The police in Kaduna recently evacuated some children from an Islamic school in Rigasa community of Igabi LGA, Kaduna State and also arrested seven teachers. Policemen that raided the Imamu Ahmad Bn Hambal School located at Layin Maidubun Tsumma on Thursday, September 26 found that the children were kept in dehumanising conditions, in cramped rooms, with some of them in chains. Others had big scars on their bodies, apparently from beating.
The school’s Proprietors however denied the allegations. Shehu, a preacher in the school, said, “What they are saying is not true, because all the children are there with the consent of their parents. The parents signed a form before their children were enrolled into the school. The parents bring food for their children daily and they also know the condition they are in.” However, facts that emerged thereafter from media reports showed that operators of the school use it as a rehabilitation centre for reforming the character of delinquent children.
Kaduna State Commissioner of Police Ali Aji Janga, said they acted based on information that something wrong was going on at the said rehabilitation centre. Earlier, Public Relations Officer of the Kaduna State Police Command Yakubu Sabo said “the children were kept in dehumanising condition in the name of undergoing or acquiring Qur’anic knowledge”.
Although the police said about 300 children were handed over to the state government, Kaduna State Commissioner for Human Services and Social Development Hafsat Baba said the ministry received only 190 children from the police. She said the people handed over to her included 77 children and 113 adults. She also said they have handed over most of the children to their parents and family members. “We conducted a head count after receiving them. We also did documentation before handing them over to their parents who were at the venue to receive them,” she said. The commissioner also added that two of the children were from Burkina Faso and Cameroon, adding that the ministry already informed the Nigeria Immigration Service about it.
President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the reported abuse of children at a ‘reform institution’ in Kaduna. His spokesman Malam Garba Shehu said Buhari condemned all forms of abuse, whether of adults or children. While commending the efforts of the police for the discovery and subsequent arrest of operators of the Centre, President Buhari said all children must be safeguarded and protected from all evil influences in the society. He said, “We are glad that Muslim authorities have dismissed the notion of the embarrassing and horrifying spectacle as Islamic school”. Garba Shehu said when President Buhari inaugurated the National Economic Council for 2019/2023 at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, he warned that keeping children away from school is a criminal offence.
It is true that the problem of child delinquency, often fuelled by drug addiction, has become a serious problem in our society and parents are desperate for ways to rehabilitate their kids. Still, it is illegal for any person or group to operate a rehabilitation centre without government approval. Running a rehabilitation home requires the technical knowledge of a trained social psychologist and/or the services of a social welfare worker. The consequences of operating a local correctional home could be graver than leaving the victims to their fate. While we call for full investigation into the Kaduna centre, we urge relevant authorities to identify and close down other similar centres.
Government failure to provide adequate rehabilitation homes to meet the growing demand for them as well as the refusal to equip them where they exist account for the emergence of illegal reformation centres. We call on states and local governments in the country to revitalize rehabilitation homes or establish them where they do not exist in order to tackle anti-social and deviant behaviour among children and young adults. This matter is worth a national emergency because today’s children are expected to be the country’s future leaders.