Police say the victims in Daura were subjected to “inhumane and degrading treatment”
The private Islamic boarding school in Daura, northern Nigeria, was not somewhere you would want a child to stay for more than a few minutes, let alone months or years.
The Koranic and Rehabilitation Centre was one of series of institutions raided over the past month where parents have been sending troublesome children and young men who may be addicted to drugs or have committed petty crimes. But the raids have revealed them to be more akin to “torture houses”, officials say.
The centre in Daura, President Muhammadu Buhari’s hometown, was made up of two main buildings, one clean and well-built where children were taught the Koran.
Across the road was the centre’s accommodation – a run-down single-storey compound, made up of five or six dark cells with barred windows and doors around a courtyard.
The air was stuffy and nauseating. Former students told us that up to 40 people were kept in chains in each 7-sq-m (75-sq-ft) cell.
Filthy clothes and bedding littered the floor. Those who lived there were often forced to urinate and defecate with their chains on – in the same place they ate and slept.
They would be regularly taken out for beatings or to be raped by the staff.
“It was hell on earth,” said Rabiu Umar, a former detainee at the centre.
Sixty-seven boys and men were freed from the facility. Police said there were 300 people on the school register, but many of them had escaped following a riot the previous weekend.
Over the past month about 600 people have been found to be living in such horrifying conditions: chained, starved and abused.
The first discovery was in late September in the Rigasa neighbourhood of Kaduna city in the north-west. Following a tip-off from a relative, the police found nearly 500 people, including children, detained in appalling conditions.
Videos showed rescued students looking dazed, their legs shackled and their bodies covered in blisters.
Some of them were pictured dangling from the ceiling. Others had their hands or feet chained to car wheel rims.
Hafsat Baba, Kaduna state’s commissioner of human services and social development, told the BBC at the time the authorities planned to identify all facilities of this type and close them down.
She added that they would prosecute the owners of centres “found to be torturing children or holding people in these kind of horrific situations”.
Ten days ago, for the first time women were also amongst those rescued – from another institution in Kaduna.
This is unusual, according to Ms Baba, who added that these institutions seldom admit both sexes.
As the raids continue and more details emerge, they have been met with public outrage, but these institutions were no secret.
Jaafar Jaafar, from online media platform the Daily Nigerian, says people who live there have always known.