The United Nations Children’s Fund has disclosed that over 2,000 children have been cleared of having any links to non-state armed groups, especially the Boko Haram Terrorists and its splinter group-the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) in Nigeria’s Northeast region since 2016.
To this end, the UN agency called on tbr community and political leaders in the country to condemn violations of the rights of children.
UNICEF Chief of Borno Field Office, Ms. Phuong T. Nguyen said this on Wednesday during a consultative meeting with 27 local government chairmen of the state in Maiduguri. The meeting which was organised by the Ministry of Local Government and Emirate Affairs was attended by government officials, including the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajia Zuwaira Gambo.
Nguyen said that “2,013 children in the north-east have been absolved of alleged association with armed group, adding that 2,188 others have been released by the Civilian Joint Task Force since 2016”.
While noting that armed conflict in the north-east has been characterized with forced separation, recruitment into armed groups, sexual and gender-based violence and other violations of children’s rights.
“Some have been used as suicide bombers, and others as victims of sexual and gender-based violence. These children have been exposed to tremendous psychosocial distress. These girls and boys have hopes, dreams and incredible energy to fulfil their future. Even though they have had horrible experiences in the past, their dreams are still valid. Our responsibility as a government and development partners is to ensure that these children and women are fully supported to reimagine their dreams and fulfil their hopes and aspirations,’’ she said.
In her address, Gambo urged the chairmen to be ambassadors of a smoother reintegration for children formerly associated with armed groups.
“There is a misunderstanding of the process and stakeholders need to understand what the process is about. Many of these children were abducted or conscripted against their wishes. That is why most of them sneak out of the bush to surrender to the military. We must commend development partners who have supported the state government with the empowerment of these children and community members,’’ she said.