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 Tales of the manacle

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By Dele Adeoluwa

The holy book says the heart of man is desperately wicked. What truism! What else but ‘desperate wickedness’ could have prompted some men to perpetrate such heinous acts as we read these days against their own children? The macabre orgy of criminality people are committing these days against their fellow beings is simply unfathomable.

However, if those could be excused, what do we say about the atrocities wicked fathers are committing against their own biological children? It beggars belief. Such tales read like the surreal fibs display in movies. Those given to spirituality tend to explain the maelstrom in ethereal terms. That is, that from the biblical point of view, strange things, highly abominable acts will be happening in low and high places as the ‘end time’ inches nearer. They say the wicked (the devil) will do more wickedly during this period.

This, perhaps, is the only sane context in which we can explain the plight of 23-year-old Ahmed Aminu, who, according to reports, was caged like an animal in Kano by his own father in an unused garage for seven years. However, the father confessed he did it for only three years!

The young man’s offence? His dad, Aminu Farawa, aided and abetted by Ahmed’s quite bilious step mum, accused him of drug abuse. And their own way of exorcising that habit from him is to cage him like a goat! The couple, who live at Farawa Baba Layi Mariri Quarters, Kumbotso Local Government Area of Kano, allegedly so dehumanised Ahmed that he had to go without food and water for days. The deprivations forced him sometimes to feed on his own faeces for food and drink his own urine to quench his ravenous thirst!

By the time the police moved in to rescue Ahmed last Thursday, after a concerned neighbour alerted a human rights activist who tipped them (police) off, he had emaciated so much; he looked so gaunt. Drained of all strength, life was noticeably ebbing away from him. He had been reduced to a skeleton and he was in rags as he was being taken away.

Ahmed had a companion. About five days earlier, another victim, this time 11-year-old Jibril Aliyu, was discovered to have been manacled in a pen like a goat by his own father in Birnin-Kebbi for almost two years. Jibril is a half-orphan having lost his mother two years ago.

His own case is slightly different from that of Ahmed Aminu. Jibril is said to be going through a suspected mental health condition. His father made attempts to help him by taking him to the hospital. He had to resort to chaining him when he became obviously frustrated by his son’s condition.

A Facebook user, Maryam Shelty, had squealed on Jibril’s ordeal. According to her, the boy was dehumanised by his father and his three wives. Left with no food for days, he had to feed on remnants of food in the house and occasionally animal’s dung! The police were also tipped off. They moved in penultimate Sunday, arrested the father together with his three wives and took Jibril to a psychiatric hospital in Birnin-Kebbi for treatment. The Kebbi State government has eventually taken over the case and investigations are on.

Ahmed’s and Jibril’s ordeal exemplifies the fate of an average  child who is unfortunate to be raised without the mother. This happens where the mother either dies (as is the case with these two) or separates from the husband, who goes ahead to remarry. Only few of such children are lucky to be raised by loving and God-fearing step mothers. And their cases are a child’s play compared to the tales of manacle and the fiendish acts that played out earlier.

In September, last year, the rescue of a bevy of dehumanised victims, many of whom were chained, from a religious rehabilitation  centre at Rigasa area of Kaduna, stirred serious obloquy. The victims, numbering at least 300, who were rescued by the police when they raided the place, were believed to be from neighbouring countries like Burkina Faso, Mali and across Nigeria.

They were allegedly subjected to all sorts of inhuman treatment, including sexual abuse and torture. The most interesting aspect of the fiendish tale is that the victims were said to have been taken to the centre by their own parents or guardians, as the case may be. One of the victims, who spoke to an online medium, said he was tricked to the centre by his family members. The victim, who rued being chained for three months, said he was supposed to be pursuing his master’s degree at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.

“I got admission to study Applied Mathematics, but here I’m, chained. This is supposed to be a religious centre, but trying to run away here attracts severe punishment; they tie people and hang them to the ceiling for that (attempt to escape),” he said.

The police, who doubted that the place was actually a rehab centre, began investigations to decipher what the real motive of the founder could be. But the proprietor, who identified himself simply as “Malam”, insisted that the centre was set up to rehabilitate people, adding that the inmates were actually brought by their parents and guardians. He denied allegations of homosexuality, torture and dehumanisation. He claimed that the only people chained were those who attempted to run away.

However, the shock of the raid had hardly died down when another rehabilitation centre was uncovered in the same Rigasa area of Kaduna, less than a month after. This time, 147 men, women and children were rescued, after Governor Nasir el-Rufai was said to have personally led policemen to raid the centre. The victims were made up of 125 males and 22 females and among them were four inmates from Cameroon and Niger Republic as well as underage children.

Like the earlier case, the owner of the centre claimed that the victims were brought by their parents and relations. According to the police, the owner claimed that the centre was truly certified to rehabilitate and train people in skills acquisition. The owner and the teachers were charged to court and the children taken into the state government’s custody.

Shortly after, another set of 300 inmates of another rehab centre were rescued by the police, this time in Daura, Katsina State. The victims, who were rescued from Nasarawa Quarters of Daura, were also festooned with manacles on their legs. And they looked seriously malnourished. The victims, who looked dishevelled and gaunt, bore degrees of wounds from obvious torture. They too were said to have been brought by their parents and relations from Bauchi, Adamawa, Taraba and Borno states as well as Niger Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon and Mali.

The proprietor, identified as Malam Bello, however, denied allegations of torture, saying the centre was strictly meant to teach people religious values.

It is hard to believe that any parent or guardian will send anybody to any of the raided centres. However, granted that they actually sent their children or wards to those places, could they have bargained for the miasma of atrocities perpetrated against them? It is doubtful. There is a modicum of suspicion from the shocking discoveries that some of the rehab centres may have been established to veil other motives. This is what the various investigations launched into the centres by the police ought to have unnerved by now. And if the owners per chance harbour honest intentions as they claim, the police ought to also know. These are the compelling reasons the reports of their investigations should be made public to clear the fog.

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