The Nigerian Army on Monday formally handed over 183 children linked with armed group in the Northeast to the United Nations Children and Education Fund (UNICEF) for rehabilitation. t.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, the Chief Army Staff, said the handover was in line with the international laws for the protection of children in conflict. Buratai, represented by Maj.-Gen. Rogers Nicholas, the Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, disclosed that the children included 175 boys and eight girls.
He explained that some of them were used as fighters and suicide bombers by the insurgents. The Army chief said that the children would undergo comprehensive psychological support and rehabilitation programme to facilitate their integration into the society. Buratai reiterated the commitment of the Nigerian Army to end insurgency and ensure the protection of human rights.
Mr Edward Kallon, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator to Nigeria, said the UN welcomed the release of the 183 children suspected of Boko Haram ties. Kallon, represented by Ibrahim Cecee, noted that the release was sequel to the clearance of the children, aged between 7 and 18; of ties with the insurgents. “The 8 girls and 175 boys are first and foremost victims of the ongoing conflict and their release is an important step on their long road to recovery.
“We will work with the Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development and partners to provide the children with all the assistance they need. “I also want to commend the action taken by the military and the authorities, it demonstrates a clear commitment to better protect children affected by the ongoing conflict,” he said. Kallon added that the children would receive medical attention and psychosocial support before the process of reuniting them with their families and reintegration into society.
According to him, the organisation had supported the social and economic reintegration of more than 8, 700 children released from armed groups since 2017. The UN official added that the children were assisted to trace their families and returned to their communities; as well as offered them psychosocial support, education, vocational training, informal apprenticeships, and opportunities to improve their livelihoods.
Also, Gov. Kashim Shettima, lauded the military over the release of the children and the successes recorded in the counter-insurgency campaign. Shettima, who was represented by Fanta Baba-Shehu, the Commissioner for Women Affairs, admonished the children to pay attention to what they would learn to enable them become responsible members of the society. (NAN)
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