Children temporarily escaped the government-run Nassarawa Children's Home in Kano, Nigeria, where they have been held since December 2019, to attend church for the first time.
The children were part of a group (picture above) originally from the Du Merci Centres Christian children's homes in Kano and Kaduna States but have been in government-run accommodation since the Du Merci Centres were forcibly closed in December 2019.
According to Du Merci's co-founder, Mercy Tarfa, more than six children approached a security guard at the gate of the Nassarawa Children's Home on Sunday and asked permission to attend church. After the guard refused to let them leave, the children forced their way out.
According to Nigerian news publication, The Punch Nigeria, police were called to the scene to look for the children. All but six of the group were found on a street close to the Nassarawa home but the remaining were still missing.
The police continued to search, interrupting a service at the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) near the children's home, but they were not there.
At midday the same day, Mrs Tarfa received a phone call from a church leader in Sabon Gari in Northern Nigeria, who informed her they were at his church. She collected them, accompanied by her lawyer, and returned them to the government-run home tehy escaped from.
Twenty-seven children have been in the government-run home since being removed from the Du Merci orphanages in December 2019. Their current situation was described to Christian Solidarity Worldwide Nigeria (CSWN) as being physically, emotionally and psychologically challenging - and deteriorating.
They have not been allowed to leave the premises, even to attend school or church.
CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: "CSW is deeply concerned by the unnecessary restrictions on the children from the Du Merci Centre, which violate their rights to freedom of religion or belief and education, amongst others.
"The children are being treated like prisoners, and reports that one of them has been physically assaulted should be of utmost concern. We call on the government of Kano state to allow these children to return to the Du Merci Centres, which they consider to be their home."
Concerns also remain for Professor Tarfa, the husband of Mrs Tarfa and fellow orphanage co-founder. He has been imprisoned since Christmas Day 2019, on excessive charges, according to CSWN.