Children Seized from Nigerian Orphanage Forced to Study Qur’an, Attend a Mosque

Credit: CSW

Children aged between three and eight who were seized from the embattled Du Merci Orphanages in Nigeria’s Kano and Kaduna States are reportedly being forced to observe Islamic practices such as studying the Quran after their names were also changed.

Du Merci’s co-founder, Prof. Richard Solomon Musa Tarfa, has been in and out of court since December 2019, fighting for the custody of 16 out of 27 children who were seized from the orphanages on allegations that the institution's documents were forged.

In a Friday, August 25 report, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a UK-based human rights entity, reported that following the arrest of Prof. Tarfa, the children were placed in the government-run Nasarawa Children’s Home in Kano City.

The children, CSW reports, were denied access to education until 2021, and one of them suffered deformities after being burnt in a fire and receiving insufficient treatment.

“In January 2021 the five youngest children, then aged between three and eight, were forcibly relocated to a remote facility, reportedly owned by the former governor of Kano State, where their names were changed and they were obliged to recite Arabic, study the Qur’an and attend a mosque,” the human rights entity says in the report.


CSW, which has been following up on Tarfa’s case, reports that a second court hearing of the case to secure the return of the 16 children had been adjourned on Thursday, August 24.

The first hearing of the case filed by Tarfa and his wife Mrs. Mercy Tarfa for the return of the children to their care was deferred on July 18 after the lawyer representing the Kano State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, which currently has custody of the children, failed to attend the proceedings, CSW says, adding that the case was transferred to a vacation judge, as the presiding judge was due to begin annual leave.

In June 2021, Prof. Tarfa was reportedly acquitted of abducting children from their legal guardians and confining them in an unregistered orphanage.

However, on 3 March 2022, he was convicted on a forgery charge submitted by the prosecution lawyer during that trial a day before resting his case, CSW reports, adding that the Prof. was eventually acquitted and discharged by an appeal court on 27 January 2023.

“However, the children have still not been returned to the Tarfas’ custody,” the UK-based entity notes.

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CSW’s Founder President, Mervyn Thomas, has decried the lengthy court process, saying that the deferrals are prolonging the suffering of the children at the center of the case.

“Once again adjournments and deferrals are delaying justice for the Tarfas and prolonging the suffering of children who have been separated for almost four years from the only parents most of them have ever known,” Mr. Mervyn says in the August 25 report.

He adds, “We reiterate that the children should have been returned to the Tarfas’ care as soon as the professor was acquitted of the child abduction charge, and the authorities’ continued failure to acknowledge and facilitate this in a timely manner only adds to the injustices this family has endured.”

“Reparations must be made, and the next hearing must result in the return of the remaining 16 children without further delay,” the CSW official says.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.