108 ‘inmates’ freed from reform centre in Nigeria

Police in central Nigeria have rescued 108 “unfed and sick” inmates from a so-called reform centre, a spokesperson said on Friday, in the latest raid on Islamic institutes accused of abuse.

“Our men acted on intelligence reports and rescued 108 inmates from the centre on Thursday,” Kwara state police spokesperson Okansanmi Ajayi told AFP.

He said those freed in the operation in the state capital, Ilorin, comprised 103 males and five females, aged between six and 45.

“Their appearances showed that they were kept in unhygenic conditions. They looked unfed and sick,” he said.

Religious institutions are common in mainly Muslim northern Nigeria, where there is a chronic lack of government services.

Many also operate as so-called reform centres, touted as a means to help parents wean their children off drug use and other behavioural problems in the absence of support from the state.

Ajayi said preliminary investigations indicated that some of the inmates had been living in the home for five years and had been brought there by their parents to learn the Koran and for reformation.

“We have arrested the operator with some of his children who were teaching at the centre and they are assisting us in our investigation,” he said.

Thursday’s raid was the latest crackdown on Islamic schools in Nigeria where inmates have been tortured, chained and sexually abused.

Hundreds of inmates, mostly children, have been rescued in series of raids by the authorities during the past month across northern Nigeria.

On Wednesday, 15 people were freed from a one-room apartment in Adamawa state.