ANDY ASEMOTA examines the torture homes operated by some self-acclaimed clerics in the name of school and rehabilitation centre
The inmates of the torture home in Daura town, Katsina State, on Sunday, 12 October, 2019, took the operators of the illegal detention centre by surprise. The inmates, in a dramatic move, fought their way to freedom from the torture chamber that remained a nightmare for up to 13 years for some of them.
The tears of over 200 youths running helter-skelter in Daura with chains dangling from their legs and hands led many men to storm the illegal remand / rehabilitation centre, otherwise known as Makarantar Mallam Mai-Mari, in the town as part of a bid to free many that were still trapped the facility.
When the brouhaha that broke out around 10am was brought to the attention of Sabon Gari Police Station in Daura, security operatives quickly prevented the situation from snowballing into crisis as no fewer than 67 persons were found shackled and subjected to various inhuman and degrading treatment in the fake school.
However, the unravelling of the terror house just when some Nigerians thought that there couldn’t be a worse torture home in the country than that which was uncovered in Kaduna last month has sent tongues wagging as to the real intention of the operators of the so-called Quranic schools where investigation revealed that little or no Islamic education was actually being taught in the local rehab centres.
While many opined that the affected Islamiyya schools operators used the schools as nothing but a façade for sundry nefarious activities, including homosexual acts, said to be rife in the homes as many of the victims have recounted.
Many, who believed that the last had been not heard about the prevalence of such torture homes, cannot be faulted as the discovery of another torture home in Katsina metropolis, barely a day after an Islamic centre operated as a rehab in Daura was sealed up attests to plethora of such schools or centres waiting to be crushed.
The spokesman of the state police command, Isah Gambo (SP), confirmed the arrest of the operator of a torture home at Kofar Marusa area of Katsina, Malam Niga Centre, and five of his aides by a special team from the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu.
A source said the police freed about 500 young men and students who were chained to walls, tortured and molested in abusive condition before they regained freedom this week.
A resident of Katsina, who pleaded anonymity, told LEADERSHIP Weekend that it was imperative for government to conduct census of Islamiyya schools and liaise with traditional and religious leaders to bust any with ensnared inmates in their bowels.
He warned that the public and parents have to be watchful, saying it’s wrong to allow any person that professes a particular faith to be allowed to gather under-aged children and even adults in an enclosure in the names of reformation or rehabilitation without the requisite facilities, manpower, resources and supervision.
“Look at what happened in Kaduna and Daura so-called rehab centres; they were not even teaching the inmates Islamic knowledge, some of their inmates could not even recite the opening verse of the Quran which is mandatory for all Muslims although some of them have been in the centres for years,” he said.
Beyond that, many of the inmates have blast the torture or treatment they received as ineffective in rehabilitating anyone and that they were not even allowed, at least in Daura, to observe Muslims’ mandatory daily prayers.
It was discovered that children under the age of 10 were also stuck in Mallam Bello Makarantar Allo where various forms of torture including bullying, corporal punishment and sexual molestation among others were rife.
The Katsina State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Sanusi Buba, who confirmed the arrest of three illegal operators of Daura torture home including Mallam Bello Abdullahi Umar, aged 78 years, of Sabon Garin Quarters, noted that other aides of the cleric that escaped arrest were reportedly into homosexual conduct with some of the victims in the centre.
Buba added: “I understand that some of the cases were reported to the Mallam and some, he may not even know, given the ills committed in the name of teaching the inmates Quranic knowledge, rehabilitating or reforming them.”
On the scale of cruelty meted out to the inmates, the Katsina CP said:
“I even wanted to find out whether the people brought here were mentally deranged but I learnt from the Mallam that he didn’t deal with cases of insanity and he didn’t accept insane people. So, sane people were brought here by their parents because of their stubbornness or mischief and other bad attitude at home.”
But of all the words spoken about the torture home, none could equal, perhaps, that of some inmates in a chat with the commissioner of police and reporters. They pointed to the rehab centre’s rule of not allowing inmates out of their cells at night to visit the only available rest room.
They revealed that they were made to urinate or defecate in the plates with which they had their dinner, empty the mess at dawn, wash the same plates and be served breakfast with the plates.
Umar Iliya (not real names), who struggled to beat back the tears in his gathering in the corner of his eyes as he spoke, also lamented that many of the inmates in the torture home were taken there by their relatives without full knowledge of what the operators had up their sleeves.
“After we were stuck here for years and there was no help from anywhere, we resigned ourselves to fate, after all, when people died here, they were simply taken away and their parents reportedly informed that the victim has passed on,” he recounted.
This testimony is not different from that of about a dozen other inmates, who shared their bizarre experiences that may haunt them for a lifetime with reporters in Daura.
Further checks revealed that Mallam Bello Abdullahi (78), Habibu Bello (28) and Abba Abubakar (16) all of Daura town, said to have conspired and continued to deceive people from various states and neighbouring countries to bring their children between the ages of 12 to 16 years and adults in the name of rehabilitation centre or school for notorious children are being prosecuted by the police in Katsina.
The accused persons arraigned before the Katsina Chief Magistrates’ Court 1 on three count charge of criminal conspiracy, wrongful confinement and cruelty to inmates, were ordered to be remanded in prison custody for the mention of the their case after their bail application was adjourned to October 22.
Parents, others in shock
Investigations revealed that many parents across the country and several African nations including Cameroon, Mali, Niger Republic, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast who brought their wards and children to the Daura, Katsina and Kaduna unapproved rehab centres received with rude shock the news that the erstwhile popular local rehab centres had turned out to be dens of dare-devil fake instructors who often sodomized their inmates and subjected them to harrowing conditions using different cudgels, whips and chains.
A resident of Katsina, Bashir Mamman, described the unfolding development of the alleged schools as alarming and barbaric, calling on security agencies to be proactive in a bid to combat the havoc being wreaked by some charlatans in the name of religious schools.
“I pray security agencies in the state and beyond should start doing something to combat the menace. This is part of government’s failure. Can you imagine that a 13-year-old boy spent three years in the torture home before the bubbles burst,” he asked rhetorically.
Asked to advise parents on the issue, he urged that in spite of the peaceful disposition or the popularity of the people handling the rehab centres, they should not be entrusted with underage children or even adults to avoid the havoc being perpetrated in several places.
Corroborating the advice, the Katsina State CP enjoined parents to desist from taking their children/wards to illegal, unauthorized or unapproved remand/ rehabilitation centres, warning that parents should take their recalcitrant or delinquent wards to only government recognized or approved facilities.
According to him, the torture homes were the most dehumanizing situation anyone can find himself, adding that the purported rehab in Daura was too small even for the last 67 out of over 300 inmates evacuated from the centre.
He said: “We will put in place machinery to return the inmates to their parents. This place is not registered and it lacks the capacity for so-called rehabilitation. Almost all the inmates were in chains and they were being beaten; you can see signs of torture on their backs which is very sad and unfortunate. We are still going to sustain our investigations and all the aides of the Mallam who are implicated in the acts of homosexual or other maltreatment will be traced and tracked down.”
Reacting to the unfolding scenario, the owner of the facility, Mallam Umar said the centre had been in existence for about 40 years, adding that he was shocked over the revelations from the inmates concerning his aides that were running the centre.
The embattled cleric was of the opinion that the facility should be developed by the government rather than scrapping it.
A cross section of the parents and erstwhile inmates of the centre, who have continued to agonize over the disaster caused by the torture home, vehemently opposed the request of the cleric, while accusing him of betraying not only their trust but also many that he had saddled with the shame and loss emanating from his deceit and failure.
One of the inmates, who spoke while briefing CP Buba and newsmen on their plights, said the torture home might have lost no fewer than 20 people to maltreatment and dehumanizing condition in the centre. By his account, about six of the deaths occurred recently.
Last Laugh of Victims Of Daura Torture Home
For the last set of the inmates to be evacuated from Daura torture home on Monday 13 October, 2019, it was a dream come true. To cap their jubilation, they told the owner of the home to his face that ‘the wall of injustice has broken down.’
Some of them chanted “Freedom! Freedom! Freedom at last!” to lament their stay in the centre now shut for good.
As if the challenge posed by daily torture, struggles with chains on feeble feet and hands of its unfortunate inmates were not enough, different problems were added to their ordeals. The food, money, handsets and clothes among others brought by their parents and siblings never got them as their instructors reportedly confiscated and converted such to their own use.
Furthermore, the six small rooms or if you like, cells, for about 360 inmates in the home were a far cry from meeting the accommodation need of such population by any standard particularly for a centre that was popular among some parents seeking leeway in handling the excesses of their wayward or stubborn children.
“Life was strenuous in this place, in fact, cruel. Waking up every morning or queuing up for its miserable and irregular meals or going to the single toilet for all inmates were fraught with unimaginable pains,” Auwal Abdallah, recounted.
All these and more were no doubt more than enough impetus for the distraught and severely emaciated men and youths to break loose from their yoke last Sunday and for the police to raid purported Islamiyya schools and free persons held in abusive condition.
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