Nigerian police on Tuesday freed 259 people from an illegal Islamic rehabilitation centre in a mosque in Ibadan, in the south-western state of Oyo, reported Reuters. The latest raid takes the total number of people rescued from abusive institutions since September to nearly 1,500.
“We discovered on Monday young men, women and children who were held hostage in an illegal detention centre at a mosque in the Ojoo area of Ibadan,” police spokesman Fadeyi Olugbenga told AFP.
“Yesterday, 259 persons were released. We had women, men, and teenagers,” Olugbenga added.
Some people were locked inside a building and some were chained. The police had arrested the owner of the facility and eight others and were under investigation, according to local media.
The local police conducted the raid on the centre on Monday after a tip-off from a 17-year-old who had escaped from a similar centre in the area. The victims revealed they had been held captive in the center for years.
Mr. Shina Olukolu, the state commissioner of police, informed the reporters that conditions at the mosque were inhumane. He said that anyone found culpable would be prosecuted to serve as a warning to others who may want to operate such houses that serve as illegal detention centres.
In late September, the Nigeria police began raiding informal Islamic schools and rehabilitation centres after a man complained that he was refused permission to see his nephews at one such institution. The rehabilitation centers are touted as a means to help parents cure their children of drug abuse and other behavioral problems in the absence of support from the state.
It was found many captives were physically and sexually abused and chained to prevent them from escaping. Other sites raided in the police operations have been in the mostly Muslim north of the country.