausa language would say ‘It was because the wall cracked that the lizard had its way into it’. Of course, if the government had provided adequate rehabilitation homes to meet the growing demand for them, the proliferation of illegal rehabilitation centres would have been forestalled.
Adolescence is naturally a developmental stage when young individuals growing into adulthood face identity crises. I still remember my teacher’s definition of adolescence at the Niger State College of Education, Minna. Dr Kabir Isa described adolescence to us as ‘a no man’s land, which being neither a child nor an adult, is swallowed in the field of overlapping forces and expectations’. This explains why adolescents largely account for the greater percentage of juvenile delinquency cases. Generally, a juvenile delinquent is a person who is typically below the age of maturity and commits an act that would otherwise have been charged as a crime if he or she were an adult.
Risk factors of juvenile delinquency include parenting style (especially when it is permissive, neglectful, indulgent or excessively authoritarian), and peer group association particularly with groups that exhibit antisocial behaviours. Low intelligence and restlessness could be individual risk factors. Antisocial and delinquent behaviour is the result of a complex interplay of individual biological/genetic and environmental factors; starting during foetal development and continuing throughout life. It is widely recognized that the more risk factors an adolescent experience, the higher the risk to manifest delinquent behaviours.
Government needs to be more proactive in tackling drug and substance abuse among youths. States, particularly in the northern part of the country are urged to regulate the establishment and operations of private rehabilitation homes with relevant laws that have provisions for sanctions. Parents must be seen to play ideal parenting roles in the upbringing of their children. More importantly, if children and adolescents who constitute the bulk of detainees in most of the raided illegal rehabilitation centres are the presumed future leaders of this country, the need for government, particularly states and local governments to establish rehabilitation homes or revitalize them (where they exist) is worth a national emergency. May Allah (SWT) guide us to collectively live up to our responsibilities as parents and as leaders with an entrusted mandate, amin.