Hundreds rescued from ‘torture building’ in Nigeria

At least 400 people found chained at facility where they were assaulted, say police

Some of the hundreds of people in the Rigasa area of Kaduna in northern Nigeria after being rescued by police. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Some of the hundreds of people in the Rigasa area of Kaduna in northern Nigeria after being rescued by police. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

 

Hundreds of boys and men have been rescued from a building in northern Nigeria where they had been beaten, starved, sexually assaulted and chained, police said.

Visible marks on their bodies showed that some had been tortured, said Kaduna State police spokesman Yakubu Sabo, as authorities tried to track down the families of at least 400 victims.

“The condition under which we found the victims was so dehumanising, many of them were chained,” Mr Sabo said.

Police carried out the rescue in Kaduna city on Thursday after a tip. It was not immediately clear what led to police being contacted, or how such a vast scope of alleged abuses went unnoticed.

Local television footage showed most of the victims in bad condition, some walking with difficulty.

The building’s owner told police the children had been brought by their families to learn the Koran or because they had problems such as drug addiction, but police said the place was not licensed to run any reformatory or educational programme.

The owner and six others who were said to be teachers have been arrested, the police spokesman said.

Boys can be seen begging on the streets in cities across largely Muslim northern Nigeria. They are often sent away by their families for Koranic training but then can be turned out into the streets by their new guardians to beg to earn their keep.

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.” – AP