Visitors to Soba road in Rigasa, Igabi local government area of Kaduna State, are welcomed by hundreds of drug addicts undergoing reformation. They coexist peacefully with other residents.
Rigasa, a densely populated suburb in Kaduna metropolis, was in the news last year when many policemen were killed by bike riding gunmen. On a daily basis, policemen were being targeted for elimination.
Among the drug addicts at the popular Malam Niga rehabilitation and skill acquisition centre are university graduates, secondary school drop-outs, primary school pupils, married women, grandpas and jobless youths.
They are over a thousand, moving around with red uniforms, all brought in by their parents or guardians from the 19 northern states and Niger Republic in the hope that they would be rehabilitated.
Some of the new arrivals move around with chains on their legs. They are not deaf and dump but if you stop to talk to them, you will waste your time because there is a directive barring them from talking to strangers.
For Maryam Mohammad, a 32-year-old graduate of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria regretted love dragged her into this whole mess. She said her involvement with a man who introduced her to drugs made her to abandon her career.
“I fell in love with a guy years back. After some time, I realised that he was a drugs addict but because of the love I had for him, I joined him in taking the drugs. And I did not know when and how I became addicted. Even after we parted ways, I continued taking drugs.
When I married, I continued and because of that, my husband divorced me,” she said. He favourite, she said, was cough syrup, and she continued even after the collapse of her marriage. “Drugs broke my marriage which was blessed with a baby boy. When efforts by my parents failed to yield result, they brought me here and after taking some local concoctions, I can now live without relying on drugs,” she added.
According to the founder of the centre, Mallam Muhammad Lawal Yusuf, presently there are over 1,500 drug addicts at the reformation centre, over 100 of whom are women.
Asked on the drugs he uses in treating and reforming addicts, he said: “I don’t use orthodox drugs; I used local concoctions to reform the drugs addicts. Many of them have graduated and are now living a normal life in the society.” He said he introduced skill acquisition at the centre three years ago in order to make them gainfully engaged on graduation. Depending on the level of addiction, Yusuf said the drug addicts spend between three to 12 months at the centre.
“Our major challenge is how to be providing capital for them on graduation. We want to encourage them to use the skill they acquired here to better their lives after they had left,” he said.