LAGOS: Nigerian police have rescued dozens of people, many of them children, from a church where they had been told to wait for what they believed would be a divine happening, a police statement said.

Police raided the Whole Bible Believers Church in southwestern Ondo State on Friday after a tip that children were being kept there against their will.

Seventy-seven people including 26 children were rescued and two church pastors were arrested, Ondo State police spokeswoman Funmilayo Odunlami said.

Police said they had been kept in the church after being told they must wait for Rapture, a belief among some Christians that they will ascend to heaven at the end of the world.

One of the pastors had “told the members that Rapture will take place in April but later said it has been changed to September”, the statement said.

“Another family who was also around during the rescue said their daughter... dropped out of school due to the strange teachings of the pastor and left home in January.”

Ondo State made headlines last month when gunmen raided a Catholic church with explosives and killed 40 people in a rare attack in the country's usually calmer southwest region.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack but the government said it suspects jihadists from the Islamic State West Africa Province may have carried out the assault.

Nigerian troops are battling a 13-year jihadist insurgency in the country's northeast that has killed more than 40,000 people and displaced two million more. - AFP