PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday condemned the alleged torture and child abuse of students at an Islamic centre at Rigasa, Kaduna, which the police raided on Thursday.
Over 300 adults and children, many of whom were chained by the authorities of the school, were freed by the police.
State officials have been busy over the last 48 hours trying to locate the parents of some of the children.
The Police, who have been holding the inmates in protective custody since Thursday, handed them over to the Kaduna State Government on Saturday for rehabilitation.
Buhari condemned rights abuses in the country whether of adults or children.
He hailed the police for their “discovery of this horrific hub and arrest of suspected operators of the unedifying, so-called reform institution.”
He 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.”
But the president declared that the panacea to child abuse lies in education, saying 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.”
Garba Shehu, the president’s spokesman recalled how Buhari, while inaugurating the National Economic Council for the year 2019/2023 at in Abuja, warned that keeping children away from school was 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.’’
Officials in Kaduna State have been busy since Thursday trying to locate the parents of some of the freed inmates of the centre for reunion.
The police particularly asked families from Ghana, Mali and Burkina Faso to come and pick their wards freed from the centre.
However, some of the parents did not wait to be contacted before rushing to the centre to see their children.
Some others went to the centre on Friday to register their disapproval of the police action.
They said they willingly sent the children to the place for education and rehabilitation for the deviants among them.
They disagreed with the police that the students were being tortured or sexually abused at the centre.
Police handover rescued childrenThe Kaduna State Police Command said yesterday that it had handed over to the state government the 300 inmates of the centre.
The Command Public Relations Officer, DSP Yakubu Sabo told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the over 300 inmates were handed over to the state 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 has 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 license to give correctional program, that in itself does not give you order to do educational program.
“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.”
A parent, Maryam Fatika, who had four of her children at the school told The Nation on Friday that “there was nothing going wrong in the school because we took our children there willingly.”
“We don’t know why the police raided the place,” she said, adding: “My children have never complained to me about abuse or anything. But we are aware that they were punished if they did something wrong because they are very dangerous and stubborn children.”
Another parent, whose son has been a student there 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 take food to him and I have never seen 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 the police to return our children to us.
“We are also okay with the way the children are being handled by the Islamiyya authorities.”
Hajiya Shafa’atu Zakari who has six children in the school said her children were drug addicts who had gone out of control at home hence her decision to take them to the centre.
Her words: “we took 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 Malam Ismail is doing everything possible within Islamic teaching to rehabilitate them for us.”