An international aid group says it is calling for the immediate closure of an orphanage run by an evangelical Christian group in northeast Nigeria where more than 2,000 children are suffering from starvation and abuse.
The United Nations children’s fund said in a statement on Tuesday that the Kibuba orphanage, in the city of Gombe, was run by the United Church of Nigeria (UCO), which has links to Nigeria’s ruling Christian Democratic Party (PDP).
The group runs the orphanage with a church group, the Evangelical Church of Uganda (EUC), and has been criticised for using children to help with its evangelical outreach work.UCO denies the allegations and said it does not engage in such work.
“The EUC has no connection to this facility,” said the group’s deputy chief executive, James Olukolade.
“We know that these allegations are completely false.
We cannot confirm the information we have received, but we will continue to press for the urgent closure of the orphanages and the immediate withdrawal of all resources used to provide the care to these children.”
The allegations come after a UN investigation said that over 200 children at the orphanaged had been raped, beaten and subjected to forced labour.
The Euc said it was working with the government to close the orphananage, which is the largest of its kind in Nigeria.
“It’s a tragedy to see so many children, especially children from the poorest and most marginalized communities, forced to work in this facility, and abused by the authorities,” said EUC chief executive James Ola.
Ola said the KIBUBU orphanage was in a “critical situation”.
“The people of Kibubu deserve a dignified life and we are going to work to give them that,” he said.
In a separate development, a court in Kano has sentenced a man to seven years in jail for sexually abusing three girls aged between six and 13, one of whom was seven years old.
The court on Tuesday also sentenced a 21-year-old man to three years in prison for sexually assaulting the same three girls.
In June, Nigeria’s Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that found a man who sexually abused the girls, who were aged between five and 13 at the time, to be guilty of crimes against humanity.
The case was brought against the father of the victim and his wife, who also had been charged in the case.