Over 3500 children are serving in the various Non-State Armed Groups in the Northeast six year on, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has revealed.
This disclosure is coming as various groups are gearing towards protesting the five years continued incarceration 112 #ChibokGirls since April 14, 2014.
According to the UN children’s agency, the numbers are only those that have been verified, while the true figures are likely to be higher.
UNICEF stated also that In addition to these children, 432 children were killed and maimed, 180 others were abducted, and 43 girls were sexually abused in north-east Nigeria in 2018 alone.
The 14 April 2014 abduction of 276 Secondary School girls in Chibok, is a grim reminder that widespread abductions of children and grave violations of children’s rights continue to take place in the north-east.
In the words of UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Mohamed Malick Fall, “Children should feel safe at home, in schools and on their playgrounds at all times.
“We are calling on the parties to the conflict to fulfil their obligations under international law to end violations against children and to stop targeting civilian infrastructure, including schools. This is the only way we can begin to make lasting improvements in the lives of children in this devastated part of Nigeria”, said Fall.
Among programmes to mark the fifth anniversary of the abduction of the Chibok Girls as well as protest series of other abductions such as Binu Yadi Boys and the Dapchi Girls, the foremost Group Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) Movement will hold the third Annual Chibok Girls Lecture in Abuja on April 14.
On Friday, April 12, there would be a solidarity March by concerned members of the BBOG at the Falomo Roundabout in Ikoyi, Lagos while a sit-out which had constantly held at the same venue and at Ejigbo would continue on Saturday April 13 as well as an interfaith vigil on Sunday April 14.
According to UNICEF, since 2012, non-state armed groups in north-east Nigeria have recruited and used children as combatants and non-combatants, raped and forced girls to marry, and committed other grave violations against children. Some of the girls become pregnant in captivity and give birth without any medical care or attention.
UNICEF continues to offer its support to the Government of Nigeria in its strong efforts to protect the country’s children.
The UN agency equally has been partnering with the Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development and other partners to support children who have been rescued or escaped from captivity.
In 2017 and 2018, UNICEF and its partners provided community-based reintegration services to more than 9,800 people formerly associated with armed groups, as well as vulnerable children in communities.
These services it noted, helped to trace children’s families, return them to their communities, and offer psychosocial support, education, vocational training, informal apprenticeships, and opportunities to improve livelihoods.