In a viral video clip, some students of a Madrasa (Madrasas are Islamic colleges), in Kwara State (Musbaudeen Islamic School, Ilorin, Kwara State), were seen being scourged like thieves by their instructors on the instruction of the School authority. 

The students were no thieves. Their alleged ‘crime’ was that they attended a birthday party and consumed alcohol. It was not clear whether attending the party was equally a crime or whether the alleged drinking of alcohol was the only issue. 

Whichever the case, we learnt from the reports that one of the heavily chastised students claimed that only one of them treated himself to some alcohol (Trophy beer) at the party while the rest of them made do with some soft and energy drinks. Little did they know that the Trophy was going to come with a severe ‘trophy’ of brutal flogging which has now made headlines. 

Alcohol is forbidden in Islam. It is however understood that the Quran did not specifically prescribe a penalty for consuming alcohol. But some Islamic scholars have long concluded that flogging some strokes of the cane would be adequate punishment. We are not sure how many strokes precisely is recommended as sufficient and the severity of the strokes.

But anyone with great sense of humanity who watched the video of the scourging of the students of the Madrasa would be tempted to argue that the chastisement was probably for the love of religious beliefs and not really of mankind. 

Importantly, the seriousness of the allegations against the students also calls for concern. Was the punishment commiserate with the alleged ‘offence’?

Curiously, it is also doubtful whether the allegations were well investigated before the punishment was administered. The testimony of one of the students interviewed already points to the fact that there may be likely breaches of the fundamental right to fair hearing; that is if there was any hearing at all.

Government intervenes

The Kwara State Government has reportedly suspended the head of the institution and has promised to investigate the incident. This is welcome. Again, thanks to social media.

It is hoped that the matter will not be swept under the carpet or handled with kids gloves. Any attempt to do so will be pure injustice. 

As a matter of fact, a thorough investigation needs to be carried out because there is the high possibility that other students might have been victims of this level of brutality. Those familiar with the system may not be surprised to learn that such treatment is prevalent in other Madrasas.

Corporal punishment generally

Corporal punishment is popular mostly in public schools, as many private schools have abandoned the idea as a correctional method of instilling discipline. We have seen cases where some public school students are heavily beaten for ‘offenses’ such as late coming. 

In our homes, some parents and guardians have been seen dehumanizing their wards in the name of correcting them. The case of househelps are worse. 

Generally, Nigerian law does not prohibit corporal punishment. However, the law generally frowns at human rights abuses and any form of brutality administered in the name of punishment, especially when injuries are sustained. Nevertheless, there is the global movement to put an end to corporal punishment in favour of more positive and non-violent forms of discipline. Nigeria should fall in line. 

There is the urgent need to carry out fresh orientation in most of our institutions, especially Islamic schools, with the hope of curbing extremism and gross human rights abuses. Afterall, no man is God.


Featured image credit: Punch

Stephen Azubuike
Author: Stephen Azubuike
Stephen is a lawyer with expertise in Commercial Dispute Resolution and Technology Law practice. He is a Partner at Infusion Lawyers. He has successfully argued cases from the High Courts of various jurisdictions to the Appellate Courts on behalf of financial institutions, other corporate bodies and multinationals. He has worked with a number of startup tech companies. He tweets @siazubuike.