Nigeria's commercial hub Lagos. Picture: Reuters
Nigeria's commercial hub Lagos. Picture: Reuters

Nigeria's mental health system routinely chains patients up

By Alexis Akwagyiram Time of article published Nov 11, 2019

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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

centres.

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

disability.

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

ending abuses".

A spokesman for the ministry of health did no immediately

respond to phone calls and text messages seeking comment.

Reuters

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