CSW is concerned for the welfare in detention of Professor Richard Solomon Musa Tarfa, the co-founder of the Du Merci orphanages for vulnerable children in Kano and Kaduna states, Nigeria, who is currently serving a two year prison sentence in Kano state.
The professor, who was convicted by a Kano state High Court of forging a certificate of registration from the Kano state Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development on 3 March 2022, has suffered a series of health challenges while in prison, including partial loss of sight.
According to information received by CSW, immediately after taking a bath, Professor Tarfa noticed he could no longer see clearly, and rubbed his eyes, thinking it due to the soap or water. Later he began feeling pain, and his eyes started to swell. On 5 July Professor Tarfa was able to make a phone call requesting that his wife, Mercy Tarfa, bring an ophthalmologist, who is also a family friend, to the prison to examine him. Mrs Tarfa and the doctor arrived at the prison at around 3pm the same day but were told they could not visit without their lawyer. They were unable to contact their lawyers until 7 July, when treatment commenced immediately. They were subsequently granted a further visit on 11 July to continue the treatment.
Professor Tarfa currently has double vision in his left eye, and still cannot open it properly. In a comment to CSW Mrs Tarfa said: “Each time l visit him, my heart bleeds and l ask, why this injustice? He needs an urgent intervention.”
A notice of appeal has been submitted to the courts by Professor Tarfa’s lawyers and filed on the basis of several errors committed by the presiding judge, Justice Narisu Saminu, when passing sentence, including his disregard of credible evidence proving the professor’s innocence.
CSW also remains concerned for the children from the two Du Merci orphanages who are still in state custody.
Sixteen of the children seized during the raids on the Du Merci centres in December 2019 remain in the government-run Nasarawa Children’s Home in Kano City. At a meeting with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Social Development on 13 June, Mrs Tarfa was told to submit a written request for visitation, which was sent on 15 June, and to which there is yet to be a response.
Until now, the children had been denied access to education since entering the home. However, one of the directors at the Ministry informed Mrs Tarfa during the meeting that the children had been enrolled in school and that the Commissioner was paying their fees personally. However, this claim is yet to be confirmed.
In January 2021 the authorities began the process of forcibly relocating the five youngest children from the government-run home to a facility in a remote area where their names have been changed, they can no longer speak in English (which was previously their first language), and they are obliged to learn Arabic, study the Quran and attend prayers at a mosque.
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “CSW remains concerned for the wellbeing of Professor Tarfa, and the toll of the current situation on Mrs Tarfa and the children who were under their care. We urge the prison authorities to ensure the professor receives consistent medical attention. His sentence constitutes a grave miscarriage of justice, and we renew our call for the overturning of his conviction, his unconditional release, and an end to the unwarranted suffering of this innocent man and his family. Given his earlier acquittal, we further call to the Kano state authorities to facilitate the immediate return of all of the Du Merci children to the care of Mrs Tarfa, and particularly the youngest five, whose treatment raises legitimate concerns of possible forced conversion. Reparations must also be made for the undeniable trauma this family has been made to endure for over two years.”