The Nigerian military has handed over 23 children who were formerly associated with Boko Haram insurgents, to UNICEF through the Borno State government.
The children were picked up during various military operations around the north-east region. Aged between 17 and 10 years, the boys and girls confessed to the military that they have been assisting the Boko Haram insurgents either as fighters or domestic helps in the camps.
The Theatre Commander of a military counterinsurgency force, Abba Dikko, said the 23 children were released in line with Nigeria military’s commitment to the observance of human rights. He observed that the children and other vulnerable persons were victims who faced with the highly unstable circumstances induced by the conflict would have had little option but to fall under the thrall of the insurgents.
“We were able to identify this category of people, especially the women, the aged and children to whom it behooves our sense of duty and responsibility to ensure that they are removed from harm’s way and reconditioned and then passed on to those institutions that are responsible for their reintegration to normal ways of life.”
Having established a component of the Operation Lafiya Dole which monitors and ensures adherence to rights protection, Mr Dikko, a Major General, said “the Nigeria military will continue to abide by the global best practices in its effort to remove all children associated with armed conflicts in northeast Nigeria.
On that note the 23 children among whom were teenage girls that are pregnant, were handed over to the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) through the Borno State government. The Head of the UNICEF field office in Borno State, Geoffrey Ijumba, said “the release of the 23 children was a demonstration of the military’s commitment towards the protection of people’s rights in conflict situation.”
Ijumba commended the military for its commitment to protecting the wellbeing of conflict affected children and said that UNICEF will work with the Borno State ministry of women affairs to provide the children with medical and psychosocial support before reuniting them with their families and integrating them in the larger society.
The children will be camped at the state rehabilitation centre where they will stay for a minimum of 12-weeks during which they will receive medical attention and full spectrum support to prepare them for their eventual reintegration. He said UNICEF has, since 2017, supported the social and economic reintegration of more than 8, 700 children previously associated with non-state actors in the northeast Nigeria by helping to trace their families, returning them to their communities and offering them psychosocial support and informal apprenticeship to help better their livelihoods.