By; JACOB ONJEWU DICKSON
The co-proprietor of the Du Merci Orphanage, Mrs Mercy Tarfa, has described the BBC News report on their orphanage as contrary to the responses given when the interview was granted to BBC correspondent, Khalifa Shehu Dokaji and his colleague.
This was expressed in a statement signed by the Director of Advocacy, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Nigerian Office, Matthew Braimoh Esq, made available to our correspondent on Tuesday.
The claim that the orphanage is ‘illegal’ is a copious rendition and repetition of the false accusations of the Nigeria Police in Kano, which does not also tally with the charges of criminal conspiracy and abduction leveled unjustly against the proprietors of the orphanage, says Mrs Tarfa.
Sadly, BBC News Africa smeared its hard-earned reputation for objective presentation of happenings for an unprofessional, biased, and shallow reportage, tainted with uneven sentiments that’s targeted at derailing fair public opinion. It has shut out justice for victims of religious persecution, noted CSWN.
Several sources revealed to CSWN that the orphanage is not ‘illegal’ but registered with relevant regulatory bodies in compliance with extant legal requirements.
CSWN was shown valid registration document with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Kano State, Kano State Internal Revenue Service (KIRS) and an affidavit from the Kano State High Court establishing its legitimacy as a faith-based charity with bona fide endeavor.
If memory serves us well, this is a reoccurrence of the same harassment suffered at the hands of the police and judicial officials in Kano State in which the Honourable Judge of the High Court of Kano State, Justice A.M Haliru in suite No.K/M225/2002 quashed and set aside the proceedings and judgment of the juvenile court presided over by Chief Magistrate Abdullahi Mahmud Bayero, held on the 26/6/2002 directing the children to be removed from the Du Merci Children Home and transferred to Nassarawa Children’s Home.
The said juvenile court had conducted its hearing in the living room of the proprietor at the orphanage and sentenced them both to 2 years imprisonment each. They were taken straight to the prison and the children confiscated to the government home while Du Merci Orphanage was shut for four months until the order of the High Court Judge. Our source further stated that during the hearing in their home they were questioned as to why they will establish a Christian orphanage in Kano State; they wondered if Kano State was not a Nigerian State in which the provisions of the constitution generously grants its citizens freedom of religion or belief.
Further more, Du Merci is located in Sabon Gari, a populated Christian area where some teenage girls are used as sex workers and abandoned when they get pregnant. They later go to the hospital for abortions or abandon the delivered babies in the hospital. Proprietors of the orphanage counsel these girls, make contact with their parents and in some cases, the parents reconcile with the girls and take their grandchildren home. In some cases the parents consider the situation as a stigma to take the newborn whereupon they are given a memorandum of understanding to complete placing the children in the orphanage care. The orphanage maintained all the documents signed by parents and the manifesto of each child.
The children are well taken care of, loved, well-nourished and placed in some of the best schools. Some have graduated from the university and have chosen to lead their lives by accepting roles in the orphanage to give back to others.
NAPTIP officials came to the orphanage on 29/12/19 and one of them named; Misbau Iyya Kaura presented his ID Card stating that they came for investigation. They immediately started interrogating the children without the proprietors consent. The children requested that they should speak to their mother who they argued was in the best position to speak as a proprietor of the orphanage. later, Mrs Mercy was given a form that reads: ‘Accused/Witness’ to fill but objected asserting that no crime has been committed. She demanded to speak with her lawyer and the NAPTIP officials demanded she follows them to their office for questioning. On getting there with her husband they were kept from 7:00 am to 2:00 pm without interrogation. By this time their lawyer came requesting an audience with the NAPTIP superior officer but he was challenged and almost sent out of their office but he refused to leave. At 6:00 pm they were asked to bail themselves or remain detained through the weekend even though there was no formal charge. After much argument, the lawyer advised them on getting the bail since they weren’t sure of the motive of the NAPTIP. Although they were handed stringent bail terms the conditions were met after putting the surety through a very onerous situation. They were subjected to visiting the NAPTIP office twice every week which they did.
At about 2:00 pm on Christmas Day, 2019 twenty-five policemen armed with guns in Hilux vehicles stormed the orphanage, stating that the Kano State Commissioner of Police demands the proprietors to come to the station for interrogation. 19 children aged 3 months old to 28 years were whisked away with Professor Solomon Tarfa when the wife went to get dressed to follow them. At the police station, the children were given papers to make statements which the police wrote for them and one of them, aged 24 was told to state he was a staff.
The first allegations were that Du Merci was an illegal operation. But upon presentation of documents of registration, five days later the allegation was changed to criminal conspiracy and abduction. The case is currently at a magistrate court in Nomansland, Kano. The lawyer has filed a suit at the Kano State High Court for the review of the bail terms of Professor Solomon Tarfa and the return of the children to Du Merci Children Home.
To further prove Du Merci was properly registered, it was enrolled as one of the orphanages operating legally in Kano State last year by the Ministry of Women Affairs and the orphanage received 120 bags of rice and other relief materials from President Buhari. The contention here is that the proprietors who are Christians are operating a faith-based outfit in Kano. This is a case of persecution, marginalization, and discrimination on grounds of religion.
The policemen also took the Prof. to the Kaduna branch on 29/12/19 where seven invited reporters were present. The security men became agitated at the sight of them and declined to make any comments. They waited till about 7:00 pm when the pressmen left before taking 8 children away from Kaduna to Kano. They arrived at 2:00 am with the children having nothing to eat and scantily covered to stand the cold weather. They had to wait till dawn for the orphanage in Kano who organized their feeding and brought them sweaters for the cold. The children were aged 3 years to 15 years, with a 30-year-old who is a teacher.
Two sources at the Nassarawa Children Home where they were kept described the situation as challenging physically, emotionally, psychologically and deteriorating. One of the girls named Destiny was sick and taken to the hospital by the government home officials but was abandoned there. Mrs. Mercy Tarfa had to make efforts for her care and treatments bearing responsibility for every cost. The children are exposed to mosquitos, cold and made to share small beds.