Just back from the United Nations General Assembly UNGA in New York, President Muhammadu Buhari, Saturday, commended the Police for the handling of the discovery and freeing over 300 persons fro. an Islamic school and rehabilitation centre in Rigasa, Kaduna State.
But not so for parents who took exception to the Police action and called for The freeing of those still with The PoliPolice. Some denied allegations against The centre’s management.
The Kaduna State Police Command, however, says it has handed over the 300 inmates to the Kaduna State government.
‘‘In commending the police for their discovery of this horrific hub and arrest of suspected operators of the unedifying, so-called “reform institution,” the administration of President Buhari categorically condemns rights abuses whether of adults or of children, a statement by Presidential spokesman, Mr. Garba Shehu said
The statement added: ‘‘We are glad that Muslim authorities have dismissed the notion of the embarrassing and horrifying spectacle as Islamic School.
‘‘The place has indeed been described as a house of torture and a place of human slavery.
‘‘The President holds the view that children will be safeguarded from roaming the streets and protected from all evil influences that assail idle hands and idle minds, when they are sent to school.
‘‘When he inaugurated the National Economic Council for the year 2019/2023 at the Presidential Villa, in Abuja, President Buhari warned that keeping children away from school is a criminal offence.
‘‘He also stressed the need to take seriously and enforce the statutory provisions on free and compulsory basic education, citing Section 18(3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, which he says places on all of us ( public leaders and political office holders ) an obligation to eradicate illiteracy and provide free and compulsory education.
‘‘He added that “Section 2 of the Compulsory Free Universal Basic Education Act provides that every government in Nigeria shall provide free, compulsory and universal basic education for every child of primary and junior secondary school age.
“It is indeed a crime, he stressed, for any parent to keep his child out of school for this period.
‘‘While the government at the center has introduced a number of programmess, including the school feeding programme which is now in 32 states in the country, with 9.8 million children in its roll to encourage school enrolment and enhance the health and learning capabilities of pupils, State and local governments are obliged under the law to ensure that every child of school age goes to school throughout the crucial nine years of basic education.
‘‘To stop unwanted cultural practices that amount to the abuse of children, our religious and traditional authorities must work with the federal, state and local governments to expose and stop all types of abuse that are widely known but ignored for many years by our communities.’’
The previous day, some parents of the affected children protesting the police action, storming the centre guarded by policemen, and demanding to be reunited with their children.
The police had accused the school authority of abusing the children and keeping them in dehumanizing conditions; an allegation the school authority denied.
In a report, The Nation newspaper reported that some residents of the area, said that some of the rescued students were drug addicts and stubborn children taken to the centre by their parents for rehabilitation and also to acquire Quranic knowledge.
A neighbour to the school, Ahmed Balarabe, also denied allegations of sexual abuse on the children.
He said: “I share a fence with the school and my two sons attended the same school before their graduation, and they never told me anything of such.
“Being a neighbour that always enters the school, if such a thing is happening, I should have known.”
One of the protesting women, Maryam Fatika, whose four children attended the school and are now with the police, said: “There was nothing going wrong in the school, because we took our children there ourselves. So we don’t know why the police raided the place.
“My children have never complained to me about abuse or anything. But we are aware that they were being punished if they did something wrong, because they are very dangerous and stubborn children.”
Another parent, whose son Jibril has been in the school for six years, said: “The boy became a threat to us his parents, so we took him to the Islamiyya School for rehabilitation, and to God be the glory, he has changed.
“I used to visit him anytime I took food to him, and I never saw anything wrong going on in the school.
“My worry now is that we don’t even know where they took our children to, which is why we are appealing to the government and police to return our children to us.
“We are also okay with the way the children are being handled by the Islamiyya authorities,” she said.
In her own views, Shafa’atu Zakari, who has six children in the school, said, her children were drug addicts and could not control their behaviour, which was why she took them to the school to acquire Quranic knowledge.
She said: “We brought the children to the school because we didn’t know what to do with them. Four of my children were among the students evacuated by the police. We demand their release because the founder of the school, Mallam Ismail, is doing everything possible within Islamic teachings to rehabilitate them for us.”
One of the directors in the school, Mallam Mohammed Auwal El’Zubair, also denied the allegations made by the police, saying that all the children at the centre were admitted with the consent of their parents.
He said: “No responsible father will take his child to where he will be molested sexually. We only teach these children the Quran, and we expected the police to investigate us well before invading the school.
“So we are seeking for justice from the authorities concerned and we leave everything to God who knows what? El’zubair also said that “former Kaduna State Police Commissioner CP Abdurrahman Ahmad, renown Islamic Scholar Dr Ahmad Gumi, Chief Imam of Sultan Bello Mosque as well as General Buba Marwa all visited the school in the past to assess our activities and none of them ever complained about us.
The Kaduna Police Command Public Relations Officer, Yakubu Sabo told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Saturday that the over 300 inmates were handed over to the Kaduna government on Friday for reunion with their families.
He, however, said that seven suspects earlier arrested were undergoing investigations.
The PPRO defended the police raid on the centre, saying it was based on reports of torture and abuse, not whether the inmates were willingly taken there by their parents.
“Whether or not they were the ones who handed their children over, there is limitation to what can be done to human beings, even by parents.
“According to law, even if it is the father that subjected his child to inhuman treatment, there is a level where he will be held liable for his action.
“Nobody is questioning whether the parents took their children there, what we are saying is that inhuman treatment is meted out to those children in violation of the law.
“The school in question have no license to operate as well. The agencies of government that are supposed to supervise them are not put into consideration. As far as we know, they have not tendered any document to show that they are licensed.
“The school is concurrently running both educational and correctional programmes which are supposed to be different institutions with different licenses.
” If you have licence to give correctional programme, that in itself does not give you order to do educational programme.
“Even if you are licensed, it does not give you the right to go ahead without having the required manpower and skills to carry out the programme. All these are not there,” Mr Sabo said.