Kaduna — 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.
When our correspondent approached one of them, Yusuf Tukur (13) he refused to talk. Even several taps on his back failed to make him to utter a word. But when one of their instructors directed him, he started to talk to our correspondent.
Tukur said his parents brought him to the centre because of his addiction to 'solution', a chemical substance used by roadside vulcanizers to perch tyres.
"I have spent 18 months here because of my addiction to 'solution'. My parents live here in Kaduna but I don't go to them; they only come to see me once in a while," he said.
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.
Maryam who has spent over six months at the centre, said she has had some reformation in her life. She has stopped taking drugs and learnt tailoring.
"I thank God that I am now on the path of progress. I have since realised that I was destroying my life. I'm now a fashion designer, courtesy of this centre," she added.
Talking on her educational background, she said: "I studied Public Administration from ABU and I graduated in 2006."
Unlike Maryam, Khadija Adamu (16) was introduced to cough syrup while she was at the junior secondary school level.
"I'm now in SS2 but I've been taking cough syrup for many years. My friends introduced me to it. Before I was brought here two months ago, I consumed two bottles of cough syrup per day. But now I have stopped and by the grace of God I will not go back to it," she told Daily Trust.
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.
In an interview with newsmen during the graduation of 30 reformed drug addicts yesterday, Yusuf who is popularly known as Malam Niga said he established the centre in 2006 with only two drug addicts as part of his contribution to the fight against drug addiction in the society.
"From two, we now have over 1,500 including over 100 women. Their parents pay registration fee to enrol them into the centre. Afterwards, they pay N50 per plate of food we provides for them," he said.
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.