In August, news of some persons incarcerated by their families in northwestern Nigeria broke out and drew attention to the abuse the individuals were subjected.
The first case was Jibrilu Aliyu, a 10-year-old in Kebbi State who was found chained by his parents for two years in a stall for livestock. The lad was said to be epileptic and the parents felt he needed to be exorcised of the evil spirits that possessed him and so needed to live with animals.
Three other cases in Kano State involved Ahmad Aliyu, a 32-year-old man found locked up for seven years by his father and stepmother on allegation of drug abuse; 31-year- old Ibrahim Lawan, incarcerated by his father for 15 years and 55-year-old, Murtala Muhammad locked up in a room for 30 years by his relatives on ground of mental illness.
There was also the case of a six-year-old orphan, Umar Ubale, who was rescued from 12 months confinement by his stepmother.
These cases reported by HumAngle provoked public outrage and led to other reports of inhuman treatment and abuse but Dr Bello Ibrahim, an Associate Professor of Criminology, at Bayero University, Kano, said such cases were prevalent but hidden by the people.
He said such acts were not reported because of the nature of the society where people had become individualistic with little regard for communal relationships.
Ibrahim attributed the phenomenon to ignorance, the breakdown of the family and belief system.
He said that the “high rate of illiteracy in the society contributed to belief in exorcism which encouraged the violation of rights through the incarceration of individuals.
“Exorcism is a product of negative cultural thinking. it is due to traditional and pre-modern society we are living that is why people are talking of spiritualism.
“Most of the cases can be handled in a better way than exorcism. Exorcism is an irrational claim, traditional orientation is what makes individuals to believe in that.”
Ibrahim called for public enlightenment, saying: “Even religion debunks exorcism.
“There are individuals that make exorcism as a business, opening centres and making huge money which is a form of extortion. However, the government has to be blamed for allowing such act.”
He added: “The increase of broken home is part of the causes.
“The primary institution in terms of socialisation of children is the family and within the family the major factor for child socialization is the mother.
“Most of stepmothers challenge one another. Unfortunately when one has been divorced, the child of that particular divorcee is likely to face such kind of regimentation and humiliation by his stepmother.”
He said incarceration usually made victims unhealthily and unstable as they faced psychological challenges `because isolation tends to make an individual to become mental which make them to forget about reality and certain circumstances about what is happening in the environment.
“An individual who is incarcerated suffers a high degree of social distancing because they are imprisoned away from people and interaction concerning their health condition and social life which leads to a life of squalor.”
Ibrahim said victims had the tendency of losing their education as they often became afraid from series of beatings which they might have undergone which sometimes could lead to death.
“The claim of the children engaging in drug abuse is a fabrication. Even if it is so, the solution to drug abuse is not by incarcerating an individual. The solution to drug abuse is by counselling not incarceration.
“Most of children who engage in drug abuse is due to a lack of care from the parents. When the needs of the child are not provided economically and socially that child is likely to engage in drug abuse.
“Both native, local and spiritual means are ways to rehabilitate victims, spiritually by the means of prayers for God to safeguard the children which is first.
“But formal solutions are highly regulated. However, informal solution provides positive outcomes when it comes to rehab such as advising and involving third party from the family members,” Ibrahim said.
He said parents who incarcerated children as a disciplinary measure should be punished according to the law to serve as deterrent to others.
“There are various ways to manage incarcerated victims who are mentally disabled, adopting proper relationship by engaging them in proper interaction because most individual that are mentally disabled is due to social inadequacy or materials inadequacy.
“Engaging such individuals in the community and enterprises will reduce their level of mental challenges, also seeking of rehabilitation institution both formal and informal is another solution.
“It is most likely parents who engage in such activities are also mentally disabled because a normal reasoning parent cannot subject a child they delivered to such experience,” Ibrahim said.
He suggested that the government should provide care for victims of incarceration by creating centres that could address their needs.
“Most of these caging are promoted by spiritual healers, because most parents who are traditionally oriented always refer their cases to these healers.
“However, these healers find it as a way to extort money, so they will advise the parents to incarcerate the children.
“However, traditional healers should be regulated by the government because they are destroying the society,” he said.
Also, Dr Ibrahim Adbdul, the Commandant, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in Kano State, said the health of persons incarcerated because of drug abuse or trafficking is adversely affected.
He said such persons could undergo adverse mental health, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, among others.
Abdul said NDLEA had made efforts to curb drug abuse in Kano, which had the highest prevalence rate of drug abuse in Nigeria through rehabilitation, public enlightenment and reintegration to the society.
The management has rehabilitation centre where parents bring their children for rehabilitation. Most of these drug abusers are offered skill training to keep them away from retreating to drugs, he said.
Meanwhile, Kano State Commissioner for Women Affairs, Dr Zahra’u Muhammad Umar, has appealed to the public to report all similar cases of human rights abuse to relevant authorities.
She said “The government has set up to assist the victims after being discharged from hospital, by monitoring the parents and also providing opportunities for them.”