Kaduna torture centre: ‘Out of the 147 inmates, only 13 are not owing me school fees’—Muduru, owner of closed Kaduna centre
Lawal Yusuf Muduru, a. K. a. Mallam Niga is one of those whose rehabilitation centres were closed by the Kaduna state government on allegations of sexual harassment of female inmates at the centres. He spoke with Northern Bureau Chief, MUHAMMAD SABIU, on his arrest, 147 inmates evacuated from his centre, allegations levelled against his centre and other issues. Excerpts:
How did you start your Rehabilitation centre
I was into sales of shoes and there was a day I came to Rigasa in Kaduna and I found some youths at a barbers shop, highly intoxicated and dancing to all sort of disco songs. Some of them were even falling into the gutter.
Then I asked what happened and I was told they were under the influence of drugs. Then I gathered my close friends to inform them about what I saw. Since I have experience on drugs and Islam, I told them I will open a centre to address the high rate of drug abuse among youths.
So those friends of mine obliged to assist and we started. There is one Abdulahi Yakubu who is my elder brother, Daibu Ado, Umar and one Ibrahim. The moment I got a go-ahead from them, I opened this Malam Niga centre. I established this rehabilitation in March, 2006 and started with just a single student named Hamza. Then I got another student named Aliyu and the third student was Dauda Bukar. This Dauda Bukar, it was a chieftain of Makera that handed him over to me. That was how the inmates started multiplying. And so far, I have rehabilitated and trained over 2,300. There are procedures we followed before returning the inmates back to their parents or relatives. Those whom their sanity is ascertained and their parents feel they want to change their environment or reunite with their families after we allowed them to go.
I have rehabilitated and freed more than 2,000 inmates and currently I have 147 students under me. Among them are 22 females and 125 males before they were taken away from me by the state government. In fact, we have old boys association. These are the inmates whom we trained and corrected in the past. I involved so many of them in different jobs. I teach them trade and so amongst them some even joined me in fight against drug abuse. In fact, for so long my fight against drug abuse has gone international. We have organized about 12 retreats on drug abuse. We paid courtesy visits to all the people that are in authority, ranging from government house, ministries and parastatals. We informed Commissioners of Police, the Governor, the GOC 1 Divison and NDLEA on best ways to tackle drug abuse. We hold conferences and meetings on drug abuse.
We often organise shows to campaign against drug abuse and dignitaries usually grace our events. In fact, during the last event we had, the governor of Kaduna state sent a representative over to witness the event. We have been inviting Kaduna state ministries, organizations and the state government to come and assess what we have on the ground in the rehabilitation centre; to come and see how we empower inmates, the type of training we offer them and look at ways to assist us. This is not all about money, but how to advise the youths on drugs abuse. But when I visited the police commissioner last Thursday, I told him that apart from assisting the youths on drug abuse and assisting them to learn skills trade If not we don’t indulge in any such illicit act in my rehabilitation centre.
But still, on Saturday, the governor came in convoy with security men to my centre interrogating me that how comes I am chaining children. But I explained to him that all I do is teach the inmates trade. I showed them everything. I explained that some inmates do runaway from the centre and never return home to meet their relatives and if they run away from my rehabilitation centre, the parents confront me. I also explained that in most cases, the inmates usally run into trouble once they are not within the rehabilitation centre premises, some may even lose their lives and the relatives take me to court if I can’t provide their children for them.
There was even a time when the Commissioner for Women Affairs and social development brought nine persons to me to take care of them. She went on the streets and brought mad people to my rehabilitation centre for treatment. They spent four months with me and the commissioner eventually came to pick them up after they gained back their sanity. People can be my witness on this. With all that have mentioned, if they are to be fair to me, they are supposed to bring inspectors around to ask what really is happening in my rehabilitation centre. They should have asked the mad people brought over by the commissioner to answer whether they were sexually molested or there is anything bad going on here. They are supposed to investigate if truly there are those practicing lesbianism or raping people in my centre.
For a long time, I have been asking for inputs from the state government on how best to operate with standard practices and improve my centre. We have written several times to the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir El Rufai, requesting for a courtesy visit, to meet him and discuss and to chart way forward. We even did followups, but up till now, there was no response from the governor. Since the Mallam Nigga Rehabilitation Centre is popularly known across the state and the country, there is need for governor El-Rufai to at least listen to our yearnings and at least know what we want and can do to improve our centre. Had it been the governor obliged to meet us, we would have told him our challenges and the possible ways they could help.
We all know that drug abuse is prevalent in Northern Nigeria and you know of recent, there was even a documentary on Sweet Sweet codeine. In Kano and Jiigawa states alone, people consume up to three million bottles of codeine daily. I even granted an interview saying codeine is not the only drug that is being abused, there are so many, like up to 20 other substances that the youths abuse on a daily basis.
What I also observed is that in all the 19 northern states in the country, none of the governors took the issue of drug abuse serious. There has not been any of them who pondered on the future of the youths who consume the hard substances and drugs on a daily basis. The future of the youth is less of their concern. And that has been the reason we have so many restive youths and crises in the north.
It was reported that female inmates in your centre were being molested and sexually abused, are you aware that something of such was happening inside your centre?
The reports that they practice lesbianism and females were sexually harassed and raped, is false because I am always on the ground. I have my family living here in the rehabilitation centre. I reside in the centre as well and even if an inmate lies on his bed and shifts or we notice any movement attempt, we will beam a flashlight to know what is happening.
Even if you are to urinate, you must be granted permission to do so. I actually don’t know where the fabricated reports that females in my rehabilitation centre were sexually molested is coming from. Like I said earlier, they are supposed to question the people that the Commissioner for Women Affairs brought to my rehabilitation for treatment to know if something of such was happening. You can imagine, we have successfully rehabilitated more 2,000 persons in this centre, so what will stop them from going to find out from one or two persons among them whether they had been sexually molested or maltreated during their stay here?
You know, already you should expect some among the those under rehabilitation to say negative things, because they probably want to go back home and resume their old ways. So definitely, if they are asked whether we maltreated them or not, they will say yes. So if they say they were not molested, there are chances that the government will return them to us, so they rather say no, so that they could be released.
But government should know that as we had about 147 of them here, they should know that some relatives are still eager to bring their wards causing unrest in the public to us, but now that they closed down our centre, those stubborn children that are supposed to be referred to us are still on the streets causing unrest. I foresee that crises might erupt in the north, as a result of drug addicts and restive youths who haven’t gained attention. This is because all the places where people could refer their children to have been closed down.
I am advising the government that from now till in the next five months, it should build rehabilitation centres across the state as they have begun to close down the private ones, because sooner or later, those released to the street maybe begin to unleash mayhem. So, since they have closed down our own centres, they should build correctional centres everywhere where stubborn children will be referred to.
For instance, I heard that the other Rehabilitation centre, that of Shiekh Hambal where 300 children were evacuated, there was one out of the youth whom was reunited with his relatives that stabbed someone to death. According to what I heard, he only spent two weeks in the centre before the incident and was returned home.
There was a plan to arrest the father of the boy, but the father faulted government for returning his son back home, as he said he took him to somewhere for rehabilitation and they brought him back home. So he said its none of his business.
They said you give the inmates smoke to inhale, just for the purpose of sedating them, and not to cure them, is that true?
How can smoke be inhaled just to sedate someone. The reason for inhaling incense should be to cure some. If a herbalist or traditional medical practitioner gives you an incense, it is meant to cure you.
Some of the inmates were identified with scares on their body, and this according to them are signs of torture. What can you say about that?
Our rehabilitation centre is not a torture centre. If you look at the scares on their backs or their body, you will notice that the scares are not fresh. They have been beaten and disfigured before they were brought to us.
There is a particular one among them, he has been wearing a rosary on his neck for almost twenty years. I used to say times without number that torture or corporal punishment cannot solve the problem of a defiant child. Some would not have been here if serious beating can actually solve their case.
How was the inmates’ feeding, do you charge them any fee?
They eat three meals a day and we charge them N25,000 per term. Although the payment varies, some pay beyond that. Some pay up to N75,000, because we feed them on a daily basis.
If you go to a hotel, you will defintely be charged for feeding and accommodation. We have more than 100 people under our custody and we even charge them less.
What sort of skill do you teach them?
I enrolled so many of them in different kinds of craft. Some are technicians. They are learning mobile phone repairs, some repair refrigerator, radio, blender and telivision, while some are into carpentry works. They can make executive chairs. We have professional welders and fabricators among them. Some are into shoe making, computer business and lots more. For the women, they go into tailoring and hair dressing.
We even opened an adult literacy school. Some do not know how to read and write, and we have been teaching them. We also teach them Arabic. We graduated so many of the inmates and as they became independent, they survive on what they learnt. I was also able to provide job for some of the inmates as security men. They go to work on daily basis with a food flask. Every month, I ensured they are paid their stipends. They are the ones securing the Panteka Market.
We have those that are still interested in going back to school. They were equally enrolled into schools as well.
What is your call to the government now?
My call to them is that, they should follow the advise given by the chairman of presidential committee on drug abuse, Gen. Buba Marwa (Rtd). He once came to our centre during a tour and lauded our achievements. Gen. Marwa even said he has never seen the type of initiatives we put in place here in any other place.
Everything in this rehabilitation centre is on autopilot. In most cases, the experienced ones among the inmate teach the remaining ones. They teach themselves trades.
The Commissioner for Social Development and Human Services said the centre is not registered, how true is that?
I have shown all my documents to them. You can even see them for yourselve. I registered with the Cooperate Affairs Commission, (CAC) and I have my alternative medicine certificate intact, my security company was also registered too. I have certificate from Bereau of Religious Affairs, (Islamic Matters) as well.
You can see all the awards I have won on the wall. Look at the one from catholic, the media and other notable organizations. Even the human right organization that was petitioned regarding alleged illegalities in my centre gave me an award. There was a time they came around to inspect activities at my rehabilitation centre. They even asked some inmates questions about how they were treated and they gave me an award. They said they are satisfied with what they have seen. To further proof their satisfaction, they gave me an award.
All that I am doing is for the sake of God and service to humanity. They are not supposed to come after me this way. In fact, out of the 147 inmates, only 13 are not owing me school fees. The remaining are owing me. This service am rendering is even at my own risk and now that they have packed all my students.Each and every time I have an event, I invite security agents to cover them.