Another house of horror resurfaces in Ibadan
hen on Friday, February 22, 2008 the Oyo Police Command under Mr. Udom Ekpoudom as Commissioner uncovered an illegal detention camp in Ojoo area of Ibadan, Oyo State capital, where at least 60 inmates were said to have been tortured to death and buried secretly in the preceding two years, it was believed that an end had come to the nefarious operation.
Eleven years after, unfortunately, the same centre which was being run by late Sheik Abdulrasheed Akangbe Olore but now being operated by Khalifa Alfa Ismail Olore came on the spotlight carrying on the same activities where people were being treated like slaves or common criminals. The discovery of the illegal detention centre was unearthed on Monday, November 4, 2019 when an inmate who escaped from another illegal centre in Ibadan hinted the police.
Record has it that the late Sheik was treating mad people and rehabilitating them before his death many years ago. The mentally deranged being treated and rehabilitated were used to being tied down with fetters in order to prevent their escape from the Islamic correctional centre.
Though considered as illegal because the centre was not registered with the government, the centre was reported to have been in existence for ages to the knowledge of the people within the Ojoo community. Many parents were voluntarily taking their wayward and drug addicted children to the Islamic centre for correctional measures and rehabilitation. Such parents even pay some amount of money to the operator for the upkeep of their children.
When the incumbent Commissioner of Police, Mr. Shina Olukolu led his men to the locus in quo, where 259 inmates were rescued, he said that a 17-year-old escapee from the holding facility in another part of Ibadan hinted the police about the development, with some of the victims recounting their gory and blood-cuddling experiences in the torture camp.
While addressing journalists, the angry Olukolu said; “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 labour, while deaths of some of them were not reported to anybody.
“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. 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. 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 that are kept against their will are liberated and allowed to be in a position where they can talk to themselves and 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 police boss said.
Having been rescued, the police moved the inmates who looked so haggard, skinny and sickly to the rehabilitation camp at Sanyo area of Ibadan where they were being treated. Some of them were even handed over to their parents and guardians.
Reacting to the ugly discovery, the State Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Inclusion, Alhaja Faosat Sanni stated that “after due profiling of the rescued inmates by the relevant State government agency and security agencies, over two hundred rescued inmates were handed over to their relatives and right individuals with an agreement not to return them to such centers again.”
She urged parents and guardians to always seek government assistance in correcting societal ills rather than subjecting their children to the care of unregistered correctional centers, as according to her, “Cases like this and many societal ills are better handled by social workers in the Ministry. Parents and guardians should always consult the Ministry for corrections and rehabilitation of their wards in a better way rather than subjecting them to torture,” she added.
Sanni stressed that government has continue to ensure that adequate food, water and conveniences were being provided for the evacuate es as about 23 of them were still receiving treatment at the Adeoyo State Hospital due to their critical conditions.
When Governor Makinde visited the scene, he was miffed that such heinous and inhuman operation could be going on in such a community without anyone informing security agents, noting that it was wrong for certain individuals to have used a mosque as a cover up for crime and criminalities. He said it was an eyesore and quite unbelievable that such facility could be operating in such an open and exposed area of the capital city.
Poised to put a top to the operation of the illegal centre, Makinde said, “What we have seen is something that we all have to condemn and this shouldn’t be happening in a modern environment. You can’t use a mosque as façade to perpetrate this kind of evil. Yes we have marked the entire structure for demolition. We have here the Ministry of Lands and Urban Planning and Ministry of Health and Justice. The government will do everything that is humanly possible to ensure that this kind of thing is stamped out in our environment.
“But, there are houses around here, and these are people. They see something strange and ideally, they should say something because this kind of things couldn’t have been going on without all of these people, particularly residents around here, not knowing about it. So, they should have reported this thing to the authorities and maybe we would have unravelled this a long time ago.
“And also, we want to encourage our people, the government, the parents and even family members that if you need to rehabilitate members of your family that are not behaving well, we have government institutions that can do that and we are trying to rehabilitate those places for the people of Oyo state.
“So, whatever is necessary, looking at the laws of our land regarding this kind of thing, we will ensure, we get this place away from those people doing this kind of things within the ambit of the law. And also you have the law enforcement agencies here. All those involved are going to be prosecuted to the full extent of our law.
“For the victims, we have mobi lized the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Inclusion and the Social Welfare agencies there. First we need to have immediate palliative for them and then we have to look at the deeper issues and how to resettle them and reunite them with their families. We are not going to leave them alone at this point”, the governor said.
While addressing the victims at the temporary resettlement camp at Sanyo area, Makinde assured the people that his government was on the matter to ensure that those behind the illegal operations of the facility were prosecuted according to the law, disclosing that 22 of the victims were currently receiving medical attention at Adeoyo Hospital as a result of their critical health condition.
One of the rescued inmates who decided to conceal his identity revealed how they were being maltreated and tortured by their master. He said, “My parents bought foodstuffs and many items for me when they took me there, but they didn’t allow me to use any of them. They also collected the pocket money my mother gave me.
“We don’t eat until 2pm every day. They would give us three spoons of rice with poorly-prepared stew; no meat or fish. If we were lucky, we would have the same thing in the evening but most times, they would not give us anything again until 2pm the following day.
“They would bring us out in the morning to pray till 2pm when they would give us food. After eating, they would take us back to our rooms and we would not come out again until the next morning. Whenever my parents visited me, they (the clerics) stayed beside me so that I would not expose what I was going through. If I did, they would beat me after my parents left.
“Relations of one of us at the camp came to pick him. They were asked to bring a discharge fee. When they returned with the money, they said it was the parents who brought him that they wanted to see, whereas the parents had died.
“About 28 persons were crammed into a medium-sized room, with many sleeping on bare floor while few ‘lucky ones’ slept on mats. Many people were infected with bacteria which the camp operators didn’t bother to treat.
“I was in the same room with Abeeb and Sikiru. Abeeb also came from Mushin while Sikiru was from Sagamu. They are in their mid-20s. Females live in separate rooms and some of them already gave birth there. They were impregnated at the centre.
“Four people died while I was there. One of them was my friend and roommate, Wahab. He was sick and they didn’t allow his parents to take him away. He battled malaria for weeks without being treated. It was only paracetamol that they gave him.
“He died at night inside the room. He was from Ijebu-Ode. He was a tall and slim young man. They called his parents to carry his corpse. There was also somewhere inside the compound where they buried bodies.
We fetched water for the clerics and washed their clothes. If you were a new inmate, they would lock you up for one week. Throughout the time I was there, they didn’t teach me anything new in the Qur’an apart from what I had known before getting there.
“It is an offence for two persons to talk. If they catch us, they would accuse us of planning to escape and give us 40 strokes of the cane. I was beaten several times for an offence as minor as making a noise.
“Everybody was expecting that at least they would give us enough food on Eid celebration, but to my surprise, there was no difference from what we normally ate. They did not allow us to go for Eid prayer because they knew many people would run away.
One of the victims’ mother who simply identified herself as Aduni, explained that a family friend recommended the centre to them when they got tired of their son’s recalcitrant behaviour.
“They (the centre operators) charged us N150,000 the day we took him there and we were given a list of items he needed to bring, including clothes, foodstuffs, provisions, mat, soap, toothpaste- all which I bought. We paid N50,000.
“I went there once or twice in a month to check on him. I later discovered that they made it look like an Arabic school. Most of the persons I saw that first day looked pale. I was worried and complained to the person that took us there but he assured me that my child would be safe. He said the school also took care of mentally-ill people.
“They told us that over 400 persons lived there. I also saw exotic cars of people who were on a visit. Two weeks after, I went to visit him and took some foodstuffs along. When I got there, I asked for my son, unknown to me that he was among the people outside. He had changed. He looked lean and shabbily dressed. I asked him what was wrong but he did not say anything because one of the clerics was with us. Apart from the foodstuffs I took there, they collected N27,000 for his monthly feeding.
“I had to beg my husband on his behalf for him to come back home. By the time we brought him back home, neighbours could not recognise him again. He looked thin and emaciated. We paid N105,000 before they released him. They didn’t know we wanted to pick him that day. He was seriously sick when he got back home. I regretted my decision. I thank God he is becoming a changed person now with constant counselling,” she explained.
When he was being interviewed however, the Khalifa, Ismail Olore, denied the allegation of torture, illegal operation and deaths of some of the inmates, saying, “We teach Quran here and we rehabilitate cocaine users, Indian hemp smokers and those with mental illness. Through Quoranic lessons, many of them get rehabilitated and we release them to their parents.
“We only beat those that escape from the centre whenever they were brought back. Only two inmates died after they were released to their parents on account of illness. The parents of these inmates brought them by themselves”, he said.
Meanwhile, whole some Islamic clerics and Muslims have been kicking against the decision of Governor Makinde to demolish the illegal correctional entre, some rights activists have commended the government for the decision, saying that it was the most reasonable step to nip such inhuman operation in the bud.