Ibadan: It’s not torture but rehab centre, demolishing it won’t go down well with us — Sanni, Oyo Muslim leader
The chairman of the Muslim Community of Oyo State (MUSCOYS), Alhaji Ishaq Kunle Sanni, speaks with SAHEED SALAWU on the discovery of what is now known as a torture house in Ibadan and other issues.
What is your reaction to the discovery of a rehabilitation centre which has been dubbed a torture centre in the Ojoo area of Ibadan and others like it in Kaduna and even Lagos?
I cannot talk for Kaduna. I don’t live in Kaduna. I don’t know what has happened there. But for Olore, that place has been there for over 50 years and it is registered with the government as a rehabilitation centre. It is possible they [owners of the centre] have been a little ruthless or crude in the way they treat the inmates but one thing is clear: there is not a single person in that place that was not brought there either by the parents or the guardians. It is when they [children] go haywire in their behavioural patterns – whether they become drug addicts, armed robbers, area boys or whatever – and the parents are not comfortable that they are brought to that Olore rehabilitation centre.
If the government, or the police, does a thorough investigation, they will find that even there are non-Muslims brought in there by their parents. And a lot of them, after staying for some time there, become refined, you know, good members of the society. Some of them [people who had been inmates at the centre] are now medical doctors, pharmacists, engineers and so on and so forth. Even if need be, one can point to them. And some people are even making arrangements to come together as alumni and do a press conference to show that they were reformed at that place.
I am not saying that maybe they have not gone into excess in the way they [the inmates] are being treated ‘inhumanly’, but for the government or the police to go to the extent of saying they would demolish the house of Olore, which is part and parcel of the rehabilitation centre, I think, it is going too far and I am sure it will not go down well with the Muslim community. They have different sections there. Some of these boys and girls are very violent and so they [the operators of the centre] need to go the extra mile to chain them in order to get the rehabilitation done. And they do a lot of spiritual activities in terms of praying for them and the rest of it so that they could get them to become good and patriotic citizens of the country. Some of them, like I have told you, have become in terms of manner; they have made success stories of their lives. So, I don’t think they should throw away the baby and the bathwater. It is a different scenario from where they say they [the inmates] are being raped and whatnots. That place is a real rehabilitation centre that is using the Islamic touch.
There might be certain things that are inhuman and that kind of stuff but, so the government should just come in and make sure that they reorient them so that the excesses that are being committed, I am not too sure, I have not been there, would be corrected. But the issue of saying the government will demolish or eradicate that centre, I don’t think, is in the best interest of the society at large. Those inmates will say anything because they don’t want to be there. It is like a prison yard, and somebody who is in prison, if he has a way of escaping would escape. So, they can say all sorts of things that they are being maltreated but it is a real rehabilitation and reformation centre as far as the Muslim community is concerned. That is our position.
From the images that have been released so far, some of the rescued inmates look emaciated and they were even in shackles…
That is why I said they might have been too crude in taking care of them [the inmates] and those are the excesses that should be corrected and not to completely annihilate that structure and the whole idea of the rehabilitation centre.
I want to add that the parents [of the inmates] pay. If you take your wards there, you have to pay for them to be fed. There should be a real investigation of what is going on there [at the centre]. The government should not take a harsh decision. That place also houses the wives and children of the owner of the place. I have seen the photographs of some of the inmates that look over haggard. These are the corrections they need to do. We all know that even policemen, when they catch criminals, they do some torturing in order to get information or get them to admit to what they have done. And that is exactly what I say; that there are some of the inmates that are very violent and part of the reformation is to also treat them harshly so that they can behave.
During the tenure of former governor of the state, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, you honoured him as the ‘Most Equitable Governor in the History of Oyo State’ in terms of what you viewed as his impartiality to the two main religions, Islam and Christianity. How would you assess the incumbent governor, Mr Seyi Makinde, so far in this regard?
So far so bad. We know the way to treat people who treat us badly but we want to find a way of interfacing with him. If you look at all appointments, they have been terribly lopsided against the Muslims. For instance, last week, there were appointments into two commissions. There was the Local Government Service Commission and all five of them [the appointees] are non-Muslims. And there was the Civil Service Commission; all of the appointees are Christians. Ajimobi never did this. He made sure there was balance. If a commission was headed by a Muslim, the next one was headed by a Christian. This is what he did but that is not the situation now. For instance, now the governor is a Christian, the deputy governor, a Muslim; the Chief of Staff a Christian; the SSG [Secretary to the State Government] is a Christian. And look at the number of the commissioners also. I think there are about nine Christians and six Muslims. When Ajimobi was there, it was 50-50. In spite of the fact that we had numerical superiority, we didn’t mind it was 50-50. Anybody knows that there are more Muslims than Christians in Oyo State but we did it 50-50. But to now have more Christians than Muslims as commissioners is completely outrageous. We have not reacted. We want to write a letter to him to let him know that we are not happy with him.
So, how would you say the Muslim community is faring generally in the state?
There is no problem. We don’t have any problem.
What have been the achievements of the Muslim community in the state under your watch?
I think it is better some other people say what we have achieved. We are doing our best.
What is your take on the state of the nation?
The president is trying. Look at the issue of border closure. It is assisting the economic well-being of our farmers. No government had ever thought of doing that kind of stuff. So, I will say that the president is trying but you know our mainstay is oil and the price is not all that good at the international market. The president is doing his best and I think every reasonable Nigerian will applaud all that he is doing. And with the economic team that he has put together, we believe that in the next few months, we are going to see results.