By Gladys Ayorinde
In the recent past, Nigerians have heard the news of various illegal detention camps that have been discovered across the country. It is very disheartening but the fact be told, there are still hundreds of illegal detention camps that have not yet been revealed because it is in our nature as African to always keep some facts as secrets.
Many Nigerians who have health challenges are usually been ‘condemned’ by their family and the society at large and this will eventually lead to some certain degree of isolation, for instance, may children who would have been helped by various medical expertise are kept within the four walls of a bedroom with little or no medicare until the condition become irredeemable. Inferrences can be drawn from two Yoruba proverbs, “Were dun wo loja, ko se bi lomo” and “ko le tan lara were, ko ma ku wonyii, mo n ba o sere ni” meaning, ‘it’s better to watch the dramatic displays of a lunatic, it’s not easy to have them as offspring and a lunatic person does not get totally healed, for such person not to engage in scary acts periodically.
Checking through the facts, we have very limited number of Psychiatrists in the country and one of the reasons for this include the discouragement faced by newly trained medical doctors from taking up this specialty as it is culturally believed that they would also suffer same fate. However, the few doctors in this line of study have become “hotcakes” but equally overworked. As such, their efforts yield limited results to help the mental demand for the country.
Looking at it from the angle of mental retardation or challenge, many families do not want to be seen as either entering or departing from the Psychiatrist Hospital. They would resort to the use of prayers. This invariably has led to the overdependence on religious bodies and leaders. This eventually becomes a professional calling for the leader and this leads to referrals and a Illegal detention camp will be born. However, a question beginning for attention is, “do people actually get healed from Illegal detention Camps?”
The so-called Religious Rehabilitation Centers in Nigeria have also become Torture Centers. It has not been scientifically proven that torture heals mental challenges. If a survey is conducted to know the reason form taking their ward to a Religious Rehabilitation Home, some of the responses would be centered on, I don’t want people to know my ward has a challenge; I believe in the efficacy of prayers and I want my ward to be prayed for; the cost of treatment at such a place is cheaper compared to orthodox way of treating such cases amongst others. This issue is not majorly on the regret but the reason for such a dreadful decision, ab initio.
In these Illegal detention camps, the hostages are made up of men, women and children, and they are being illegally maltreated, sexually abused and tortured, and if any of them(hostages) makes an attempt to escape, that’s an automatic route to death.
In the last few months, different Illegal detention Camps have been discovered by the Nigerian Police Force in different places in the country. These include the Olóore Mosque, Ojoo, Ibadan which has about 260 inmates; the Gaa Idiroko, Odota, Ilorin Illegal detention camp in Ilorin with over 100 detainees; a illegal detention camp in Katsina has about 70 inmates, as well. This style of seeking medical help needs to be outlawed if we want to build a mentally healthy country.
There is a need to encourage the training and retaining of Psychiatrists and Psychologists into different psychiatric hospitals. It would be recalled that Nigeria suffered a great deal of brain drain when the September 11 attack happened in America. These were the first set of medical personnel that helped in rehabilitating survivors amongst others. Besides, Nigerian parents need to be given assurances of good medicare if they have a cause to be in the hospital because of their wards.
Government needs to be more committed, in funding and research, to the available Psychiatric Hospitals in the country. The economy is depressing enough and there is a need for equip these hospitals sufficiently so that illegal detention homes will no longer be patronized because if people cannot trust the available facility at a hospital, then, more illegal detention camps will sprout.