Nigeria: Human Rights Watch Condemns Chaining Mental Health Patients Across Nigeria

12 November 2019

International watchdog, Human Rights Watch (HRW), has condemned the act of chaining mental health patients in various mental health facilities across Nigeria.

It urged the Nigerian government to ban chaining, labelling it as "terrible."

In a report issued yesterday and signed by Emina Ćerimović, a senior disability rights researcher, the group said that detention, chaining, and violent treatment are pervasive in many settings, including state hospitals, rehabilitation centres, traditional healing centres, and both Christian and Islamic faith-based facilities.

According to the report, deep-rooted problems in Nigeria's healthcare and welfare systems leave most Nigerians unable to get adequate mental health care or support in their communities.

The group further stated that stigma and misunderstanding about mental health conditions, including the misperception that they are caused by evil spirits or supernatural forces, often prompt relatives to take their loved ones to religious or traditional healing places.

"Thousands of people with mental health conditions across Nigeria are chained and locked up in various facilities where they face terrible abuse, Human Rights Watch said today.

"Detention, chaining, and violent treatment are pervasive in many settings, including state hospitals, rehabilitation centers, traditional healing centers, and both Christian and Islamic faith-based facilities.

"People with mental health conditions should be supported and provided with effective services in their communities, not chained and abused.

"People with mental health conditions find themselves in chains in various places in Nigeria, subject to years of unimaginable hardship and abuse.

"President Muhammadu Buhari said in October 2019 of the Islamic rehabilitation centres that he would not "tolerate the existence of the torture chambers and physical abuses of inmates in the name of rehabilitation.

"But the government has yet to acknowledge that this abuse is rife in government-run facilities too.

Between August 2018 and September 2019, Human Rights Watch visited 28 facilities ostensibly providing mental health care in eight states and the Federal Capital Territory, including federal psychiatric hospitals, general state hospitals, state-owned rehabilitation centers, Islamic rehabilitation centres, traditional healing centres, and Christian churches.

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