Children from the Du Merci Centres in Kano and Kaduna States in Nigeria, which were forcibly closed on 25 and 31 December 2019 respectively, have published a statement condemning the detention of the co-founder of the orphanages, Professor Richard Solomon Musa Tarfa, on his 55th birthday.
Professor Tarfa was detained by authorities on 25 December when armed police officers and officials from the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) raided the orphanage for unwanted children that he had co-founded with his wife in the Christian district of the Kano State capital, initially detaining Professor Tarfa for not having a licence to operate an orphanage. However, the charges were subsequently changed to ‘criminal abduction of minors’ after his wife produced documentation proving the orphanage was duly registered.
On 3 January, the professor’s bail terms were set at N5 million (approximately USD13,800) and included the provision that one of his sureties must be employed as an under-secretary in a federal ministry. So far he has been unable to meet these stipulations and is marking his birthday in detention.
In the statement , the children from the orphanage condemn the detention of the professor and the charge levelled against him, saying: “The centre provides accommodation for all children brought to the home, we view them as parents and are educated and cared for until we are able to live successful independent lives… He is not a criminal; his only offence is the love he shows to all of us.”
Children from the Du Merci Centre at the government-run orphanage
Twenty seven children from the Du Merci Centres in Kano and Kaduna states have been in the government-run Nassarawa Children Home in Kano since being removed from the orphanages. Their current situation was described to CSW Nigeria (CSWN) as being physically, emotionally and psychologically challenging – and deteriorating. The children are reportedly exposed to mosquitos and the cold; they are made to share small beds, and they complain of insufficient food. CSWN was informed that when one of the girls fell ill, she was taken to hospital by officials from the home and effectively abandoned there, and Mrs. Mercy Tarfa made every effort to cover the costs of her treatment.
The children’s statement ends with a call to “meaningful people around the world” to support them so that they can be reunited with their family. Last week in the UK Lord Alton of Liverpool raised Professor Tarfa’s case with the Nigerian High Commissioner in London and the BBC, having written earlier to the Police Commissioner and Attorney General of Kano state.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “It is heart-breaking to see these children separated from a man they view as their father due to charges that are completely unfounded. Being taken so abruptly from a home, where they insist they were happy and well cared for, and placed in a far less suitable environment can in no way be considered as being in their best interests. The longer they are separated from the only people they have known as parents, the more psychologically damaging it could be for some of them. We call on the Kano state authorities to drop all charges against Professor Tarfa and release him immediately and without condition. We also echo the children’s call for meaningful people around the world to support their desire to be reunited with their parents, and call for the international community to raise this issue with the Nigerian authorities at every opportunity.”