UNICEF has announced the release of 25 more children consisting of twenty-three boys and two girls from administrative custody of the Nigerian Army.
A development which was made possible after the said children have been cleared of any suspected ties with armed groups.
This according to the statement which was made available to media houses brings the number of children released this year to 44
Over the years bokoharam and other armed groups have invaded many communities and taken hostage residents, sadly, a large chunk of these hostages have been reported to be children below the age of 18 whom are forced to join the arm struggle.
“These are children taken away from their families and communities, deprived of their childhood, education, health-care, and of the chance to grow up in a safe and enabling environment. UNICEF will continue working to ensure that all conflict affected children are reunited with their families, have hope of fulfilling their dreams and their human rights,” said UNICEF Nigeria Acting Representative Pernille Ironside.
The children have been handed over to the Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development and will be kept at a UNICEF supported Transit Centre whilst efforts to reunite them with their families and reintegrate them back to their communities are underway. They will access medical and psychosocial support, education, vocational training and informal apprenticeships, and opportunities to improve their livelihoods.
“We have made progress, but we would like to see all children suspected of involvement with armed groups, transfered out of military custody to the care of the relevant local authorities as quickly as possible to facilitate their return to their families and communities, spending minimal, if any, time in detention. As we commemorate the 30th Anniversary for the Convention of the Rights of the Child this year, we must collectively commit to do more for the protection, well-being and development of children in Nigeria, including by ensuring that they are not recruited or used in conflicts in the first place,” said Ironside.
Since 2016, a total of 2,499 people including 1,627 children have been cleared of association with non-state armed groups. UNICEF and partners continue to provide age and gender appropriate community-based reintegration support services to all affected children and other vulnerable children in communities that are at risk of recruitment by armed groups.