Nigerian police investigate suspected mass kidnapping in SW state

An investigation is underway into the suspected kidnapping of 77 people in Nigeria’s southwestern state of Ondo.

Ondo police spokesperson Funmilayo Odunlami told reporters that 77 people were rescued  on Friday night from a church in the area following an intelligence report gathered by police.

Some of the victims, mostly children, were found in an underground apartment of the church, Odunlami said.

Odunlami said the preliminary investigation indicates that two church pastors held their members captive through false teachings and brainwashing.

Those two pastors are currently in police custody.

The pastors were said to have told the victims to obey only their “parents in the Lord” and not their biological parents, the police spokesperson said, adding further investigation has begun and the public would be informed of the outcome.

In a statement on Sunday, Peter Hawkins, the UNICEF (the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund) Nigeria representative, commended the rescue operation.

“Children should not be targets of violence in whatever guise,” said Hawkins, adding a society’s health is measured by how it treats its children.