Nigerian police free 259 people held at Islamic institution

Nigerian police free 259 people held at Islamic institution
By Alexis Akwagyiram

LAGOS (Reuters) – Nigerian police have freed 259 people being held at an Islamic rehabilitation center in the southwestern city of Ibadan, police said on Tuesday, adding that some complained of being beaten regularly by their captors.

It was the latest in a series of raids on Islamic institutions in Nigeria in recent weeks. More than 1,000 people, many of them children, have been rescued in total.

Many captives have said they were physically and sexually abused and chained up to prevent them escaping.

The raids are increasingly embarrassing for President Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim who has called on police to crack down on such centers.

Other sites raided in major police operations have been in the mostly Muslim north of the country. Ibadan is located in the south, which is mostly Christian.

Oyo state police spokesman Fadeyi Olugbenga said the facility was raided on Monday at around 2 p.m. (1300 GMT).

“Yesterday, 259 persons were released. We had women, men and teenagers,” Olugbenga said. Some people were locked inside a building and some were chained.

Images from local TV station TVC taken shortly after the captives were released showed a group of mostly young men and teenaged boys. An infant was also among the group. Many were emaciated.

“We eat one meal a day,” one of the men told TVC.

According to Olugbenga, nine people including the owner of the rehabilitation center had been arrested and were under investigation.

Spokesmen for the president and vice president both declined to comment.

But the president’s office issued a statement in October that said “no responsible democratic government would tolerate the existence of the torture chambers and physical abuses of inmates in the name of rehabilitation of the victims”.

At other raided facilities, some parents thought their children were there to be educated and even paid tuition fees. Others sent misbehaving relatives to Islamic institutions in order to instill discipline.

(Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos; Additional reporting by Felix Onuah and Camillus Eboh in Abuja and Ardo Hazzad in Bauchi; Editing by Catherine Evans, Alex Richardson and Mike Collett-White)

Police free hundreds of males, some chained and beaten, from Nigerian school in third raid this month

Police free hundreds of males, some chained and beaten, from Nigerian school in third raid this month
By Abdullahi Inuwa

KATSINA, Nigeria (Reuters) – Police freed about 500 men and boys from an Islamic school in northern Nigeria on Wednesday, many of whom had been chained to walls, molested and beaten, police sources said.

The raid in Katsina was the third such operation in less than a month, bringing the total of people freed from abusive conditions this month alone to about 1,000.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s government is under pressure to take urgent action to free the potentially thousands of other children who remain in similar schools across Nigeria.

Another purported Islamic school, where captives were chained to walls, some beaten so badly they needed help walking, was raided in September in neighboring Kaduna state.

Two sources at the scene told Reuters that the owner of the Mal. Niga school in Katsina metropolis and five of his staff had been arrested. Police declined to comment on the raid and blocked entrance to the grounds.

The operation, mounted by Katsina police and federal police from Abuja, freed about 500 students though not all of them had been mistreated, a police source said.

One building, which was well-kept, with clean tiles on the exterior and working plumbing, held 300 pupils who were not regularly mistreated. But about 200 captives at a site next door were regularly abused.

“The second camp is the dangerous place,” a police source said. “The children were molested there.”

The source said the most unruly students and some newcomers were placed in the second building. Students at the first school were sometimes taken to the second building for abuse.

Islamic schools, called Almajiris, are common in the mostly Muslim north of Nigeria. Muslim Rights Concern, a local organization, estimates about 10 million children attend them.

At the other raided facilities, some parents thought their children would be educated and even paid tuition. Other families sent misbehaving or difficult family members and wards to them for discipline.

Buhari, whose home state is Katsina, said in June that he planned to ban Almajiris eventually but would not do so right away.

On Tuesday, an aide said Buhari had directed police: “Go out in search of these kind of centers wherever they are and disband them.”

The centers referred to the places where people are maltreated in the name of religion, the aide said. The statement did not address Almajiris at large.

(Reporting by Ahmed Kingimi in Maiduguru and Abdullahi Inuwa in Katsina, Writing by Libby George, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Nigerian president vows crackdown on abusive Islamic schools after second raid

Nigerian president vows crackdown on abusive Islamic schools after second raid
By Desmond Mgboh

KANO, Nigeria (Reuters) – Nigeria’s president on Tuesday ordered a crackdown on abuse at Islamic schools, after a second police raid in less than a month revealed men and boys subjected to beatings, abuse and squalid conditions.

Nearly 300 had been held captive at a school in the Daura area of Katsina, the home town of President Muhammadu Buhari, where police said they discovered “inhuman and degrading treatment” following a raid on Monday to free the remaining students.

Late last month, police freed hundreds from similarly degrading conditions in neighboring Kaduna state.

“Mr. President has directed the police to disband all such centers and all the inmates be handed over to their parents,” said a presidential spokesman.

“The government cannot allow centers where people, male and female, are maltreated in the name of religion,” he said.

Prior to this week’s raid, hundreds of captives had escaped the center, police said on Tuesday.

The 67 inmates who were freed by Katsina police were shackled, and many were taken to hospital for treatment, police superintendent Isah Gambo told Reuters.

“I tell you they were in very bad condition when we met them,” Gambo said.

A freed captive told Reuters on Monday that the instructors beat, raped and even killed some of the men and boys held at the facility, who ranged from 7 to 40 years of age. It was not immediately possible to verify his account.

While the institution told parents it was an Islamic teaching center that would help straighten out wayward family members, the instructors instead brutally abused them and took away any food or money sent by relatives.

Police said they had arrested the owner of the facility and two teachers, and were tracking other suspects.

The more than 200 captives who escaped were still missing, Gambo said. Police were working to reunite the others with family members.

“The inmates are actually from different parts of the country – Kano, Taraba, Adamawa and Plateau States,” he said. “Some of them are not even Nigerians. They come from Niger, Chad and even Burkina Faso and other countries.”

Islamic schools, called Almajiris, are common in the mostly Muslim north of Nigeria. Muslim Rights Concern, a local organization, estimates about 10 million children attend them.

Buhari said the government planned to ban the schools eventually, but he has not yet commented on the Katsina school.

(Reporting by Desmond Mgboh in Kano; Additional reporting by Felix Onuah in Abuja; Writing by Libby George and Paul Carsten; Editing by Giles Elgood and Nick Macfie)

Nigeria releases 25 children cleared of suspected ties with Boko Haram: UNICEF

Children who were released by the Nigerian Army, after being cleared of suspected ties with armed Islamist groups, are handed to authorities in Maiduguri, Nigeria October 3, 2019. REUTERS/Kolawole Adewale NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) – The Nigerian army released 25 children on Thursday after clearing them of suspected ties with armed Islamist groups in the country’s restive northeast region, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said.

Nigeria has fought an insurgency by militant Islamist group Boko Haram in northeastern states that has killed more than 30,000 people over the past decade. It is not clear how many children in total have been drawn into armed groups, including Boko Haram, or how they have been recruited.

UNICEF said 23 boys and two girls were released by the army and handed to authorities in Borno, the state worst affected by the insurgency.

“These are children taken away from their families and communities, deprived of their childhood, education, health-care, and of the chance to grow up in a safe and enabling environment,” said UNICEF Nigeria Acting Representative Pernille Ironside.

The children would be given access to medical support, education and vocational training, the agency said.

The release comes against the backdrop of widely reported cases of young people being held captive in Nigeria in differing circumstances.

In May, a regional militia allied with government forces freed almost 900 children it had used in the war against Islamist insurgents.

Earlier this week police in Lagos, the commercial capital, said they had freed 19 women and girls who had mostly been abducted and made pregnant by captors planning to sell their babies.

Last week, around 400 boys and men – some as young as 5 and many in chains and scarred from beatings – were rescued from a building in the northern city of Kaduna that purported to be an Islamic school.

Ironside said UNICEF was working to ensure that all children affected by the conflict were reunited with their families.

A total of 2,499 people, including 1,627 children have been cleared of association with non-state armed groups in Nigeria since 2016, UNICEF said.

(Reporting by Maiduguri Newsroom; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Nigerian police free 19 women and girls from Lagos ‘baby factory’: statement

By Seun Sanni and Angela Ukomadu

LAGOS (Reuters) – Police in Nigeria’s biggest city, Lagos, have freed 19 women and girls who had mostly been abducted and impregnated by captors planning to sell their babies.

The girls and women, aged from 15 to 28, had been brought from all over Nigeria with promises of work, Lagos police said on Monday. Four babies were also found.

“Baby factories”, as such premises are widely known, are most common in parts of eastern Nigeria.

“The young women were mostly abducted by the suspects for the purpose of getting them pregnant and selling the babies to potential buyers. The girls were tricked with employment as domestic staff in Lagos,” said Lagos police spokesman Bala Elkana.

“Boys are sold for 500,000 naira ($1,630) and girls for 300,000 naira ($980).”

The girls and women were brought to Lagos from the southern and eastern states of Rivers, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Abia and Imo.

Elkana said the raid had taken place on Sept. 19 but had been kept secret to enable the police to apprehend suspects.

Two women aged 40 and 54 were arrested in connection with the case and police were still looking for a third.

One of the freed women, who did not want to be named, said she had been impregnated by her boyfriend and told by her aunt that there was a job for her in Lagos.

She said a woman to whom she was introduced had induced her labor when she was seven months pregnant.

“After being in labor for three days, that was when police raided the place and took all of them. The baby came out weak and finally died,” she told Reuters.

Elkana said the state criminal investigation department would take over the case and was working with other agencies to resettle the women and girls and their babies.

Last week, around 400 boys and men, some as young as five and many in chains and scarred from beatings, were rescued from a building in the northern city of Kaduna that purported to be an Islamic school.

(Reporting By Seun Sanni and Angela Ukomadu, writing by Libby George; editing by Alexis Akwagyiram and Kevin Liffey)

Victims of north Nigerian institution share stories of terror

People protest outside the building where hundreds of men and boys were rescued from captivity by police in Kaduna, Nigeria September 28, 2019. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

By Alexis Akwagyiram

KADUNA, Nigeria (Reuters) – When Jibril had tried to escape as a boy from an institution in Nigeria that called itself a place of Islamic teachings, he said he was hung up by his arms until bones in his shoulders broke.

Another teenager, one of about 400 men and boys freed in Thursday’s police raid, said boys were often kept in chains and those caught stealing food were whipped until they bled.

“They used car engine belts and electrical cables to flog us,” 15-year-old Suleiman told Reuters, staring at the floor. “Teachers used to sexually harass us … They tried to loosen my pants once but I fought them off and was beaten.”

Horror stories are emerging about life in a two-story house in Nigeria’s northern city of Kaduna as the authorities try to find families of the victims who often spent years at the site.

Police arrested seven adults in the raid on the building, which had a sign in Arabic at the entrance declaring itself “House of Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal for the Application of Islamic Teachings”.

Some parents paid fees, believing it was an Islamic school. Some described it as a good institution and dismissed talk of abuse. Others saw it as a correctional facility. Police and regional officials said it was not registered as either.

Despite mixed accounts about its role, the abuse reported by victims has thrown a spotlight on Nigeria’s struggle to provide enough school places for its rapidly expanding population, leaving a gap for unregulated institutions that poor parents sometimes turn to.

The West African nation’s population will swell from 190 million to 400 million by 2050, according to U.N. figures. Primary education is officially free but about 10.5 million Nigerian children aged five to 14 are not in school.

“Nigeria is facing a demographic tidal wave,” said Matthew Page, an associate fellow with the Africa Programme at Britain’s Royal Institute of International Affairs.

“The long-term viability of the Nigerian economy – and the state itself – hinges on the government, religious, and traditional institutions developing a plan to address this challenge before it becomes impossible to remedy,” he said.

Prior to Thursday’s police raid, those who made it out of the Kaduna institution were sometimes returned by families. Some parents said they needed to discipline wayward children and others said they were too poor to look after all their kids.

Kaduna state government said there were at least 77 boys under 18 years old held there. The youngest was five.

Reuters spoke with seven victims and five parents of those who had been inside, withholding their full names to protect their privacy.

SHACKLED

All the victims said beatings were regular and said children and men were frequently shackled. Days were dark, long and hungry: food was only served at 10 a.m. and 11 p.m.

Suleiman’s elder brother sent him to the institution five months ago for skipping school. He was signed up to board while he studied Arabic and Islam’s holy book, the Quran.

“They beat us everywhere in the house, even in the mosque. If you asked to speak with your family, they would shackle you,” said the 15-year-old, who showed sores, scabs and scars on back.

When Suleiman and three friends were caught trying to steal some garri – a staple food made from cassava shavings – they were stripped and whipped, he said.

“When the police raided the school the whole place was in pandemonium, we were so happy,” he said. “What I want now is to return home. I’ll be a good boy.”Jibril, now 17 and who was hung up for trying to escape when he was 10, said boys faced a stark choice: submit to regular sexual assault or be beaten. Jibril chose beatings.

“The teachers and prefects raped boys. Those who were sexually molested were enticed with canned fish. Those of us who refused were caned,” he said, blaming a scar beside his left eye on a caning. “They used planks of wood to beat us.”

He now struggles to raise his arms since his punishment for trying to escape. He was sent home for six months after that incident. His family returned him when he had healed.

Jibril and Suleiman are now in a safe house on the edge of Kaduna while the authorities try to find their relatives. Their temporary home is filled with laughter as boys and teenagers, up to 17 years old, play together. Those adults who were freed are staying in a neighboring building.

At the Kaduna institution, relatives were not allowed to see boys for three months after admission and had limited visiting rights after that, parents and children said. Punishment was swift for those who talked of any abuse, boys said.

“If anyone tried to tell their family, they would be hung up from a wall or put in chains,” said 14-year-old Umar, whose grandfather sent him to the facility two years ago for skipping school.

SEXUAL ABUSE

About 40 police officers finally raided the building, acting on a complaint by an uncle who was denied access to his nephews.

Police said they found several boys and men in chains. Reuters filmed victims in chains on Thursday after the raid. Some boys said they were shackled to broken power generators, which they dragged around, including to bed or the bathroom.

Police said they expected to charge seven people, who they said ran the institution, over physical and sexual abuse allegations. Those arrested could not be reached for comment.

The building lies in Rigasa, a rundown Muslim district of Kaduna, a city that, like Nigeria, is evenly split between Muslims and Christians.

Reuters journalists who visited the labyrinthine building saw wheels and generators attached to metal chains. Floors were strewn with litter and stained sponge mattresses. Flies swarmed.

Children begged in the traffic on the streets outside.

Islamic schools, known as Almajiris, are common across the mostly Muslim north of Nigeria. Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), a local organization, estimates about 10 million children attend Islamic schools in the north.

President Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim, has sought to encourage school attendance, with programs that include one offering free school meals that the government says reaches 9.8 million children in 32 of Nigeria’s 36 states.

But Nigeria, an oil-producing state whose finances by the government’s admission have been drained by corruption, only spends 0.5% of gross domestic product on health and 1.7% on education, among the lowest worldwide, the International Monetary Fund said.

With few options, some parents defended the Kaduna institution, which charged fees of 35,000 naira ($114) a term.

“There is no problem in this school,” said a woman who only gave her name as Zainab, wearing a Muslim veil and speaking outside the locked gates. She said she had seven children at the institution where she cooked meals and had not seen any abuse.

Ahmed Balrabe, a tailor who lives next to the site, said two of his children attended the school and he had never encountered any abuse. “It was good for them, they became calm,” he said. “They showed them how to read the Quran. I liked it.”

(Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram; Additional reporting by Garba Muhammad and Afolabi Sotunde; Editing by Katharine Houreld and Edmund Blair)

100 children, many others feared trapped in collapse of Nigeria building that housed school

Men carry a boy who was rescued at the site of a collapsed building containing a school in Nigeria's commercial capital of Lagos, Nigeria March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja

By Nneka Chile and Temilade Adelaja

LAGOS (Reuters) – As many as 100 children and many others were feared trapped on Wednesday after a building containing a primary school collapsed in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos.

People gather as rescue workers search for survivors at the site of a collapsed building containing a school in Nigeria's commercial capital of Lagos, Nigeria March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja

People gather as rescue workers search for survivors at the site of a collapsed building containing a school in Nigeria’s commercial capital of Lagos, Nigeria March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja

A Reuters reporter at the scene saw a boy of 10 being pulled from the rubble covered in dust but with no visible injuries. A crowd erupted into cheers as another child was pulled from the wreckage. The two were among eight children residents said had been rescued so far.

Workers on top of the rubble shoveled debris away as thousands of people swarmed around the rescue site — dozens watching from rooftops and hundreds more packed into the surrounding streets.

“It is believed that many people including children are currently trapped in the building,” said Ibrahmi Farinloye, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency’s southwest region, adding that casualty figures were not yet available.

Residents of the area said around 100 children attended the school, which was on the third floor of the building.

At the site, many people were shouting and screaming. A fight almost broke out as anger at the collapse boiled over.

In the crowd’s midst stood ambulances, fire trucks and a fork lift. Workers from the Red Cross and police were on hand.

The building was in the Ita-faji area of Lagos island, the original heart of the lagoon city before it expanded onto the mainland.

Nigeria is frequently hit by building collapses, with weak enforcement of regulations and poor construction materials often used. In 2016, more than 100 people were killed when a church came down in southeastern Nigeria.

In Lagos that same year, a five-story building still under construction collapsed, killing at least 30 people.

A floating school built to withstand storms and floods was also brought down in Lagos in 2016, though nobody was reported injured.

(Reporting by Nneka Chile, Temilade Adelaja and Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos; Additional reporting by Paul Carsten and Camillus Eboh in Abuja and Ola Lanre in Maiduguri; Editing by Catherine Evans and Peter Graff)

Traffickers used Russia’s World Cup to enslave us, say Nigerian women

Blessing Obuson from Nigeria, 19, rescued from human traffickers, speaks to a lawyer in the office of Civic Assistance Committee as she seeks help with applying for asylum in Moscow, Russia February 15, 2019. Picture taken February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

By Maria Vasilyeva

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Blessing Obuson thought Russia’s soccer World Cup would be an opportunity to find a job and flew into Moscow from Nigeria last June on a fan ID. Instead, she found herself forced to work as a prostitute.

Fan IDs allowed visa-free entry to World Cup supporters with match tickets, but did not confer the right to work. Despite that, Obuson, 19, said she had hoped to work as a shop assistant to provide for her 2-year-old daughter and younger siblings back in Nigeria’s Edo state.

Instead, she said she was locked in a flat on the outskirts of Moscow and forced into sex work along with 11 other Nigerian women who were supervised by a madam, also from Nigeria.

“I cried really hard. But what choice did I have?” Obuson told Reuters after being freed by anti-slavery activists.

She said her madam had confiscated her passport and told her she’d only get it back once she’d worked off a fictional debt of $50,000.

Obuson told her story to a rare English-speaking client who got anti-slavery activists involved.

Two Nigerians were later arrested and charged with human trafficking after striking a deal to sell Obuson for 2 million rubles (around $30,000) to a police officer posing as a client, according to her lawyer, statements from prosecutors, and evidence presented at court hearings in the case attended by Reuters journalists. The case is still under investigation.

VIOLENCE

Obuson’s case is not isolated. Reuters met eight Nigerian women aged between 16 and 22 brought into Russia on fan IDs and forced into sex work. All said they had endured violence.

“They don’t give you food for days, they slap you, they beat you, they spit in your face… It’s like a cage,” said one 21-year old woman, who declined to be named.

In September, a Nigerian woman was killed by a man who refused to pay for sex, police said. The Nigerian embassy later identified her as 22-year old Alifat Momoh who had come to Russia from Nigeria with a fan ID.

Russian police say 1,863 Nigerians who entered the country with fan IDs had not left by Jan. 1, the date when the IDs expired.

Kenny Kehindo, who works with several Moscow NGOs to help sex trafficking victims, estimates that more than 2,000 Nigerian women were brought in on fan IDs.

Neither Russian police nor the Nigerian embassy in Moscow replied to requests for a comment. A Nigerian foreign ministry spokesman also did not respond to text messages and phone calls requesting comment.

“Many are still in slavery,” said Kehindo, who said he had helped around 40 women return to Nigeria.

“Fan ID is a very good thing, but in the hands of the human traffickers it’s just an instrument,” he said, calling for more cooperation between the authorities and anti-trafficking NGOs during major sporting events, including the 2022 Qatar World Cup where a fan ID system is also being considered.

Anti-slavery group Alternativa said its helpline had fielded calls from Nigerian women held in St Petersburg and other World Cup host cities.

While a prosecution has been launched in Obuson’s case, police have been unable to act against suspected traffickers in other cases due to a lack of evidence.

“A lot of girls are still out there,” said Obuson.

 

(Additional reporting by Camillus Eboh in Abuja; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Gareth Jones)

African churches boom in London’s backstreets

Members of the Eternal Sacred Order of Cherubim & Seraphim Church sing as they celebrate their annual Thanksgiving in Elephant and Castle, London, Britain, July 29, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

By Simon Dawson and William Schomberg

LONDON (Reuters) – On a cold, grey Sunday morning, in a street lined with shuttered builders’ yards and storage units, songs of prayer in the West African language of Yoruba ring out from a former warehouse that is now a church.

The congregation, almost entirely dressed in white robes, steadily grows to around 70 people as musicians playing drums, a keyboard and a guitar pick up the pace of the hymns. Some women prostrate themselves on the floor in prayer.

In the sparse formerly industrial building, its interior brightened by touches of gold paint, a speaker reminds the group of a list of banned activities — no smoking, no drinking of alcohol, no practicing of black magic.

In a street outside, a pastor flicks holy water over the car of a woman who wants a blessing to ward off the risk of accidents.

The busy scene at the Celestial Church of Christ is repeated at a half a dozen other African Christian temples on the same drab street and in the adjacent roads – one corner of the thriving African church community in south London.

Around 250 black majority churches are believed to operate in the borough of Southwark, where 16 percent of the population identifies as having African ethnicity.

Southwark represents the biggest concentration of African Christians in the world outside the continent with an estimated 20,000 congregants attending churches each Sunday, according to researchers at the University of Roehampton.

Reflecting the different waves of migration to Britain in the 20th Century, Caribbean churches began to appear in the late 1940s and 1950s as workers and their families arrived from Jamaica and other former British colonies.

African churches opened their doors in London from the 1960s, followed by a second wave in the 1980s.

Migrants, many of them from Nigeria and Ghana, sought to build communities and maintain cultural connections with their home countries by founding their own churches, often founded in private homes, schools and office spaces.

As the communities grew, the churches moved into bigger spaces in bingo halls, cinemas and warehouses, gathering congregations of up to 500 people where services are streamed online by volunteers with video cameras.

There is a striking contrast with the empty pews at many traditional Church of England churches where congregations have dwindled for years.

Female members of the Apostles Of Muchinjikwa Christian church prepare to enter into the sea during a mass Baptism (Jorodhani) on the beachfront on Southend-on-Sea, Britain, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

Female members of the Apostles Of Muchinjikwa Christian church prepare to enter into the sea during a mass Baptism (Jorodhani) on the beachfront on Southend-on-Sea, Britain, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

“We pray for this country,” said Abosede Ajibade, a 54-year-old Nigerian who moved to Britain in 2002 and works for an office maintenance company.

“People here brought Christianity to Africa but it doesn’t feel like they serve Jesus Christ anymore.”

Anyone traveling around south London on a Sunday morning will see worshippers, often dressed in dazzlingly colored African clothes, making their way to churches, each with their different styles of worship.

Hymns are sung only in African languages in some temples, or only in English at others. Some pastors take worshippers for full immersion baptisms in the cold of the English Channel. Others believe that when congregants suddenly start speaking in unknown languages it marks the presence of the Holy Spirit.

But the researchers from the University of Roehampton found things that many churches have in common, including a drive for professional advancement, a commitment to spend three hours or more at Sunday service and typically very loud worship.

“That is how we express our joy and gratitude to God,” Andrew Adeleke, a senior pastor at the House of Praise, one of the biggest African churches in Southwark, in a former theater.

Senior members of the Apostles Of Muchinjikwa Christian church baptise members during a mass Baptism (Jorodhani) on the beachfront on Southend-on-Sea, Britain, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

Senior members of the Apostles Of Muchinjikwa Christian church baptise members during a mass Baptism (Jorodhani) on the beachfront on Southend-on-Sea, Britain, August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

“The church is not supposed to be a graveyard,” Adeleke said. “It is supposed to be a temple of celebration and worship and the beauty is to be able to express our love to God, even when things are not perfect in our lives.”

For some, the noise from amplified services is a problem, leading to complaints to local authorities from residents.

But many churches face bigger challenges than unhappy neighbors: Some provide food for people struggling to make ends meet, or work with young people at risk of recruitment by gangs.

Andrew Rogers, who led the University of Roehampton researchers, said pastors had to juggle retaining the churches’ African identity while appealing to children of first generation immigrants, many of whom have never lived outside Britain.

They typically have a more liberal world view which can be hard to reconcile with conservative Pentecostal teachings.

Rogers recalled speaking to one pastor who lamented he was unable to talk about religious miracles to his children.

“If the church doesn’t adapt, then they are going to leave and look elsewhere,” Rogers said.

Click on https://reut.rs/2GgX5Qv for a related photo essay.

(Writing by William Schomberg, Editing by William Maclean)

Death toll from Nigeria floods reaches 199

FILE PHOTO: A man makes his way through flood waters in Kogi State, Nigeria September 17, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde/File Photo

ABUJA (Reuters) – The death toll from floods across much of central and southern Nigeria has reached 199, the national disaster agency said on Wednesday, almost doubling the number of people killed from three weeks earlier.

The almost annual floods, exacerbated by poor infrastructure and lack of planning to protect against inundation, are the worst since 2012, when at least 363 people died.

FILE PHOTO: A house partially submerged in flood waters is pictured in Lokoja city, Kogi State, Nigeria September 17, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: A house partially submerged in flood waters is pictured in Lokoja city, Kogi State, Nigeria September 17, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde/File Photo

This year floods have hit one-third of Nigeria’s 36 states since late August, affecting 1.92 million people and displacing over 560,000 of them, said the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

Nigeria’s rainy season is now drawing to a close, but flood waters could take time to recede, while humanitarian needs are pressing and diseases such as cholera are a major risk, said the agency.

Flooding in recent years has left hundreds of thousands of people homeless in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest energy producer and most populous country.

(Reporting by Paul Carsten; Editing by Richard Balmforth)