Francis Sardauna in Katsina
Katsina State Police Command has uncovered a rehabilitation centre in Daura, the hometown of President Muhammadu Buhari, harbouring no fewer than 300 people chained on their legs and malnourished.
This was coming barely two months after police uncovered a house in Rigasa area of Kaduna State containing another 300 children in the same manner.
The Katsina centre is located in Nasarawa Quarters of Daura Local Government Area of the state with six rooms accommodating the victims.
The victims, who were seriously tortured by their teachers with varying degrees of injuries and profiled by the police, are from Bauchi, Adamawa, Taraba and Borno states as well as Niger Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon and Mali.
Among the inhabitants were children who confessed to have been abused homosexually, while the adults said they subjected to daily hard labour and torture “without” recitation of the Holy Qur’an as earlier agreed with their parents.
With chains on their legs and scars of injuries from torture, they disclosed that six of their colleagues died at the centre and were buried without notifying their parents.
One of the victims from Adamawa State, Fa’a Jibrila, said: “I have spent four years here with chains on my legs and my mother died while I was here. They claim to be teaching us Qur’an and Islam, but they do a lot of things here. They subject the younger ones to homosexuality.”
According to him, “This is supposed to be an Islamic centre, but trying to run away from here attracts severe punishment. They tie people and hang them to the ceiling. But engaging in homosexuality attracts no punishment.”
He called on the state government to take disciplinary action against the owners of the centre including the proprietor, Malam Bello, to serve as deterrent to others.
Addressing journalists at the centre yesterday, Katsina State Commissioner of Police, Sanusi Buba, who bemoaned the situation, said about six rooms containing over 40 people each with chains, were subjected to all forms of dehumanisation and hard labour.
He said: “This place, we understand from preliminary investigation conducted belong to Malam Bello and Malam Bello has been a Qur’anic teacher for about 40 years according to him and information gathered.
“And from there, he graduated to the level of harbouring children. Some of them are under age, while some of them are of age. They were brought here by their parents for the purpose of rehabilitating them.
“Unfortunately, as you can see the place, about six rooms containing over 40 people with chains and subjected to all forms of dehumanisation is unbecoming of any civilised rehabilitation centre.
“This Malam, I understand started well but gradually the centre degenerated to this unfortunate stage. Six rooms accommodating about 300 people, it’s unheard of.”
He lamented that situation became so bad that the victims could no longer bear it. “So, I think it was yesterday (Sunday) that they revolted and started escaping from this facility.”
The Katsina State police chief added that the proprietor of the centre and two other teachers of the centre have been arrested and investigation was ongoing to unravel the rationale behind the establishment of the centre.
“So, we are going to investigate them and get to the root of the matter. We will find out the real motive behind this centre. If they are found wanting they will be charged to court. But first, we are evacuating all the people from this place to ensure that they are reunited with their parents,” he explained.
On his part, the Emir of Daura, Dr. Farouq Umar Farouq, while addressing the state commissioner of police on the matter at his palace in Daura, directed the police chief to ensure that justice prevailed on the issue irrespective of whoever is involved.
However, in an exclusive interview with THISDAY, the proprietor of the centre said the centre was meant to teach people on Islamic values, saying all allegations of torture, dehumanisation and homosexuality were false.
He said: “They don’t do anything other than recitation of Qur’an, pray and worship God. Those chained are the stubborn ones who attempted to run away. Those who didn’t attempt to run away were not chained.”