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Nigerian government holds Christian orphans hostage

The ongoing four-year legal battle between Du Merci Orphanage and the Nigerian government is causing further distress.

The dispute at the orphanage started in 2019 when Nigerian authorities stormed into the Du Merci Christian home on Christmas day. Officers of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons moved 29 children to government-run facilities. The director of the orphanage, Professor Solomon Tarfa, was arrested on supposed charges of kidnapping. Professor Tarfa was acquitted of abduction charges in 2021. However, during the trial, the prosecution submitted forgery charges of official documents in relation to Du Merci’s registration documents. They claimed the documents did not have proper serial numbers and were fake, despite having been provided by the Nigerian government. Because of this,  Professor Tarfa remained in prison. He appealed again in April 2022 and was finally acquitted of all charges. 

Since then he has been fighting over custody rights. The government split the children up, including siblings. They were forced to study Islam and attend prayers in mosques. They were also stripped of their Christian names and given Muslim names.

Professor Tarfa requests the release of 16 children who remain in government custody. They face mental and physical abuse on a regular basis, including burns and medical neglect. 

A judge from the Kano State High Court has refused to grant the professor a trial, stating that he has ”too many cases to deal with that are more important”. He prompts the parties to settle outside of court, and has issued a deadline of June 4, 2024, to “get back to him”. The professor is extremely disappointed with this decision, as it has been more than four years since the children were taken into custody. 

The government also refuses to pay compensation to the professor for false accusations and the lengthy jail sentence.


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