By; SADIQ ABUBAKAR, Maiduguri
The Federal Government and UNICEF on Friday, signed an agreement on the protection and welfare of children encountered by Nigeria’s security agencies during military operations.
The handover protocol is the first civil human rights instrument to specifically cover the transfer, custody, and care of children in North-East Nigeria and minors from other nationalities, who escape or are rescued from armed groups.
A statement issued on Friday by the UNICEF Communications Officer, Borno State, Ms. Folashade Adebayo and made available to newsmen in Maiduguri, said under the new protocol, children either recruited and used as child soldiers or detained on the suspicion of affiliation to armed groups, shall be immediately or within a maximum of seven days, transferred to safe shelters where they can access basic services, including medical, food and psychosocial support.
It added that children played no part in the creation of the conflict that has ravaged North-East Nigeria, decimated livelihood and disrupted the provision of the most basic services, while more than 6,400 grave violations of children’s rights in the region have been verified since the start of the conflict.
“And 5.4 million children currently need urgent humanitarian assistance. Food insecurity, acute malnutrition, recruitment and use of children by armed groups, abductions as well as killings of children are some of the devastating badges of the protracted conflict,” UNICEF said.
According to the statement, between 2013 and 2020, more than 4,787 children were killed in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States, according to the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) established by the United Nations in 2014.
While since the beginning of the conflict, more than 90 per cent of indirect deaths, about 324,000, were of under-five children.
“Today marks the beginning of a long recovery process for millions of conflict-affected children in north-east Nigeria,’’ said Cristian Munduate, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria.
“Today, we choose to stand up for children against the violation of their rights and the abduction of our future. This protocol represents a safety net and a voice for helpless children.
“Now, we must work harder to prevent abductions and the recruitment and use of children by armed groups. We must ensure that no child encountered during counter-offensives languish in the custody of security agencies.
” UNICEF is excited about the prospect of recovery for children caught in the web of armed conflict and the impact of their healing on our world,’’ the statement said.