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World News

Christian orphanage has case for custody deferred

by Sophie Drew

A Christian couple who run an orphanage for vulnerable children have had their legal case deferred in their battle for custody of 16 young people taken by the state.

In a continuing legal saga, the initial hearing of a court case filed by the Christian couple, Professor Solomon Musa Tarfa and his wife, Mercy,  was deferred on 18 July. 

The children at the centre of this dispute were among 27 seized from Du Merci Centres in Kano and Kaduna States following Professor Tarfa's arrest on Christmas Day in 2019. They were then placed in a government-run home.

Professor Tarfa was acquitted in June 2021 of charges related to abducting children from their legal guardians and confining them in an unregistered orphanage. Despite his acquittal, the children remain out of the Tarfas’ custody.

A UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded in an opinion adopted on 23 June 2021 that the Tarfas were “singled out because of their Christian faith and because they are running an orphanage in a predominantly Muslim area.” 

The Working Group also ruled that both Professor Tarfa's detention and that of the 16 children were arbitrary.

The hearing was postponed due to the absence of the lawyer representing the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development. 

The presiding judge suggested that the case could either be deferred until 12 October or transferred to a vacation judge so it could be heard by early August.

The Tarfas’ lawyer agreed for the case to be transferred.

Founder President of CSW, Mervyn Thomas commented on this ongoing situation: "The fact that the Tarfas have had to go to such expense when the children should already have been returned to their care is both unfortunate and unfair. 

“The history of legal delays raises concerns that these latest developments may also be designed to prolong the uncertainty and anguish of a family that has suffered for far too long."

The founder remains hopeful about eventual justice for the family: "We are hopeful that the recent change of government will mean that justice is finally served, that all the children will be returned, and that reparations will be made for the trauma and expense incurred over the past three and a half years."

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