LAGOS (AFP) - Nigerian police said on Sunday they have opened a murder probe after the discovery of rotting bodies and skeletons in an abandoned building the media has branded a "House of Horror".
Police also rescued several severely malnourished people founded wandering in the bush near the building in the southwestern city of Ibadan, and more were found shackled in leg-chains inside.
The grisly discovery came after a group of motorcycle taxi riders reported that some of their members had gone missing and were believed to have been kidnapped.
"When we got to the abandoned building in the Soka community of Ibadan yesterday (Saturday), we saw decomposed corpses, skeletons and skulls in the building and surrounding bushes," Oyo state police spokesman Olabisi Ilobanafor said.
"Some seven malnourished human beings looking like living skeletons were also rescued in the bushes surrounding the building. One of them died on the spot while we were there," she said.
Ms Ilobanafor said police had launched a murder investigation and arrested some suspects at the scene in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo state and the third largest city in Nigeria.
"It is not a common occurence in Ibadan or in the state. The police will investigate this crime in all its ramifications," she said.
Some victims of kidnapping in Nigeria are often tortured or sacrificed in black magic rituals.
Local media have also reported cases of human body parts being sold across the country, especially in the southern region, for ritual purposes.
In urban centres, including the nation's economic capital Lagos, corpses are often found by the roadside with some of their vital parts missing, especially eyes and genitals.
The Ibadan-based Sunday Tribune, Nigeria's oldest private newspaper, showed gruesome pictures of rotting bodies, human skulls and other body parts littering the scene, as well as ID papers and ATM cards, shoes, bags and clothes.
It also published a photograph of a haggard woman who was allegedly kidnapped in the southern Edo state in 2008 and rescued at what it called the "House of Horror".
The newspaper said at least one skeletal-looking man was found in the throes of death, groaning in pain as flies hovered around his face.
Media reports said 15 or more people had been found in leg-chains inside the building but police put the figure at seven.
Some mobile phone numbers were also written on the inside wall of the building, the Tribune said in its report headlined "Kidnappers' den uncovered in Ibadan".
Some other local newspapers carried similar reports about the discovery.
The Nation reported that bodies had been dumped in shallow graves and dried-up wells all over the bush.
Ms Ilobanafor said some commercial motorcycle riders had stumbled upon the bodies after complaining to police that some of their members had gone missing in suspicious circumstances.
The police have arrested six suspects, including five security guards allegedly armed with guns, bows and arrows, found at the scene, the police spokesman said.