Police in Ibadan state, Nigeria, announced on Monday the rescue of over 259 captives held at a mosque in the town of Ojoo, the latest in a series of raids against supposed Islamic “rehabilitation” centers.
Police commissioner Shina Olukolu, who led the rescue operation, said officers were tipped off about the goings-on at the facility by a 17-year-old escapee. He added that after their release, many of the victims detailed their suffering and revealed they had been held hostage for years.
“The young man said they were being maltreated, they were not being well-fed, they were being treated like slaves and they were engaged in forced labor, and sometimes their deaths were not reported to anybody,” said Olukolu.
“On the basis of that information, the police decided to check it out. We got to Owode, Apata. By the time we got there, they have evacuated that facility,” he continued. “But from the surroundings, we knew that there were people in that place earlier than the time we arrived.”
“However, the young man informed the police that there is another detention facility and that is where we are now at Oloore, Ojoo area of Ibadan,” he said.
Actually, when the police got here, we discovered that young men, young women are being kept in captivity in a dungeon-like situation. As a matter of fact, man’s inhumanity to man is being manifested in this environment. And we are not happy about the situation.
So, we got across to the state government and state government officials are around. They are here with a view of ensuring that some of these young men, who are kept against their will, are liberated and allowed to be in a position where they can take care of themselves.
Definitely, this area will be secured and the police will be able to do further investigation, further search and anyone at all, who is found culpable, will definitely be arrested, investigated and prosecuted diligently to serve as a warning to others, who may want to operate such houses that serve as illegal detention centres.
The Punch newspaper reported that, on Tuesday, the owner of the center and eight others were arrested in connection with the facility. The victims comprised of 191 males, 34 females, 11 children, and 23 people with illnesses.
Over the past two months, over 1,000 people have been rescued from religious centers that authorities argue are more closely resemblant of torture chambers. The victims are often misbehaving children or troublesome young men found guilty of petty crime, sent by their parents who believe they will receive a strict Islamic education.