AFEEZ HANAFI and TED ODOGWU
The proprietor of an orphanage in Kano State, Du Mercy Children Development Ministry, Prof Solomon Tarfa, says his arrest and continued detention in police custody is politically motivated.
The police arrested the proprietor on Christmas on the allegation that he was operating an illegal facility.
Tarfa said he presented documents backing the operations of the orphanage but the police ignored them.
He was arraigned at the Magistrates’ Court 29, Kano and returned to police custody.
The professor spoke briefly with one of our correspondents on Friday when he was paraded alongside some robbery and kidnap suspects at the police headquarters in Bompai, Kano.
He said, ‘’I am innocent of all the charges, against me by the police. I presented my certificate of registration to the police operatives, who refused to believe me because they have a hidden agenda. All further statements will be made by my lawyer, when trial commences.’’
But the Kano State Commissioner of Police, Habu Sani, said Tarfa was being detained for further investigation.
Sani, represented at the parade by the command’s spokesperson, DSP Abdullahi Haruna, stated that the police had yet to reach satisfactory level of investigation.
“Three notorious kidnapping and armed robbery suspects, led by their leader, Murtala Sani, who terrorises some areas of Kano, Kaduna and Katsina states were also arrested. One AK-47 rifles, two magazines and 56 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition, were recovered from the robbers,” he added.
Meanwhile, one of the trustees of the orphanage, Mr Offiong Offiong (SAN), told Sunday PUNCH that Tarfa was being witch-hunted by the state government.
Offiong, who is also Tarfa’s counsel, showed one of our correspondents some documents obtained from both federal and Kano State governments, to formalise the orphanage’s operations.
The documents include a certificate of incorporation issued by the Corporate Affairs Commission, with registration number CAC/IT/NO 24513 dated July 2007 and a certificate of registration by the Kano State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development.
A document dated March 29, 2019 also indicated that the state’s Internal Revenue Service also granted the orphanage tax exemption.
“This is to certify that Du Merci Children Development Ministry is a registered charitable organisation registered with Corporate Affairs Commission and Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Kano State is hereby exempted from income tax based on the third schedule of Personal Income Tax Act 2004 LFN (2011 as amended),” the letter signed by the Director Personal Income Tax, Muhammad Aliyu, read.
Offiong claimed that there was no law in Kano requiring that orphanages should be registered, adding that the home had been having issues with the state government since 2002.
He recalled, “In 2002, a magistrate ordered that the orphanage should be closed down. The children were moved to a government orphanage. We went to high court and the court ordered that the home should be reopened and the children returned there. Afterwards, the government allowed the home to continue operation.
“At the time, the undertone of the allegation was that the home was coveting Muslim children. One of the pathetic cases that happened was that one of the children taken away by the government lived in the home with the mother.
“In December 2000, when it was very cold in Kano, the woman was impregnated by somebody and her father sent her away from the house. She had nowhere to go. She moved into a broken down bus in the middle of a street and gave birth.”
Offiong said the woman remained inside the bus with her baby without getting help, adding that a passerby advised her to come to the home.
He said he pleaded with Tarfa to help the woman and she was sheltered in the facility together with her child.
“When the woman was staying in the street, government did not have the kind-heartedness to notice that she was there. It was when she had found love in the home that the government suddenly realised that it owed her a responsibility.
“Some children have been sponsored to the university by the home. Instead of commending the management, the government now persecutes us. I don’t understand the kind of mentality that drives such thing other than exercising power,” he added.
“If the government says we are abducting children, fine. Abduction is a criminal offence. We will happily have the government to prove it in court.”
The trustee stated that the recent events that led to Tarfa’s arrest started on December 19, 2019 when some officials of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons stormed the orphanage and picked up Tarfa and his wife.
He said the couple were released on bail later that day and they asked to come the next day which they did.
The lawyer told Sunday PUNCH that NAPTIP stopped inviting Tarfa and his wife after they tendered the record revealing how the children were brought to the home.
He said, “On Christmas Day when the children wanted to eat, the police arrested them. The Kano State Government later issued a statement that the home is operating in defiance of government. What that means I don’t know.
“The magistrate who presided over Prof Tarfa’s arraignment ordered that the surety must be a federal ministry permanent secretary living in Abuja. How does the court expect that to happen when the defendant resides in Kano?”
The state Commissioner for Information, Mr Mohammed Garba, said he was not aware of the case when contacted by one of our correspondents on Saturday.
He asked to be given two hours to make enquiries from the appropriate quarters and promised to get back with comments.
He had yet to call back as of press time and he did not pick up subsequent calls our correspondent made to his mobile.
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