ABUJA – A total of 259 people have been freed from an illegal detention center in a mosque in southwestern Nigeria.
They were kept in chains as slaves in the center in the city of Ibadan, in the southwest of the country, police said.
The captives were released on Monday, when police from the state of Oyo, of which Ibadan is the capital, broke into the mosque in the Ojoo neighborhood.
Police commissioner Shina Olukolu told local press on Tuesday that there were 34 women, 191 men, 11 children and “23 patients who had allegedly been detained and chained for two to ten years.”
Officers raided the building after being alerted by a 17-year-old boy who had escaped from a similar center in Ibadan.
“The young man said that the victims were mistreated and poorly fed, treated as slaves and forced labor. And, often, deaths were not communicated to anyone,” Olukolu told reporters.
“When the police arrived there, we discovered young men and women in captivity in a dungeon.
“In fact, the inhumanity of man towards man has manifested itself in this environment,” the commissioner added.
Nine people were arrested in connection with the incident, including the owner of the center.
It is not the first time that horrific conditions at this type of center have come to light.
The institutions often claim to be correctional, residential Islamic schools, especially in the north of the country where Islam is the main religion.
Young people are usually sent by their parents to modify their behavior or stop harmful habits such as drug use.
The first was exposed at the end of September in the northern state of Kaduna, where about 300 victims were kept chained by the ankles and subjected to abuse and torture.
The Nigerian government promised to investigate this kind of practice and said at the time that “no responsible democratic government would tolerate the existence of torture chambers and physical abuse of inmates as a form of rehabilitation.”
Another 147 prisoners were released on October 19 from another religious school in Kaduna where they were mistreated and kept in chains.