Tuesday Column By VICTORIA NGOZI IKEANO
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“NSCDC busts more illegal rehabilitation centres in Zaria”.
“15 rescued from illegal rehabilitation centre in Adamawa”.
“Police rescue 108 youths at illegal rehabilitation centre in Ilorin”.
These are just latest samples of what is described as illegal rehabilitation centres unearthed by the police and the civil defence commands in recent times following President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive on October 19, to fish out such centres. The presidential order itself was sequel to initial discoveries of such abodes in Kano, Kaduna (where 147 persons were found detained at a centre in Rigassa, Igabi local government) and Katsina (where 360 inmates were rescued from one such facility located in the president’s very own back yard so to speak).Undoubtedly, more of such rehabilitation centres would be uncovered in the north which is where the police is focussing its attention for now. They can also be found in other parts of the nation.
These centres are described as “illegal” which means that they are not registered or recognized as such; conversely, it implies that there are legal rehabilitation centres for people suffering varying degrees of mental illness arising from drug abuse and the like. They are both government and private-owned. Privately run rehab centres are now germinating and even advertised on the internet. Though seemingly adequately staffed with right personnel in a conducive environment, their services are apparently out of reach of the common man, in terms of fees, so their clients are majorly middle and upper class segments of our society. I doubt if state and federal governments have any rehabilitation centres as such.
What we have are psychiatric hospitals and remand homes, the latter being for ‘stubborn headed’ boys who cannot be ‘handled’ by their parents. Indeed very little is heard/known of these homes these days as they appear to be phasing out. As for psychiatric hospitals, they are so very inadequate, professional psychiatrists themselves so very, very few in comparison to our population. And like many things associated with government these have also suffered some neglect over the years due to insufficient funding and attention. Yet their services appear to be so very much in demand in today’s world where mankind is becoming increasingly restless, unconsciously egged on to a longed-for seeking of something which we do not totally comprehend but which we consider to be wealth, fame, leading to an unbridled rat race from which we seek relief in exhaustion, through alcohol and narcotics. Yet these only offer temporary not permanent relief, resulting to addiction and eventual nervous breakdown.
Mental illness is becoming a huge problem arising from increasing pressure on our world. In Nigeria as elsewhere in Africa it is equated to ‘madness’ and nobody wants to associate with mad person. Such ‘mad’ persons exhibit violent behaviours arising from drug abuse or they are believed to be possessed of demons, hence they are taken as in the south, to traditional (herbal) or religious homes where they seek to ‘cure’ them of the madness or exorcise the demons in them through excessive beatings. In all instances they are chained to curb their violent tendencies.
The police describe victims found in illegal rehab centres discovered by them as living in inhuman conditions and being tortured. Some of the female victims also say that they were sexually abused. In fact the police reveal that three persons died in one such facility apparently due to lack of care. Also strange is the fact that children are also found in those centres. All of the inmates were apparently brought there by their parents or relatives. Some were taken there on mere suspicion of being sick in the head. One victim said he was tricked to the place by his relatives. The police say they are reuniting the rescued inmates with their families. This is not right, for it is clear that they were taken there because they were considered to be drug addicts, stubborn headed or ‘mad’. They should be taken to proper psychiatric homes, whether government or private-owned where they would be nursed back to healthy life.
Parents, guardians and relatives should not turn their backs on family members that show signs of mental or psychological imbalance of any kind by abandoning them to the streets, locking them up in a remote corner of the house or sending them to illegal rehabilitation centres. These quack centres only heap more psychiatric problems on them with their inhumane treatment. Well funded, equipped and staffed legal rehabilitation centres should be set up in all local government areas.
Above all government should dig into the root causes of drug abuse and other deviant behaviours in order to stamp them out. Equally important is for parents to endeavour to fulfil their sacred duty of properly bringing up their children/wards to be responsible citizens that would contribute to the up building of our country. Security agencies should extend their tentacles to other parts of the country where illegal facilities of various kinds as for instance, illegal baby factories, etc., abound.