Nigeria's mental health system routinely chains patients up
Lagos - Thousands of people with mental
health conditions are held in chains in institutions across
Nigeria, Human Rights Watch said in a report published on Monday
in which it urged the government to ban the practice.
The findings come as authorities have taken action against
informal Islamic schools and rehabilitation centres whose
inmates have been subjected to widespread physical abuse with
many held in chains. Some 1,500 people have been freed in raids
since late September.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said its researchers visited 28
mental health facilities in Nigeria's capital and 8 of the
country's 36 states, between August 2018 and September 2019
during which interviews were conducted with 124 people.
The researchers found many people were shackled with iron
chains, around one or both ankles, to heavy objects or to other
detainees. This was happening in a range of institutions
including federal psychiatric hospitals, state hospitals and
state-owned rehabilitation centres, churches and Islamic
HRW said staff chained adults and children in 27 out of 28
facilities visited. Some people were chained for a few days at a
time as punishment, or for weeks or months to prevent them from
moving or leaving.
Nigeria's mental health system routinely chains patients up, says Human Rights Watch. Video: Zodidi Dano/ African News Agency.
It said the youngest person chained was a 10-year-old boy
and the oldest was an 86-year-old man who had a visual
Some people had been held for months or years, often in
overcrowded and unhygienic conditions, the researchers found.
The Nigerian government should "completely ban chaining",
HRW said, adding that it should "urgently investigate all state
and private institutions where people with mental health
conditions live ... with the goal of stopping chaining and
A spokesman for the ministry of health did no immediately
respond to phone calls and text messages seeking comment.