When Miss Funmi Aremu, a young girl was rescued from inhuman and debasing condition she was subjected to by her carers in Ilorin, kwara state capital, little did she know that her sojourn in the religious care system for a supposed correction will be far from heaven but close to hell.
Funmi who has been kept in chains at a church in the Irewolede area of Ilorin for over 7 months was freed on Thursday 8th of March 2018 when the wife of the executive governor of kwara state Deaconess Omolewa Ahmed, the former commissioner for women affairs in the state Hajia Ayinke Saka and executives of the federation of women lawyers (FIDA) visited the worship center.
Reports by the ministry of women affairs, and accounts of the residents of the area attest to the fact that the young child has been subjected to varying degrees of debasing and inhuman conducts.
In his account, the founder of the church where Funmi was kept, Prophet Isaiah Ologbon said “the girl is mentally unstable hence his resolve to chain her legs with 3 padlocks”. He further stated that Funmi was notorious to always running away whenever she is free hence the need to chain her while he(the prophet) proffer spiritual solutions to her problem.
When asked by the men of the Nigerian police force to produce the key to the locks on Funmi’s legs, the self acclaimed prophet said the keys are with the mother of the girl and as such the locks cannot be opened until a time specified by him, however through the insistence of Deaconess Ahmed,the locks were broken by the police.
While questioning the mother of the girl, Mrs. Teni Aremu said Funmi(the victim) has subjected her to so much troubles that she had to resolve to chain her legs. The mother alluded to the fact that Funmi when free walks around naked and has tried to kill her, a claim which Funmi vehemently refutes.
However, the Kwara state ministry of women affairs has taken over the care of the lady and has since been taken to the state general hospital for proper medical care while the mother and the prophet are still with the police for further investigation on the matter.
The true life event about of Funmi is one of many humiliating experiences of vulnerable children in care systems in Nigeria.
Professionals who work with children in care systems say government needs to play a cogent role especially in the regulation of care systems while parents should make it a duty to protect their children from abuse in homes.
“Our Children are not receiving deserving attention as regards to care for vulnerable due to lack of proper implementation of Government policies’’ Abdulhadi Tajudeen –President Network of Civil Society for protection of Vulnerable Children in Nigeria tells me during an exclusive chart with me.
“The Ministry of Women Affairs and Social development which is charged with the responsibility of regulating care systems is lacking in duties’’ he added.
Tajudeen continue “if you look at the vulnerability index, some children are vulnerable in the education sector, some in health and in social development .If you look at the vulnerability in the area of education, it keeps on increasing, nobody cares about them”. Lamenting on the cases of abuse in care systems in Nigeria, Tajudeen blamed government for negligence in the area of monitoring. He also said the index on vulnerability of children keeps on increase while government is paying little or no attention to the development.
“We cannot put all the blame on the government ,the private sector especially not for profit organization is supposed to collaborate with orphanage homes especially the religious orphanage homes in other to reduce vulnerability” Tajudeen concluded.
In her own opinion, Grace Omolehin –Administrator Hope Orphanage said “even children living under the roof of their parents may not be totally protected from abuse by neighbors or even family members”
Speaking further, Grace said children should be taught how to protect themselves from every form of abuse and keep reporting cases of abuse. “Up till last year, I was till hearing cases where sisters where been abused by their brother so you can understand if you cannot even leave your child with your neighbor or relatives for fear of abuse” Grace added.
As a way forward, Grace said parents should monitor their children, pay them a visit in school or any care systems and take note when the children make complaints about certain issues that have to do with their wellbeing.
For Ayuba Akindele, senior programme officer –Center For Community Empowerment And Poverty Eradication “children who are in vulnerable condition are exposed to harsh and unfriendly environment most especially a situation whereby you see care givers who are supposed to protect these children are actually the ones exploiting them”.
“Children who come into the care system are likely to have been exposed to an array of traumatic events, such as bereavement, violence and abuse to parental drug addiction, it is actually pathetic that these children recount the abuse they go through, this must stop and government must see through with policies that will protect children in care systems in Nigeria” Ayuba added.
Ayuba Akindele while concluding that the media should also continue to beam focus light on issues regarding vulnerable children In care system, he added that the negative impact of inappropriate institutional care is better imagined.