UNODC: Boko Haram has recruited around 8,000 children in the war against Nigeria

Michael Olugbode in Abuja

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said around 8,000 children had been recruited into the war against Nigeria since the start of the Boko Haram crisis in the northeast in 2009.

The UN agency, while calling for increased efforts to protect child victims and witnesses in terrorism-related proceedings in Nigeria, said reports have shown that some boys and girls are increasingly being used as human shields and to detonate bombs.

A statement released on Wednesday said: “According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Handbook report on children recruited and exploited by terrorist and violent extremist groups since 2009, approximately 8,000 children have been recruited and used by Boko Haram in Nigeria. . Some boys were forced to attack their own families to show loyalty to Boko Haram, while girls were forced to marry, clean, cook, and carry gear and weapons.

The statement adds that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) has received consistent reports that some boys and girls are increasingly being used as human shields and to detonate bombs, citing May 2015 as an example of a 12 year old bombing. old girl who was used to detonate a bomb at a bus station in Damaturu, Yobe State, killing seven people.

He said similar incidents have been reported in Cameroon and Niger Republic.

The statement further said that the propaganda video recently released by ISWAP, showing children learning military skills to train them for combat and the latest attack on the Chibok community in Borno State by ISWAP are reminiscent of the importance of stepping up efforts to protect children from terrorist groups.

The statement revealed that UNODC, in close collaboration with national counterparts, has recently started providing support aimed at preventing and responding to violence against children by terrorist and violent extremist groups, as part of a new project funded by Europe called “STRIVE Juvenile”.

STRIVE Juvenile project manager, Bianca Kopp, said UNODC acknowledged at the opening of a recent capacity-building workshop that “we have all sadly familiarized ourselves – unfortunately – with the phenomenon of recruitment and exploitation of children by terrorist groups”, noting that: “Indeed, the abduction of the Chibok girls was probably the first event that drew global attention to the brutality of these groups towards children and, more importantly, he showed how children play a key role in their criminal tactics.

UNODC lamented that: “Thousands of children have since been recruited, exploited as servants, cooks, spies, in hostilities, and even used to commit suicide attacks. When these children leave the groups, they have suffered prolonged violence, their links with communities have been severed and their personal development has been distorted. As thousands of people, including children, now leave the ranks of the groups to rejoin society, the urgency for appropriate responses increases.

The statement quoted Dr Ifeakandu, from the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Nigeria, as saying:

“Terrorism remains one of the most potent challenges for Nigeria. Children are disproportionately affected by this and we need to find answers that are in their best interests.

Recognizing that it is the primary responsibility of State authorities to support the rehabilitation and reintegration trajectories of children and, to this end, to require specialized training to meet the complex needs of these children and to deal with the victimization they have suffered, Rear Admiral YEM Musa of the Office of the National Security Adviser, stressed that: “Investment in rehabilitation and peace, especially with regard to our children, is essential for end the cycle of violence generated and exploited by terrorists and violent extremists”.

This was also echoed by the representative of the European Union, Mr. Jérôme Rivière, emphasizing that the STRIVE Juvenile project “recognizes the importance of the role of children as agents of peace and in their potential to transform the dynamics social. When children and families do not feel safe, counterterrorism cannot work.

The recent workshop held in Abuja enabled Nigerian and international experts from the security sector, the judiciary and the child protection sector to discuss the national context and practices, strategies for engaging with children trauma-informed, trauma-informed, and trauma-informed. children throughout the legal process.

The workshop is part of a series of activities within the framework of the STRIVE Juvenile project. STRIVE Juvenile in Nigeria is a joint UNODC-EU project that aims to increase the resilience of children and society against violent extremist and terrorist tactics.

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