Nearly 500 men and boys have been rescued from a building in the northern city of Kaduna, where the detainees were allegedly sexually abused and tortured according to a Nigerian police. Men and boys as young as five were found in shackles at what was thought to be an Islamic school.
Location of the torture house in the northern city of Kaduna, Nigeria
Hundreds of men and boys have been rescued from a “house of torture” where they were allegedly starved and sexually abused, police say.
Nigerian Police have freed more than 300 men and boys, including children as young as five, who were being held in chains in a building in the Rigasa area of the northern city of Kaduna.
We don’t know how long they men and boys have been there, however, some may have been sent there thinking the building was an Islamic school. A sign on the front of the building reads: “Imam Ahmad Bun Hambal centre for Islamic studies.”
Kaduna Police Chief Ali Janga told the BBC that police raided the building after a local tip. He described it as a “house of torture” and a place of slavery. Images shared by police show shackles around the ankles and wrists of the detainees, some of whom had visible injuries.
Seven teachers at the school have been arrested. The building’s owner told police the children had been brought by their families to learn the Quran or because they had problems such as drug addiction. But police said the place was not licensed to run any reformatory or educational program. “I have spent three months here with chains on my legs,” one detainee, Bell Hamza, told Nigerian media.
Spokesman Yakubu Sabo said: “The state government is currently providing food to the children who are between the ages of five and above. “We have identified two of the children to have come from Burkina Faso, while most of them were brought by their parents from across mostly northern Nigerian states.” The children have been moved to a temporary camp at a stadium in Kaduna and will later be moved to another camp in a suburb of the city while attempts are made to find their parents, police said.
Some parents who have already been contacted went to the school to retrieve their children. One said: “We do not know that they will be put to this kind of harsh condition.”
Islamic schools are common across the mostly Muslim north of Nigeria – a country in which the CIA put the population of Muslim at 50% in 2001. Nigeria has the largest Muslim population in West Africa. To put it in perspective, Nigeria, the most populous African country was estimated to have a population of over 182 million in 2015.
An aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, who comes from the north, earlier this year noted the widespread view that the “almajiri” learning system associated with begging was a “security challenge and a scar on the face of Northern Nigeria.” But the aide, Garba Shehu, rejected reports that the president had banned the system, saying a ban would need to follow due process and consultation with relevant authorities.
“Indeed, the federal government wants a situation where every child of primary school age is in school rather than begging on the streets during school hours,” he said. “At the same time, we don’t want to create panic or a backlash.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.