United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF)

United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) on Friday said 1, 700 children among the ranks of Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in the insurgency war in Borno had been released.

UNICEF’s Country Representative, Mohammed Fall, stated this at the formal handover of the second batch of 894 children by the CJTF to their families, in Maiduguri.

CJTF is a local militia group formed in 2013 to assist the military and other security agencies in the fight against insurgency, and to protect communities from insurgents’ attack.

However, it had recruited children in its ranks to discharge its responsibility.

Fall disclosed that the first batch of 833 children were released by the CJTF in October, 2018 as part of commitments to end the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict in the North-East.

He said “Since September, 2017 when the CJTF signed an action plan committing to put measures in place to end and prevent recruitment and use of children, 1, 727 children and young people have so far been released.

“Since then, there has not been recruitment of children by the CJTF.

“Children in the North-East have borne the brunt of the conflict; they are used by armed groups in combatant and non-combatant roles and have witnessed death, killings and violence.

“This participation in conflict has had serious implications for their physical and emotional wellbeing.

“Any commitment for children that is matched with action is a step in the right direction for the protection of children’s rights; it must be recognized and encouraged”.

Fall added that the newly-released children would benefit from reintegration programme, “to help them to return to normal civil life, attain self-development and contribute to the peace-building process in the society’’.

The UNICEF’s official reiterated the commitment of the organization to collaborate government, humanitarian and development organizations to ensure the protection of children’s rights in the war-torn region.

“We cannot give up the fight for the children as long as children are affected by the fight. We will continue until there is no child left in the ranks of all armed groups in Nigeria”.

According to statistic by UNICEF, over 3, 500 children were killed, maimed, raped, abducted or recruited and used by non-state armed groups between 2013 and 2017 in the combat against insurgency.

It revealed that 9, 800 persons associated with armed groups and vulnerable children in the region accessed reintegration services between 2017 and 2018.

In his speech, Mr Abdullahi Izge, Deputy Solicitor-General, Ministry of Justice, Borno, said that CJTF adopted sound programmes to release children in its ranks and reintegrate them into the society in line with UN Resolution 1612.

Izge explained that 400 of the 833 children earlier released were enrolled into formal schools while the remaining were trained on various trades under a special skill acquisition programme.

He added that 894 children with links to armed groups were identified in Maiduguri and Jere while similar exercise was ongoing in 13 local government areas of the state.

In his remarks, the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Garbai Ibn El-Kanemi, commended UNICEF over the children reintegration and polio immunization programmes.

El-Kanemi called on the children to use the opportunities given to them to learn trades, become self-reliant and contribute to the development of the society.

The event was attended by Switzerland’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Georg Steiner; representatives of US Embassy, heads of humanitarian organizations and representative of Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj.-Gen. Benson Akinroluyo, among others.

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